Wed | Jan 22, 2020

Horace Levy | Impasse is not progress or prosperity

Published:Monday | January 13, 2020 | 12:13 AM
Horace Levy

Jaevion Nelson’s recent column ‘Is the news too negative?’ (The Gleaner 11/1/2020) is excellent for capturing how everybody is feeling about the news: it is too negative to bear. He is right, also, in his view that media reporting makes it worse.

I’ve often thought that a column listing the murders could make better reportage (in print media) than individual stories and headlines that harp, for instance, on people’s fear. Like the one (The Gleaner 11/1/2020) on the killings on Bowens Road.

The truth, however, is that something much worse than the ‘news’ is negative. It is reality that is deeply negative. It is ‘tumping’ us in the face. This painful negativity of our country springs from the impasse, the stalemate, the deadend into which we are presently locked. With its focus on blood and fear, media’s ‘news’ captures this reality, but only in some of its palpable consequences, which makes the pain of it worse.

We are at an impasse because of the position taken by the Government and by the failure of the Opposition and the private sector to do so publicly. It is because of the stand they have all taken, or not taken, to the civil society position. Articulate civil society has clearly expressed its dissatisfaction with the nearly exclusive emphasis on police and military suppression in states of emergency (SOEs), which is the Government’s position.

Civil society also strongly favours, instead, the wide use of a social intervention of the Peace Management Initiative (PMI) type, alongside sufficient numbers of police and soldiers, with all the cordons and curfews they are regularly allowed to employ. The basis of the PMI approach lies in its insight that the source of violence and murder is principally the deprived community, the gang phenomenon flowing from that.

The Opposition and the private sector have each (separately, of course) picked out pieces of a position, but neither has presented a coherent whole strategy. The Opposition has put an end to the endless SOE extensions, and individual members have praised PMI work. But neither the People’s National Party nor the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) has come out in full support of the PMI, and this is what is principally wanting.

DELAY IS NOT AN OPTION

The reason for the stands taken by Holness and Peter Phillips is politics, in my view, though differently. ‘Politics’ here means winning the next general election.

Given SOE popularity in deprived communities desperate to be rid of the hounding fear of daily bloodshed, Holness hopes to be able to coast to an easy election win.

For his part, holding the blade, Phillips is super-cautious about taking a stand that might lessen even his lower numbers in the polls. In neither case is Jamaica getting what it deserves.

Impasse is not progress. Impasse is not prosperity. The PSOJ is at least aware of that and should be speaking with civil society.

Impasse is not only our leaders unhurriedly pondering over an effective policy to curb violence and murder. Impasse is killings and fear oppressing people in deprived communities, it is murder running wild, it is dead bodies piling up in morgues.

Delay is not an option.

Horace Levy is a human-rights advocate. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.