Mon | Oct 18, 2021

Independent Jamaica and the tribalism virus

Published:Friday | August 7, 2015 | 12:00 AM

We are celebrating the anniversary of having attained political Independence. We are no longer a colony, and it follows that the association that should rise to the forefront is nationalism. Sadly, I do not find major displays of nationalism after all these years of independence.

We have seen that it is much more the party, whether JLP or PNP, above all else; the desire to be dressed in party-coloured clothing to attend an Area Council meeting or a National Executive meeting. These meetings are primarily to deal with the matters internal to the respective party. However, the ingrained obligation of fidelity and loyalty is now clearly established.

Would one be any less loyal to the cause if the participants wore beige, brown or plum-coloured clothing? Not at all, but wearing green or orange makes the statement as to the dominance of the party - loyalty to the party above and beyond that owed to the country.

This fosters the tribalism virus. We see a fellow Jamaican dressed in the colour and we instinctively form judgements. The formation of the judgement then leads to the shaping of the interaction. The interaction may well be indifference at best or hostility at worst. This would not have been the automatic reaction had the trigger of the party colours been absent. Have we not climbed sufficient rungs of the literacy ladder to function without orange or green garb?

Recently, there has been a spirited debate on the merits, or lack thereof, on the PetroCaribe debt restructuring. Just imagine how much more valuable it would have been had the proponents and opponents met in the public square and debated as persons, who in their own right, were qualified to express a technical opinion. It was not to be.


Tribalistic economics


We have a party vigorously opposed, while the IDB, IMF and all the financial analysts in full support, with the other party, beaming in the glow of having secured the deal. As a Jamaican, not affiliated to either party, are you not inclined to settle with the opinion of the international financial experts? This debate was not anchored in economic analysis. The proposal is different but grounded in the supposed 'good deal' and whether it will result in 10 per cent reduction of a debt that was not included in the total stock of debt reported by the Government. Tribalistic economics. Here is to lies, damn lies and tribalised statistics. How did tribalism come to permeate the being of educated, rational leaders who are otherwise successful persons?

Is this a threat to development? Can we get to the stage where the merits of the austerity programme or the growth agenda are debated, as to their value for national concerns? I doubt it will be done anytime soon.

With the political parties existing primarily for the sake of winning and retaining political power, national objectives are secondary. It is always best for us to govern the country, each will say. You lost credibility with the international financial markets. You squandered scarce resources on an ill-conceived JEEP.

There is proportionately very little genuine debate in the Parliament. The outcome is already assured by the extent of the parliamentary majority. Parliament no longer, if it ever did, debates the merits and alternatives of a proposal. There is no room for persuasion or independence. The tribalists shall remain green and orange. The cheering section has been mobilised. Defend the party at all costs and Jamaica be damned.


Rampant virus


No strong debate on the merits of the Caribbean Court of Justice. The PNP woos one JLP senator and the JLP leader tramples the Constitution to stop the PNP from achieving the stated goal. Will the CCJ benefit Jamaica in clearly quantifiable and identifiable ways? No, the Oranges wants that achievement and the Greens are determined, even at the expense of abusing the Constitution, to stop them. The tribalistic virus is rampant.

Where is the spirit that soars on seeing our land in the morning and finding satisfaction therefrom. The warring tribes continue unabated. Joan Gordon-Webley is unacceptable. She was too extreme. Her actions in the political arena engendered fear and loathing. She is not fit and proper.

Noel Donaldson, of St James, from the same house, will be welcomed with open arms. He is perceived as a lot less divisive.

Keith Blake, the JLP councillor in Portmore, is booed on his attempt to deliver a message from the leader of the green house. This is the same message delivered by Olivia 'Babsy' Grange at the Independence Day celebrations, representing the leader of the green house. Remember, the leader of the green house was delivering a message in his dual capacity as leader of the Opposition, a constitutional office that he holds, a constitution he has debased.

The tribalism virus continues to spread.

- Ronald Mason is an immigration attorney and Supreme Court mediator. Email feedback to and