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Queen-size story

Published:Friday | July 1, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Queen Elizabeth II

Orville Taylor, Contributor

Her great-great-grandmother had the longest reign in British history and she is four years short of the record. Strange coincidence as the story has come full circle because it was Queen Victoria, sovereign for 64 years, who 'liberated' us in 1838. Now, 177 years later, descendants of her former chattel and subjects, ungrateful for her benevolence, want her back. Well, not quite.

On June 28, The Gleaner published a story headlined 'Give us the Queen!' Therein, in response to Bill Johnson's poll question, 'Generally speaking, do you think Jamaicans like yourself would be better off today if Jamaica had continued to be a colony, or do you think you would be worse off today if Jamaica was still a British colony?' The overwhelming majority of Jamaicans, all of 60 per cent, responded that the country would have been better off under the rule of Her Majesty. I have no issue with the methodology or the findings because I live in this country.

For the purists, anti-colonial and pro-repatriation activists, this is a retrograde step - "Fire bun the Queen, etc, etc." "Do away with the Privy Council. Jamaica time now!"

Devalue non-european things

But the poll results do in fact tell the story, prove the point and supports the arguments of both sides. The pervasive effect of colonialism and slavery has made us devalue everything non-European. In a country in which the most popular entertainer is skin-bleached to the point of parity with croaking lizards and 'good 'air' despite its black colour is not a reference to tyres, why not?

Nevertheless, there is another side. After all, in spite of 67 years of Universal Adult Suffrage, and almost a half a century of Independence, we have had as much economic growth as there was truth in the recent Manatt-Dudus commission of enquiry. True, the political parties have alternated and attempted to build the nation. However, what they have mostly built is strife.

Think! Both polls by rival media houses RJR/TVJ and CVM have shown that no political party has majority support among potential voters and none of the leaders capture their imagination.

When British politicians misconduct themselves, they resign, are fired, or go to jail. Recently, Lord John Taylor of Warwick 'bandooloed' around £11,000 and was sentenced to a year in prison. However, for much larger sums, cronyism and kickbacks by foreign and local contractors, not a word. Then a member sits immovably in Parliament like a curry stain although his collaborators were convicted in the British courts.

Still, consistent with the arguments supporting reparations for the treachery of slavery, England owes us a hefty debt. Scholars such as Trinidad's Eric Williams, Guyana's Walter Rodney and Germany's Andre Gunder Frank have pointed to the significant role the Caribbean and Jamaica, in particular, played in the ascension of England as the world economic power in the period 1760 to 1830. Believe it! It is our raw materials and slave labour which fuelled the Industrial Revolution: not its own domestic resources. At the peak of the 'lateighteen' century 'likkle winjy tallawah' Jamaica contributed around 20 per cent of England's gross domestic product.

So, then, what have we got in return? A monarch who we swear allegiance to along with her heirs and successors, who if we wish to visit we have to apply for (and mostly get refused) a visitor's visa?

We would indeed be better off because our citizens, who built the British Empire with their blood sweat and tears, would have long ago been allowed to migrate and work in the 'Motherland'.

So, instead of dissing the polls or respondents, I simply feel a Royal pain.