From Nation to Abattoir?

Chubby

 

My column of September 6, 2017. The funeral for Leonard Collins “(Chubby”) is this Saturday at Church of Christ, Mona. I still shed tears at the wantonness of his killing.

I didn’t know his given name. On campus he was known as Chubby, a dread with a bicycle and a green thumb, who worked in the Maintenance Department for many years. Involved in a job-related accident some years ago, Chubby was waiting to collect some long overdue compensation monies.

On Friday, the 25th of last month, the money finally arrived in his credit union account and Chubby went and collected it. The first thing he wanted to do was buy a cake for his two-year old son. He sat down outside his August Town home with some friends idly discussing where to buy the cake. Some said Megamart, others said he should get a Cherry Berry cake from Sugar and Spice in Liguanea.

I remember when the ‘yout’, as Chubby called him, was born. The proud father came to my office to see if I could help in any way, as there were complications. I gave him some money. What Chubby really wanted was for me to visit his son in hospital because he said ‘they’ would treat him and his family better if someone like me visited. It haunts me to this day that I allowed my fear and dislike of hospitals to dissuade me from going.

Two years later Chubby did not get to buy his son a cake. The same night he got the money, someone pushed their way into his house and robbed him, viciously shooting and killing him in the process. I don’t think his death made the news. Sometimes I wonder if murders in August Town are under-reported to protect the much vaunted but fragile ‘peace treaty’. I know that not all murders are reported to the media by the Police in time for them to carry the news.

It’s heartbreaking when from he that hath not, even that which he hath not is taken. A good, hard-working man has been struck down, separated from the one thing he could call his own—his life. What lies ahead for Chubby’s son now, joining the legion of fatherless children?

There was a series of gruesome murders in Clarendon during the same period but  it’s human nature to mourn those closest to us, especially if they lived in physical proximity and you knew them. Someone from one’s own family, country, class or caste takes precedence over nameless strangers halfway across the world. The media too spends more column space or airtime on individuals who were prominent because of talent, brains, money or beauty. Thus the murder of designer Dexter Pottinger last week has dominated social media, where shell-shocked Jamaicans have been expressing sorrow, outrage, anger and bewilderment at his killing by a person or persons unknown.

The usual arguments are making the rounds. As Pottinger was openly gay there are those who suspect he was killed directly or indirectly because of his social orientation. Others counter this by saying he was likely killed by a lover in a crime of passion, so this can’t be classified as a homophobic murder. I find the latter a strange claim the fallacy of which is illustrated by looking at women who are murdered by their partners, ex husbands or boyfriends. Does the fact that this might be a crime of passion negate the fact that beneath the casual slaughter of women lies a deep-seated patriarchal belief that they are inferior and therefore expendable? Does it negate the widespread misogyny that permeates such societies and drives violence against women?

“Please don’t make it about the fact that he was gay” implored someone on my Facebook timeline. And I get that people don’t want Jamaica to get bad press again, especially if this was a straight robbery and murder, so to speak. But the fact is if a black man is killed in a racist country, the first thing you’re going to wonder is whether the color of his skin was a contributing factor. If racists view black people as an alien species endangering the public, in much the same way as homosexuals are viewed as dangerous threats to society here, it makes them more vulnerable to violence by those who feel justified in ridding society of the ‘menace’ by killing them.

Thus some men feel justified in killing men who make advances towards them instead of politely brushing them off in the way women do 365 days of the year when men make unwanted passes at them. Imagine what the world would look like if women killed every man who made a pass at them! I’ve never understood the “I killed him because he made an indecent proposal” defence that seems to find such currency here.

We might never know the reason Dexter was killed but in the meantime how about building a nation where people are as concerned to eliminate unwarranted prejudice as they are to protect their country’s reputation?

The Sly Perfidy of People Who Say They Care…

A look at the moral panic enveloping Jamaica in the wake of Brendan Bain’s dismissal as CHART head.

Clovis, Editorial cartoon, Jamaica Observer June 12, 2014
This editorial cartoon in the Jamaica Observer of June 12 featuring a schoolboy in a chastity belt responds to the alleged rape of a male jogger that was sensationally reported in a previous issue of the paper. Questions have been raised about the sketchy details available, suggesting the incident might have been staged to fuel the moral panic instigated by the evangelical right in Jamaican society.

Jamaica is in the throes of a full blown moral panic. Three times a week since mid-May demonstrators clad in black have been assembling in front of the University of the West Indies (UWI), praying and carrying placards urging passers-by to honk in support of their campaign. Some have even taped their mouths to signal that this is a freedom of speech issue.

