Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Chi Chi Man Fi Ded! A Gay Jamaican's Lament

Challenging the Gender Binary,
Signing Your Own Death Warrant

Jamaica is the proud and resolute, self-proclaimed most homophobic country in the world. Walking through the streets, it is common to hear, (whether on the radio, or from individuals), the following exclamations at the mention of homosexuality, in any context: ‘Wi no waahn no bati man bout ya’ (we do not want homosexuals here), ‘faiya bon fi a batibwaai’, (burn homosexuals), ‘dem fi ded’ (they must be killed). The popular 90’s song by Buju Banton still rings out at nightclubs, to popular appeal:

Eni taim Buju Bantan kom
Batibwaai git op ahn ron
Bum bai bai iina batibwaai hed
Ruud bwaai no promuot no naasi man, dem a fi ded
Sen fi di matik an di Uzi insted
Shuut dem, no kom ef wi shat dem.
Gai kom nier mi den im skin mos piil
Bon im op bad laik uol taiya wiil.

Whenever Buju Banton comes
Faggots get up and run
Boom bai bai (the sounds from a gun) in a faggot’s head
Rude boys don’t promote nasty men, they have to die
Send for the automatic and the Uzi instead
Shoot them, don’t come if we shot them
If a guy comes near me then his skin must peel*

Burn him up badly, like an old tire wheel.
*from acid thrown on him

Violence against homosexuals (‘batiman’, as we call them) is a recurrent theme in the Jamaican Danceheall, as we use our music to promote traditional Jamaican values, and the rejection of debased western lifestyles, which are now corrupting the minds of our youth, as noted by the perceived increased prevalence of homosexuality in our Christian country.

We rock to the cool sea breezes of our Caribbean paradise, while listening to songs like TOK’s Chi chi man (faggot):

My kruu, my daagz, set ruulz, set laaz
Far wii riprizent di laads av yaads
A gyal aluon a fiil op mi baalz.

Fram dem a paar iina chi chi man kyaar
Bliez di faiya mek wi bon dem! Bon dem!
Fram dem a jrink iina chi chi man baar
Bliez di faiya mek we don dem! Don dem!

So mi go so, yu si we ai si?
Nigaz wen yu duiin dat
Nof a dem a friik, dem a kyari aal dem doti ak
Tog niga wana-biiz, nof a dem a lik I bak
Ef dem bring it tu wi, huol on, nof kapa a shat
Kapa shat raiz op, evri kyaliko go rat-tat-tat
Rat-tat-tat, evri chi-chi man dem ha fi get flat.
Get flat! Mi ahn mai niggas a go mek a pak
Chi-chi man fi ded ahn das a fak.

So mi go so la la la la la la la la la
Na go mek no chi-chi man waak rait ya so
Fram a bwaai a duiit wi a go don dem rait nou

Lef im huol faambli dem a blou wou.

My crew, my dogs, set rules, set laws
For we represent the lords of yards
Only girls feel up my balls.
If they're hanging in a queer man’s car
Blaze the fire, let’s burn them! Burn them!
If they're drinking in a queer bar

Blaze the fire, let’s finish them! Finish them!

That's how I go, do you see what I see?
Niggas when you are doing that
Many are freaks, they bring all their dirty acts
Thug nigga wannabees, lots of them are doing it
If they approach us, hold on, much copper shots
Copper shots fly, every calico ( gun ) goes rat-tat-tat
Rat-tat-tat, every queer has to run for cover.
Hit the floor! Me and my niggas will make a pact
Faggots must die and that’s a fact.

That's how I go, la la la la la la la la
Not going to let any faggot go by right here
If a boy is doing it we're going to finish him right now
Leaving his family behind.

How refreshing it is to hear the assertion of true Christian values in Jamaican popular culture. That is what Jamaica needs more of, and precisely what secular societies are trying to snatch from us. I have traveled to America, and let me tell you, there is nothing but moral depravity being paraded around as normality. Men trying to be women, women trying to be men, and the like, which God explicitly condemns in good old King James. That must never be witnessed in Jamaican society, for we know better. The high murder, and rape rates we have are bad enough already; having homosexuals parade around freely would only hasten society’s moral degeneration. Our children would suddenly be at risk, for fags believe that everyone is gay, and so their mission is to convert as many as they can. That is what I heard anyway. Thank God buggery is still illegal in my country- men having sex with men is against all that I know to be natural. I don’t know any homosexuals personally, but my good friend, Keisha, was telling me about a male coworker who was excessively effeminate. He stared at the boss once, for a tad too long, as she put it, and was fired immediately. How presumptuous of him! Those people need to be kept in their place. Fortunately, there is no place for them, here in Jamaica.


