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'I pray for Jamaica, but ...'

Published:Monday | March 29, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Enrico Stennett.

Paul H. Williams, Gleaner Writer

In late 2008, in a five-part series, we told the story of Enrico Stennett, a mixed-race Jamaican, who stowed away to Britain because he was unhappy with the prevailing social and political conditions in Jamaica.

But, in 1947, when he arrived in England, where he thought there were streets of gold, he was shocked out of his wits. In addition to the harsh British weather, post-World War II England was a mess, and his dreams of a better life were now a living nightmare.

Stennett was battered and bruised emotionally by racism, and underwent untold suffering. Yet, the determined Enrico rose above the adversities, and ended up helping other West Indian migrants. He became part of the black trade union movement in London and was to play a significant role in the amelioration of the lot of black West Indians. Despite his achievements, there was still much room for improvement, and he was to learn that the more things changed the more they remained the same.

In his colourful autobiography, Buckra Mass Pickney he writes, "My argument was that I was not running away from anybody. I intended to stay and fight for what I believe was right, and I was determined to be a messenger and spread the news of our suffering in any way I could ... It was the dream of a young inexperienced man, who believed he could change the world. In my twilight years, I now realise the naïvety of my thinking."

And in his 'twilight years', Stennett returned to Jamaica to enjoy the clement weather, and all the good things that it had to offer.

But, once again, he became frustrated with life on this fair isle. In a face-to-face conversation with him and his wife, Mary, last year, they bemoaned the sorry state of affairs in Jamaica. Then, after much contemplation and discussion with his wife, he packed his bags and migrated to the United Kingdom.

The following is his rationale, in his own words, for leaving his beloved Jamaica - again.

Jamaica no better

"Jamaica, as an island, has suffered the full brunt of slavery, where every method was used in the process of degrading, dehumanising, and all other efforts of subjugation which one could imagine. This had started over 300 years ago, but so deep were the roots of the methods which were used to instil in the minds of its people, which brought about a sense of inferiority and worthlessness, that until this day, in the 21st century, we still remain not much better than we were then.

"I left Jamaica when I was a young man. I knew there was poverty and subjugation of the people by the powers that be at the time, but little did I know how lasting and effective the legacy of the indoctrination would be, which prevented them until this day from escaping the burden of hatred, disrespect and bad-mindedness towards each other.

"My love for Jamaica as a young man with all its difficulties was so strong that I dedicated my life abroad in pursuit of the independence and the uplifting of our people. I have always wanted to return, but did not do so as I considered my work in the United Kingdom so important that it became a major part of my life.

"I am now 82 years old, and decided it was time to return to the land of my birth and my childhood where I respect people irrespective of their colour, class or creed, and had accepted their various status, while at the same time struggling for independence and to be a free people. I realise the world has changed dramatically since I was a child. This change was for the better for most countries and peoples, but alas, not for Jamaica and its people.

"Some may say I am writing this through embitterment and disappointment. Yes, there is some truth in that, but one cannot help feeling very disillusioned to see the world move forward for the better, while my own beloved country has deteriorated so much. In the first place, we are now a people who are ungovernable, a people who believe in anarchism.

"Many explanations have been put forward for the reasons which brought this condition about, but after analysing the various arguments put forward, there can only be one conclusion, which is, we have been destroyed as a people, and there is no turning back.

"I must hasten to add there are a lot of decent, honest and respectable Jamaicans who are a credit to themselves and their race, but most of whom I have met and spoken with, whether they are young or old, are living in absolute fear of the future, and many are just hoping for the day when they will be able to leave these shores.

"These people find themselves in bondage fearing to go about freely, being careful of whom they mix with, and find it expedient to segregate themselves from the masses. They no longer have any faith in this two-party tribal state, where they see democracy as meaning two tribes fighting against each other for power, and do not care a damn what happens to them and the masses at large. They have no faith in the police as they see the police as enemies and not there to protect them.

"Since Independence, we believe we are free and, therefore, should not work. The land no longer yields the commodities which are essential for the sustenance of life. A few people still decide they will do their best in farming small portions of land which they can handle themselves as it is impossible to find a reliable labour force.

"Jamaica has reached the stage where we have become the most bloodthirsty, callous and barbaric of all the Caribbean nations. We murder without pity; the senseless killing of one another can be nothing but uncivilised. The lion kills for food; we kill for the sake of killing. It leaves one to believe we are a nation with an inherent hatred of each other.

"I pray for Jamaica, the land I love, but I know deep down, with the behaviour of my people as it stands today, my prayers will be in vain, leaving us no hope for the future."