Sun | Dec 11, 2016

Have we lost our humanity?

Published:Monday | October 27, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Col Allan Douglas, Guest Columnist

I recently had the opportunity of viewing two documentaries. One focused on the history and activities of the Holocaust Museum in Miami, and the other covered the 1959 Cuban Revolution and its aftermath.

Both were very disturbing. The holocaust documentary featured not only very graphic pictures of the suffering and murder of over six million Jews in concentration camps, but also interviews with present-day survivors of that barbaric period in human history.

Similarly, the Cuban documentary featured interviews that described the disruption of lives and families and their suffering in the name of politics. Both these documentaries have once again had me asking, what causes man to be so moved as to calculably cause misery, suffering and death to others?

Is there no conscience or humanity left in such humans who inflict such deeds?

Furthermore, how could others who know right from wrong, stand by and allow mass murder and suffering? Is it that we humans, when confronted by such situations, simply conform and find no place for resistance?

Inflicted barbarism

The slave trade was monstrous and unfolded another chapter in man's inhumanity to man. The reparation efforts are to be lauded, but who can forget the hideous barbarism inflicted, compounded by man's propensity for cruelty towards his own species? Of course, since our independence in 1962, there have been several cases of what can rightly be regarded as state-sponsored brutality inflicted on Jamaicans. We have had Green Bay, the Kraal killings, Tivoli incursions one and two, and then the killings of Michael Gayle, Keith Clarke, Kamoza Clarke, Mario Deane, and the deaths of several others. In each of those cases, what drove the perpetrators to inflict such punishment and death?

What causes a Jamaican policeman, for instance, to beat a mentally challenged man such as Michael Gayle to the point where he vomits blood and loses bladder control?

Where is the humanity in a so-called law enforcer, who throws this victim into a lock-up and then hands him a hose to wash away his vomit and blood while he is slowly dying in his cell? When or why did that policeman lose his humanity? Through which door in his conscience did compassion for others flee without thought or consideration?

Where is the humanity of those who suggest justification for the killing of women and children in Tivoli by the security forces in 2005 because they were allegedly being used as human shields by gunmen?

It seems to me that one loses humanity or conscience over time, and that this is the preserve not only of the individual, but of the nation. The creeping culture of blame, where an agency or government leaders blame the victims to justify misdeeds or cruelty inflicted on them, reflects an erosion of the rule of law and an anarchic disregard for democratic rights. And the simplistic plea, "A nuh nutten; a criminal, him fi dead" is no fitting epitaph for innocent children and families who died in angry, careless crossfire.

I beg and plead with the commissioners of the 2010 Tivoli inquiry, while they are putting their thoughts together and trying to work out just how it is going to be possible to start the inquiry in December, given the nature of the festivities and holidays during that month, to also please remember that the way they approach their duties and the outcome could very well signal the need to restore our humanity, or face its final death knell, especially among our security forces.

Stand for what is right

To our leaders, especially those in Gordon House, we expect you to stand up for what is right, regardless of party political considerations. You must lead by example. It is not good enough just to have us conform because it makes you comfortable.

You need to inspire our people to resist wrong. We should start with our own museum featuring the atrocities Jamaicans have had to endure, from slavery to Green Bay, to Michael Gayle, to Tivoli, to Mario Deane, just to name a few, so that our children can one day visit and understand first-hand that such human cruelty is an abomination of our responsibility to respect each other's sanctity of life. I am willing to make the first contribution to the establishment of such a museum.

Colonel Allan Douglas is a retired officer of the Jamaica Defence Force. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and alldouglas@aol.com.