If you guessed that the protest might have something to do with the serious ills threatening this Caribbean society—rampant criminality, paedophilia, human and narco-trafficking, extra-judicial killings by the police and a crippling national debt among others—you would be wrong. The protest is indirectly fuelled by fear that an international ‘gay lobby’ is gaining ground in Jamaica as manifested by the termination of contract of a former UWI Professor from his post as head of  the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Regional Training Network or CHART as it is popularly known.

According to the University of the West Indies, CHART CEO Brendan Bain had to be removed from his leadership position after the majority of stakeholders in that organization declared they had no confidence in Bain’s leadership anymore. What prompted the no confidence vote was testimony provided by Bain in a Belize court case, on behalf of a Church group that was arguing for the retention of that country’s buggery laws. This was felt to be in direct contradiction of CHART’s mandate to improve delivery of HIV treatment in the region by reducing the stigma attached to the disease. There is widespread medical consensus based on extensive research that stigmatization and intolerance of men who have sex with men (MSMs) have helped to intensify the spread of the disease as those afflicted with it are afraid to ask for medical help. The Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa which have the highest rates of HIV infection in the world are irrefutable proof of this.

Disregarding these facts Bain’s supporters have turned the situation into a circus about freedom of speech. Their contention? That Bain should have been free to give expert evidence based on his “research” and that by rescinding his contract the university had bowed to the dictates of an internationally constituted “gay agenda”.

Clovis, Jamaica Observer editorial cartoon, June 19, 2014. A depiction of the so-called 'hijacking' of morality by Jamaicans for Justice and their sex education curriculum for institutionalized children.
Clovis, Jamaica Observer editorial cartoon, June 19, 2014. A depiction of the so-called ‘hijacking’ of morality by Jamaicans for Justice and their sex education curriculum for institutionalized children.

Jamaica’s leading newspapers have provided daily fodder to support these protests in the form of provocative anti-gay cartoons, columns and articles. An atmosphere of near hysteria prevails with all the radio stations besieged by callers self-righteously denouncing the ‘gay agenda’ that is about to derail this virtuous, God-loving country. Virtually every day another scandal rocks the nation. A male jogger is raped by a gang of men! A few days later a 16-year old boy who tried to buy a tube of lipstick is nearly lynched by a mob and has to be rescued by the Police. Practically the next day Jamaicans for Justice, the local human rights group, is accused of attempting to “sexually groom” minors in the state’s care by providing them with special text books modified to include information on anal and oral sex.

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Improbably a morning radio host on Newstalk 93 claims that the furore over sex education has NOTHING to do with homosexuality or gay rights and everything to do with the rights of poor, vulnerable children. Yet such concern for children’s rights and for the welfare of children in state homes is unprecedented. Was such a declaration made when the sexual violence that is the norm at these homes was exposed in the media a mere two months ago? Are these armchair moralists aware that the majority of children at these farcical ‘places of safety’ are routinely buggered and raped, often by adult staff members? Where was the disproportionate outrage now being displayed over the education of these children when the Jamaica Observer detailed the kind of sexual abuse young boys in one particular home were subject to?

According to a story by Karyl Walker in the Observer of April 9, 2014:

Horror stories of rape and sexual predation have long haunted children’s homes and one former student of the institution told the Observer that he had been raped by older boys many times during his stay there.

“The big boys rape the smaller boys, and when the smaller boys grow up they rape those who are weaker than them. It never stop,” the former ward said.

More recently, on June 9, 2014, Christopher Pryce wrote an anguished letter to the editor about what he called the ‘Boko Haramisation’ Of Jamaica’s children highlighting the alarming rate at which children are disappearing from their family homes.

Did crusading Christians undertake dramatic demonstrations against the government for its abject dereliction of duty in regulating children’s safety in these instances? Why not? Or does it reserve such protests for socially prominent members of high society who are removed from their cushy jobs?

If there is indeed such widespread concern over the education of children why don’t we express the same angst over the rape and buggery of their little bodies? The lessons in horror these children are taught, come not from any textbook smuggled into the curriculum by ‘the gay lobby’ but as a result of the vile predations of those entrusted with their care. Yet such flagrant violations earn no reaction– let alone action–from the innumerable Christian pulpits dotting this island or the churches braying so vigorously on behalf of Bain’s so-called rights.

