Sun | Dec 17, 2017

Brian-Paul Welsh | Mark of the Sheep

Published:Monday | December 4, 2017 | 12:00 AM

Much of the fuss this week revolved around the late realisation that as citizens of a country considered by many to be on the path towards development into a serious nation, there are certain discomforts that will be par for the course.

Chiefly, to exist in a modern and progressive society, there is the requirement for one to surrender full autonomy and, therefore, unequivocally submit to the power and authority of the State. This social contract between the governed and the Government supposedly brings to those so burdened by these civil obligations the rewards of safety and prosperity in exchange for the personal sacrifice of obedience.

The primeval 'state of nature', as described by philosophers like Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Thomas Hobbes, is a concept seeking to explain the natural condition of mankind before we organised into societies and aspired for the creation of progressive cultures. In that state of being, life was conceived as "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short", perhaps not dissimilar to the experiences of many modern-day Jamaicans.

The argument is that we chose this ideal of social and cultural development to preserve our existence, and in so doing, agreed that there were certain freedoms we had to give up in order to operate under this new, civilised paradigm. We submitted to the Leviathan, the powerful embodiment of the State, whose strength and reach are fuelled by our collective intention, granting him this dominance and control in exchange for his protection and the preservation of our lives.

In Jamaica, after generations of systemic neglect, we have grown so accustomed to being left to our own devices, fending for ourselves in the wild, we are now so weary of the promises of the impotent giants in charge that on the rare occasions any actual leadership can be observed, it is perceived as confounding at best and suspicious at worst.

The major trust deficit that persists within the population accounts for this widespread scepticism and the ongoing related fiasco surrounding the move by this Government to centralise existing means of identifying Jamaican citizens into a new biometric database (at the threat of prosecution for non-compliance) is being met with such harsh resistance that it has galvanised the ideological Left and Right with a spirit of defiance that has surprised even seasoned cynics like me.

 

LACK OF MORAL COMPASS

 

In the past, I have publicly debased the Love March Movement for its seeming lack of a moral compass on matters of privacy and personal liberties, but to witness their president's advocacy serving as a catalyst for the prime minister to lose his characteristic cool, blowing his top in frustration at those who stubbornly refuse to be good 'sheeple', caused me to pause and pay serious attention to the genesis of this unprecedented tantrum.

The hysterical Evangelical and the seditious Rastafarian, typically divided by a chasm of divergent ideologies, now share the viewpoint that looming implementation of this supposedly innocuous National Identification System (NIDS) brand is evidence of a sinister globalist agenda being forced on our captive herd, that is, a cleverly disguised tactic to mark the beasts of burden.

As a consequence of decades of distrust, along with the many clumsily implemented panaceas of our past, and the pompous attitudes of the emperor's current emissaries, in the public imagination, NIDS is now a metaphor for the overreach of an unwelcome intruder into the lives of the people. Accordingly, significant numbers of Jamaicans are unsure whether the shepherd and his staff are intent on guiding us to greener pastures or selling us to slaughter.

The ominous nature of the NIDS bill, combined with the urgency with which it is being treated by Government, and the plethora of concerns still looming large, have created a dark cloud of discontent that is billowing angrily, intermittently bursting with raw emotion. Proponents are accusing the Opposition of grandstanding, while opponents believe those proposing seemingly invasive access to personal information under the guise of transparency are being nothing short of disingenuous.

For many, the literary works of George Orwell have proved prophetic because of his dystopic perspective on the future of humanity. From Animal Farm to 1984, his novels have seemingly predicted the rise of the all-encompassing state and the futile resistance of mankind to the beast it birthed.

Those themes are prominent in this week's moral panic concerning the human sacrifices that will be required to reside in future Jamaica as it assimilates to the new world order and finds its place in the global village, and those in leadership would be wise to note the distress calls emanating from the herd about the wolves that still roam among the sheep.

- Brian-Paul Welsh is a writer and public affairs commentator. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and brianpaul.welsh@gmail.com, or tweet @islandycynic.