Orville Taylor | Oh Ship!:Mi Nanny for Emancipendence
Yesterday was Emancipation Day, Thursday is Independence Day, but last week, it became ever so clear that we have a lot of ship to overcome as we crawl from out of the bowels of our colonial past. Call it pre-election politics if you wish, but the prime minister, flanked by the chief of defence staff and other smartly dressed personnel, commissioned into service, the first of four Hero-class offshore patrol vessels as part of the Jamaica Defence Force’s strategy in becoming a “more efficient and effective force across all operating domains – land, sea, air, and cyber.”
Doubtless, freedom from the tyranny of criminals, and pirates – yes, literal ones, not those who have hijacked our democracies – is of primordial importance. Thus, I have no issue with us getting new vessels or any of the seamen in the ship. Indeed, I am ecstatic that the craft is named for our ‘heroine’, which, ironically, will help to apprehend drug smugglers. However, as I go to the front of the ship and bow, the stern recognition is that this is still a colonial vestige.
The ship is HMJS Nanny of the Maroons. Here, I am as brindled as a cat forced to be vegan. All vessels are female, and we know that the Queen of England and the British Isles is our ‘Head of State.’ However, this ship cannot be Her Majesty Jamaican Ship (HMJS) and be Queen Nanny of the Maroons at the same time. During Emancipendence, we cannot have it ‘boatways’. It is a disservice to our legacy and process of self-assertion as a nation for us to keep that level of deference to a foreign, though friendly and allied head of state. Keep our warm relations with the British monarchy, state, and British people. However, let this be the last time that we celebrate our Independence and Emancipation with foreign designations.
TOO MUCH TALKING
True, our Constitution and other laws force us to do all of the bowing and naming of symbols and processes in deference to our former colonial masters. However, we have had more than enough time to fix that. Yet much of the action has been talk and more skylarking than Horace Andy sang about in the early ’70s. Recently, we ran into the embarrassing situation of having the repugnant image of a white St Michael trampling a black-winged Devil/dragon. Our Emancipendence process is far from complete, and the longer that it takes us to recognise that we are still deeply infected with the virus of mental slavery is the longer it will take for us to cure it.
For all our jumping unto the bandwagon of ‘Black Lives Matter’ and the tearing down of the symbols of slavery, oppression, and confederacy in the UK and the USA, we have no moral authority to even open our mouths as long as we keep the status quo.
Emancipendence has to begin at the top, and we must first politely remove Her Majesty, rename our governor general (keep the incumbent), and give the title Right Honourable or Most Honourable as the case may be.
No more Sir, Madam, Lady, Dame, and Queen’s Counsel. And all Caribbean citizens with any of these titles can keep their shipload of arguments about reparation, repatriation, regional integration, and decolonisation.
What we have failed to acknowledge is that the plantation cultural DNA is deep inside our genes, and just as many black slave drivers actually enjoyed being complicit in the process of maintaining the slavery system. Many of the ‘smaddified’ intellectual and political leaders enjoy the delegated power. In fact, many of the privileged among us, when given the slightest of opportunity, abuse power with such impunity that they become dictators or something short of that.
Caribbean Court of Justice debate
For more than two decades, we have been talking about having a Caribbean Court of Justice as our final appellate court. There is absolutely no reason to keep the Privy Council. The Transparency International survey showed that Jamaican judges are one-third as corrupt as their British counterparts, and they certainly have no more qualifications than ours. Recently, a former legislator attempted to strike the current lawmakers over the fact that Jamaicans need a visa to have access to this final stage of our judicial process. This is a point that this column has been making since 2005. Nonetheless, he is a QC, so I am not listening to him.
Often, we are our own enemies. As it was on the plantation, where our enslaved Africans were socialised into tearing down everything that resembles them, we spew nonsense about ourselves. Jamaica has one of the most robust democracies, the freest Anglophone press, the fastest runners, the best food, and much more.
By the way, the national fabric is not ‘bandana’. It is Madras cloth.
- Dr Orville Taylor is head of the Department of Sociology at The University of the West Indies, a radio talk-show host, and author of ‘Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets’. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.