Thu | Dec 13, 2018

Orville Taylor | This Sith of a country

Published:Sunday | January 14, 2018 | 12:00 AM

This is Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. But there is something about that Siths that hit the fans in the wrong place. What I liked about that movie was that it led to an unmasking of the infamous villainous character, Darth Vader, and we came to see him for what he is - a young man slowly dragged over into the dark side by a series of unfortunate circumstances.

Vader was originally a Jedi, Anakin Skywalker, a good guy, with great potential and deadly hyper martial arts ability and training. After the kidnapping and murder of his mother, he embraced the dark side and became a Sith, a dark lord and essentially evil character. Seeing the evolution made us more understanding of him, and this is what oftentimes is missing as we try to comprehend people, places, and things that we judge.

I do not have space here to outline the Sith's whole story, but history and data are very good teachers. Interestingly, many present-day nations of people and communities of colour are precisely in the state that they are because of their deep historical relationships with the West. If one reads the classic How Europe Underdeveloped Africa by Walter Rodney, or Capitalism and Underdevelopment in Latin America and Crisis in the Third World by AndrÈ Gunder Frank, one will get a wholesome appreciation of the reason why so many of the Darth Vader nations today are impoverished, undereducated, and led and populated by deep Siths.

 

BAD RAP FROM THE WEST

 

Many countries have got a bad rap from Western nations, and some undeservedly. These include Namibia, spelled with two 'I's, and Zimbabwe, one of whose 'founding fathers', Ndabaningi Sithole, is often forgotten. True, it is more Robert Mugabe's nation rather than Sithole's country. It is the centuries of colonisation and decades of apartheid that turned Sithole's nation into the seething cauldron of Zimbabwe and allowed for the ascendancy of Mugabe and the strained relations he had had with the West.

By now you probably think that I am going to comment more deeply on the stink created based on utterances from Washington, DC, last week - and you are right. However, the story for me which trumps all others is the Department of State travel advisory on Jamaica. Truth is, joining the line of people who are looking askance at the off-mic comments from President Donald Trump and following a path of disrespectful comments does no one any good.

I say two things regarding Trump's derogatory allusion to Haiti and African nations. First, he is the elected president of a friendly nation, and thus, for all the inanity of his remarks, I will not demean the office or myself in making further denigrating comments. Second, if we are to be honest, many Americans on both sides of the political divide have very negative opinions of people of colour, and I am willing to bet that lots of the very critics of Trump have made similar comments or have harboured comparable thoughts.

At least his mask has been removed, if he ever had one. What Americans in the politically correct mainstream are being self-blind about is that the remarks might reflect a greater consensus that is consistent with American historical experiences.

Indeed, we do not have to go too far but to look to the east - and no, there is not a coming of a black king, but 334 kilometres, and we find Haiti. This country, forced into poverty by having to pay the French for its freedom, when it should have been the reverse for slavery, has been blockaded, invaded, and mistreated historically.

Haiti, occupied by the USA from 1915 to 1934, has enough blame for where it is today, and the Americans are not exempt. In fact, we Jamaicans provided Dutty Boukman, the initial leader of the revolution that ultimately led to the liberation of the country and the antipathy against the first black nation in the modern era.

Jamaicans also have egg on our faces as well. Trump might have been caught saying what he and many Americans believe but just don't say it publicly. How many Jamaicans have positive impressions or evaluations of Haitians? This is still a country where we are uncomfortable with our blackness and on the whole think less of continental Africans. I have heard, first hand, many xenophobic comments about Haitians.

Moreover, we have no moral authority to say a word about American immigration policy where Trump is threatening to deport illegal immigrants who have been in the USA since childhood and don't know their birth nations. After all, we have just given the highest national honour we can give to the president of the Dominican Republic. His country has exported hundreds of Haitians who were actually born and raised in his country and have never even visited Haiti.

 

TRAVEL ADVISORY CONCERN

 

Thus, my concern is the travel advisory. Call it what you will, but the United States does not only have a right to protect its citizens, it has an obligation to do so. Any government that does not assess the situation in places where its expatriates live and where its tourists frequent or contemplate travelling to is derelict and irresponsible.

The American government has four levels of warning. Level One is for normal precautions to be exercised, while Level Four stipulates 'do not travel'. Level Three suggests that its citizens 'reconsider travel', and the second level, which is the one issued on January 10 regarding Jamaica, warns, 'exercise increased caution'. With an increased homicide rate since the year began and with known hotspots, the warning is justified. Failed social policy has led to hundreds of our boys becoming Siths, although we are not a Sith old country.

However, let me also temper the stats. Homicide rate apart, America's burglary, robbery, rape, larceny, and carjacking rates are higher than Jamaica's, and Jamaica's crime against tourist rates is one of the lowest in the world.

- 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 columns@gleanerjm.com and tayloronblackline@hotmail.com.