Our Churches deal exclusively with the spirit such blatantly skewed reactions seem to say. We don’t care if your children are starving or being turned into sex slaves but rest assured we will police what their young minds and spirits are fed with the fervour of Ayatollahs. Your spiritual health is safe in our holy hands. For material well-being apply to your nearest Don and if necessary yield up your pubescent girl children. Remain confident that such children will go to their sexual slaughter with minds unsullied by the truth. Hallelujah! Pass the collection plate!

The Ghetto strikes back…and Satan Deconstructed…

An innovative video on class, race and other matters in Jamaica as well as a really acute quote from songwriter/singer Tanya Stephens…

 


 

When i got back to the rock from Trinidad last week the big news was a protest that had erupted on the University of the West Indies (UWI) campus. Students who owed fees were not allowed to sit final exams and a bangarang ensued. Public opinion was divided on the matter but the most creative, trenchant critique i came across was the video retort (above) to statements by a UWI student who had been interviewed on the matter. It brings to the fore many tensions simmering just a skin away from the surface regarding class, race, privilege and education. It’s well worth a watch.

And not at all related but equally provocative and nakedly intelligent was this Facebook post by singer Tanya Stephens…yes, she who wrote These streets don’t love you like i do…. Talk about Satanic verse…

I feel compelled to apologize to Satan on behalf of all humans this evening. For generations you who dont even exist have been criminalized, blamed for every thing we humans do and feel stupid about because we know it’s not in our best collective interest. I want to apologize especially on behalf of the clergy who earn so much off your name yet haven’t enough gratitude to say thanks. Let me also take this opportunity to thank you for taking the blame for the stupid shit i’ve done, and let you know it wasn’t in vain for I have learned from them and wont be needing your services anymore. I simply MUST apologize for you bearing the blame for wars and hunger, poverty. Ironically, the collective wealth of organized religion could solve these problems if redistributed with the love they profess, yet they who are righteous say you’re the bad guy… My humblest apologies!

Now if that doesn’t tell you why Tanya is one of the most innovative songwriters in Jamaica today i can’t imagine what will…she cuts to the heart of darkness at the centre of most religious belief and human endeavour…would love to know what you think….

He’s Royal…so Royal!…Prince Harry visits University of the West Indies

An illustrated look at Prince Harry’s unveiling of the plaque at the University of the West Indies with views on Jamaica becoming a republic from bystanders

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Belatedly receiving a request for a short piece on the Prince’s visit from the Guardian in London, I set off for the Law Faculty with my trusty iPhone 4S.

 
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A crowd of mainly students, staff members and journalists had gathered under cloudy skies to watch Prince Harry unveil a plaque at the University of the West Indies’ new Faculty of Law in honour of his grandmother’s Diamond Jubilee. As the University’s website informs you “The Queen holds the title “Visitor” of the university. The position of Visitor is considered to be the most senior official of the UWI.”

Usain Bolt graciously allows the Prince to win...which he does in grand style...

The young Prince arrived at the Law Faculty after a playful race with Jamaican star runner Usain Bolt at the University’s Mona Bowl. Crowds of young females, both from the university and from local high schools, cooed loudly in excitement as the Prince’s motorcade drew up to the Faculty.

Switching Jamaica’s constitutional status to that of a republic is by no means a done deal. The government has promised to hold a referendum before any decision is made and retaining the Monarchy might well turn out to be the more popular choice when all the votes are counted.

A quartet of girls from the St. Andrew High School for girls in Kingston, including the Head Girl and 3 prefects, said that Prince Harry’s visit was an ‘Oh my God moment’. On the subject of Jamaica becoming a republic they said they were on the fence, feeling unsure that Jamaica had adequate resources to make it on its own. They said there were clear advantages and disadvantages involved and it was a matter of weighing them carefully.

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Lanesa Downs, who wore a sash that said ‘Miss Law’ and was part of the official welcome party at the law faculty, said she was really excited to meet Prince Harry. “Not all the time you’re able to meet royalty and I even got to shake his hand.” She had mixed feelings she said about the possibility of her country becoming a republic, worrying that this was not the right time for Jamaica to consider such a step; she was concerned that it might not be able to sustain itself alone and should wait a few years before becoming a republic.

In contrast Business student Andre Poyser who also hosts Newstalk 93’s Issues on Fire programme said he was in full support of Jamaica becoming a republic even though it might not change much. “We’ll just be swopping the Queen for another titular head but what I think it will provide is the opportunity for the government to go out and do broad-based consultations on the drafting of the new constitution. People can become more involved in governance. I think it will add more value to the strength of our democracy.”