Orville Taylor | Reflections for Heroes Day
I read the commentary from my fellow columnist on Thursday, October 17, and was going to say that I stand with Rev Dick. However, I have bigger things to deal with this week, given the significance of the day tomorrow.
Therefore, as hard as it is, I am going to leave the discussion regarding the director of public prosecutions (DPP) and minister of justice’s comments on the matter regarding Ruel Reid, Fritz Pinnock, et al, until another time.
Nevertheless, my consistent position is that we must keep our fingers off the wheels of justice and do nothing to make any determination of guilt or innocence on an ‘extrajudicial’ decision. Until the Ruel Reid entourage and the police officers who were seen manhandling the young man in Denham Town are brought through the proper procedure, no one is guilty.
Nevertheless, innocent in law is not the same as being innocent in science and the academy.
Yet, we live in a society where there is mistrust in our justice system, police and politicians.
Most Jamaicans believe that these three entities are either corrupt or very corrupt. Now, in reality, there is thankfully much less corruption than we think in this country.
However, in a nation in which we kill more than 1,100 of ourselves each year, we must be very mindful that the research points to high correlations between violence in societies and the level of perceived corruption.
Simply put, the more corrupt citizens believe their society is, the more homicidal they tend to be. Citizens’ confidence and trust in the organs of justice and law are the best allies for the police in their attempt to keep homicides and other acts of violence in check.
FAIR AND JUST SOCIETY
In a country that has a deep history of oppressed people uprising and of violence being infused into our more recent political processes, we have to send a clear set of messages to the working class in particular, that we are keen on creating and maintaining a society that is fair and just, and end institutional abuse.
We are the set of enslaved Africans who have had the most revolts per capita. Most people know the legend of Nanny and her brother Cudjoe, whose Maroons fought the British to a standstill in 1739. So indomitable is this Ashanti spirit that it is still manifesting itself in what might be a standoff with the Jamaican government over currency independence.
In 1760, had it not been for the betrayal, Chief Tacky would have himself routed the British and perhaps beat Haiti as the first black post-slavery republic. Dutty Boukman (note the spelling) was a Jamaican enslaved African who went to St Domingue and started the Haitian Revolution, which Toussaint L’Ouverture brought to fruition.
We also know of the exploits of Sam Sharpe, the Baptist enslaved African who led the Christmas rebellion, one which he must have been plotting around this time of the year as well. Sharpe was in St James, one of the flashpoints of the state of public emergency (SOPE) and, of course, one of the most violent parts of the country. Rebellion and violence is in our physical and cultural DNA.
Yet, we understood how to reduce social violence long before the sociologists and social workers came. Paul Bogle was simply fighting for equal treatment and justice. George William Gordon was thrown out of the House of Assembly (the forerunner of Parliament) for simply warning the governor that if he did not give fair treatment to the underclass, he would have unprecedented violence.
This was the observation of the Royal Commission, which described the Morant Bay War as “in great measure a no-rent movement aggravated by the want of a good labour law and tribunals suited for the easy settlement of labour questions”.
Ask yourselves the questions, especially given the rise in certain types of employment, whether or not there is any correlation between these and the homicide/violence rates. You know the answer.
True, the two main political parties were founded or inaugurated by the two cousins, Norman Washington Manley and Alexander Bustamante. However, both the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and People’s National Party (PNP) have direct and indirect responsibility for where we are now as the second most homicidal country in the world.
A VOLCANO ABOUT TO ERUPT
One would be surprised that in his 1929 manifesto, Marcus Mosiah spoke directly against corruption. It included outlawing vote buying and intimidation, as well as punishment for judges who acted unfairly. The last recommendation landed him in prison for six months. The prophet Garvey warned the government to protect local workers and not simply harbour foreign investments wantonly.
Apart from proposing universal free secondary education and land reform, he was big on promoting local industries as well.
Garvey understood that this island was, and still is, a volcano, about to erupt. Thank God we have one of the most robust democracies in the world; and that is what has saved us from total anarchy.
Still, there is hope. Despite the fact that the PNP and JLP helped to teach us that black (PNP and JLP) lives did not matter, neither Peter Phillips nor Andrew Holness was in active politics when this was occurring. This gives them both a firm platform to truly mean the commitment they made to disavow their parties’ association with criminal elements.
However, as we seek to make this society better, we must:
i) Train and pay early childhood educators premium salaries
ii) Elevate the Family Court to the level of a high court
iii) Empower graduate trained social workers to administer social programmes and not leave it to other amateurs, however qualified in other disciplines.
Of course, we understand the economics and growth theories. But we need to truly put people first and not simply say it.
The cycle of abuse of our working and underclasses need to end. Copious research points to the abused becoming abusers; and remember, most of the Children of Babylon come from these classes too.
Dr Orville Taylor is head of the Department of Sociology at the UWI, a radio talk-show host, and author of ‘Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets’. Email feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org