I was born in Mandeville in 1947 and I believe I can say, with a fair degree of accuracy, that I’ve seen, heard and experienced “both sides now” when it comes to the complex character that is… Jamaica—Austin Maxwell writes in this piece for Jamaica’s Observer.
I grew up in Newport and Knockpatrick, lived – at different times – in Golden Spring, Stony Hill, Montego Bay and a plethora of addresses in Kingston and its environs. Over the years, I’ve been both fortunate and honoured to form relationships – personal and professional – with individuals from every walk of life.
I’ve been bullied and victimised by some of the best in the business, both at school and as an adult. I’ve also been privileged to earn the trust of some who, if they’d felt they had a choice, would much rather not have turned to crime and violence as a way of life, but felt they’d grown up in “troubled” and marginalised communities, becoming resigned to living the life of their peers and neighbours. I’ll never forget the words of one man – in his early 30s at the time – who told me, in a most matter-of-fact way: “Watch-ya now, fi-mi life go like dis: If mi get up one mawnin’ an’ go bruk a man house fi get a money an’ lickle food an’ ‘im di-deh an’ mi out ‘im so mi cyaan get-weh… A jus’ so. Ef ‘im manage fi shot mi firs’… den a jus’ so.” I liked that guy – he was a loving father to his three kids and generally a pleasant person to talk to but… he felt he was doomed from birth and nothing had happened during his life to change that perception.
Elsewhere, I’ve praised the positive aspects of our collective and individual character – the traits that endear us to each other and the world. My praise is sincere because of first-hand experience: I need no-one to tell me about it. The innate compassion, generosity, hospitality and warmth of Jamaicans is almost legendary. I’ve also found that, in general, it is those who most need to have generosity extended to them who most readily demonstrate unconditional love – without hesitation or the felt need for reward. So, I’m serious when I say these are aspects of our Jamaican-ness about which we have every right to feel proud.
As both a true friend and loyal son and sibling, however, I feel I’ve both earned the right and acquired the responsibility to point out the so-called ‘dark side” of our personality as well – our failings and foibles, if you like: those things we think, feel, say and do that – given what we say we want to achieve, how we say we want to feel about ourselves and our country – simply have never worked for us and don’t stand the proverbial chance of a snowball in hell of ever doing so.
These “foibles” of ours take all forms, shapes and sizes – from employees stealing from employers… at all levels, to the greed, graft and general corruption that’s been so rampant for so long throughout all our systems, to all the various manifestations of crime and violence all too prevalent in our society, but particularly – in my experience – within our urban communities. That which garners the most dramatic media headlines, of course, is violent crime of which, in more recent times – unfortunately – we’ve scarcely had a shortage.
It’s always easier, in small communities, to get to know your neighbours well and consequently, incidents of crime and violence tend to affect us more immediately and be more shocking while, along with natural disasters, assuming an exaggerated importance in the media. What’s at play here is that, for the most part, a larger percentage of the local population is directly and indirectly affected by such events, than likely would be the case in larger countries like Canada, the US and the UK. Physical distances tend to be shorter and word-of-mouth travels faster: We hear about things more quickly, are more likely to experience events first-hand, or know people close to us who’ve been victims of crime, violence or some natural disaster. We therefore tend to react more strongly to these events than if we lived elsewhere and were further removed, personally, from them. Our media headlines reflect this and on the world stage give a distorted impression to our international audiences – tourists, potential investors, returning residents and the like.
It would therefore, I believe, behove us to make some changes at home – most important in and for ourselves – in order to create more peaceful, happy and prosperous lives and a society where true, uncorrupted justice and a sense of fairness could prevail. For this to happen, we all – individually first, as well as collectively – need to release all our old jealousies, resentments, and the poverty-consciousness that has always plagued us, led to, and will always spawn greed, corruption, victimisation, feelings of hopelessness and helplessness and so on.
Events happen in our lives and in our world that we rarely can control but we always have a choice as to how we respond to them. It is those responses that determine how events affect us. A wise man once told me: “The only difference between a stepping stone and a stumbling block is how you step on it.” Attitude is everything in life – it determines outcomes, results and how we experience life – and each other – generally. When a group of us – a family, community or a nation choose to approach a challenge with a single – focused, positive and constructive – mind, one attitude then, as we say in our oh-so-colourful dialect: “Yu wi’ fri’tn fi see what cyan g’waan!”
It’s a simple process, but no-one’s ever said change like this was easy. It demands motivation and especially, eagerness – an “I can’t wait to do this” mindset, in order for the process even to begin. We have to want, so badly it hurts, to change.
Wouldn’t the end results be worth the effort, though?
One Love always, all ways.
For the original report go to http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Jamaica-50—the-dark-side_10905332#ixzz1qBZk7nBx
One thought on “Jamaica 50 – the dark side”
Great post very well said, Old Habits die hard however if we really want to change we can change. Its all in the mind, Change your mind and you can change your life. Think and Grow Rich. Thanks for sharing