Sun | Oct 21, 2018

Obeah, the gun, and how we choose to live

Published:Friday | January 26, 2018 | 12:00 AM


"This minister don't fraida unnu, my uncle is an obeah man," so said Robert Montague, minister of nation security, warning criminals that he would be relentless in pursuing them. Obviously meant to be a joke, Minister Montague need not apologise for saying it. Nonetheless, few would dispute the advantages of having an uncle who is an obeah man - almost like enjoying the protection of a big brother.

Jamaica is one of the most superstitious countries in the world (and, I might add, one of the most religious). Not surprisingly, obeahism - a solace for the illiterate, the ignorant and the gullible - continues to flourish, and its practitioners are laughing all the way to the bank.

Will a concoction of green leaf, lime and a sprinkling of lizard tail magically grow hair on a bald pate, or a toad, with its mouth padlocked and let loose in a courtroom, make a mockery of the justice system? How do you know they don't work?

Believers are happy to accept that they work, but to sceptics, they smack of chicanery. Alexander Fleming, the Scottish physician (1881-1955), believed that the penicillin mould contaminating one of his bacterial cultures had tremendous curative properties. His discovery paved the way for the development of the antibiotic penicillin. If he had thrown the culture away, where would medicine be today? Unlike the efficacy of penicillin, which has been proven scientifically, the concoction of lime and lizard tail, undoubtedly a most nutritious drink, is superstitious nonsense and hardly likely to grow hair.

Which brings me to choices. Most people soldier on in their interminably routine nine-to-five jobs, and any wealth they may acquire will have to be through hard work and making the right choices (and, perhaps buying a lottery ticket or two). Can we convince the gunman not to pull the trigger? Pull the trigger and you are condemned to an uncertain future: live fast (most certainly), die young (most assuredly), and have a good-looking corpse (most unlikely). Why not choose a life likely to bring happiness and fulfilment? The answer: They won't.




The state of emergency (SOE) should bring some level of peace to the violence-stricken parish of St James. However, I agree with my friend and legal luminary, Linton Gordon, that it should be extended islandwide for it to be effective, rather than targeting individual parishes. Since the SOE, murders have increased in OTHER parishes.

While the security forces should be intense in their efforts in St James, there should at least be a high level of alertness and monitoring of the exit and entry of other parishes (mindful that criminals will be leaving St James in droves to enter other parishes). Air surveillance should also be used.