My name is F, and I hail from Jamaica, a beautiful island in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. During my formative years, I was often bombarded with questions challenging various elements of my being: ‘Why do you look like a girl?’ ‘Why do you walk and talk like your sister?’ ‘Why won’t you play football?’ ‘Why can’t you change?’ Immeasurably perturbed by how different everyone perceived me to be, I experienced numerous identity crises. I had heard enough, from my family, my friends, and the world at large- I had to try to change. Fortunately, as fate would have it, the pressures exerted by the different forces around me were insufficient to produce any irreversible changes to the boy that ultramasculine Jamaican norms tried to obliterate.

The jeers were hard to ignore; there was no escape, no enclave of solace for someone of my nature. Only in the realm of the unconscious could I get tender relief, but even then my otherness haunted me, with each malicious criticism progressively lacerating the very core of my humanity. I woke each morning unsettled, wondering, ‘would today hold anything different for me to experience?’ I was constantly trying to reinvent myself, to be less effeminate. Each new school year presented a new opportunity, for I had been away for two months, and surely, people would understand, and even appreciate, if I changed radically from my effeminate self. Year after year, I failed. I was fully aware of the ideal, which was all around me, but I was never possessed of the substance needed to be the ideal.

My last relapse occurred when I was sixteen years old. I convinced myself that the fruits of change would be much sweeter than those borne from my unyielding stance against societal norms. I can vividly remember strutting home with a gangster twitch in my steps, while singing a dancehall song; my speech was slurred and I was resolute in the profound need for a transformation. I awoke the following morning with the sentinel of my soul shining through from my core; I looked into a mirror and all I could see was a lonely little boy- not a ‘batiman,’ not a sissy, but a young Jamaican. The scales of my repeated attempts at metamorphosis were instantaneously shed. Whether it was the futility of my efforts to gain acceptance, or my inability to face the world as a teen desperately crying out to be loved, I stopped wishing I was like everyone else.

Thereafter I began to challenge all those values that had shaped the way I thought gender. Why was effeminacy a vice? Women were not different from men when the relevant aspects of an individual’s contribution to the world were measured, I reasoned. Why was there a force in society that legitimized conformity? The progression of humankind over generations depended on the dynamism and uniqueness of individuals who believed there was a need for change, so why should modern Jamaica be stagnant in its understanding of gender identity? My reaction to the world thenceforth created even more upheaval in the society, but I was unfaltering. Unless those who criticized me could rationally expl
ain why the peculiarity of my personality necessitated a change, I refused to make any compromises to who I was. No more was I living for those around me, my life belonged to me.

My personality is not independent of the influence of Jamaican society, but I am not characteristic of an individual who was nurtured by its traditional values. I am now a liberated man; the chains representative of Jamaican society, which strangulate those who attempt to express an individual position outside of the norm, have been broken. Changes to the society dynamic are warranted, and my desires for such demand my return to Jamaica in the near future.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Regulating Dancehall Airplay

BAN THEM!!! A desperate cry for a more stringent application of the regulations in the Children’s Code for Programming as outlined by the Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica.

Jamaican youth fighting against the sexualization of our children, the objectification and commodification of our women, and the trivialization of violence embodied in the themes of modern Dancehall lyrics

For far too long we have indiscriminately allowed crude, deleterious lyrics to clog our airwaves and infiltrate the minds of our children. The popularity of Dancehall today speaks volumes to the influence it now wields in Jamaican society, and though it is by no means the cause of any of Jamaica’s problems, it cannot escape all blame. UWI academics and many diehard dancehall fans continue to exoticize the music as a means of cultural expression and a metaphor for life. Furthermore, they assert the lack of empirical evidence to support the claim that Dancehall promotes sexism, belligerence, homophobia and other retrograde persuasions. However, we do not need empirical evidence to know that if you hear something often enough, in the absence of critical thought, it eventually becomes verity. How often do you hear people chanting dancehall mantras in justifying their actions or reproaching other’s? “Man a gyalis” (I am a player), “Man a bad man” (I am a gangster), “Man fi main uman” (Men must financially support their women), or even “Bwai fi get gon shat” (He needs to be shot). We need take our future into our own hands. There is no longer any ‘them’ and ‘us’. We are all witnessing the unraveling of a social fabric that was built through centuries of oppression and struggle. It will take a very long time to rebuild it, but if each of us grabs some thread and a needle now, we may be able to stitch together the pieces. Dancehall is a potent socializing force, which desensitizes our children to the use of violence, sexualizes our young girls and makes them targets for predators, and on the whole glorifies the objectification of our women. Once our greatest pride and showpiece to the world, our music and the influence it has had on the psyche of Jamaicans is now a cancer threatening to envelop Jamaica’s prospects of being a prosperous nation.

The Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica has the following policy outlined in its Children’s Code for Programming:
Programming that contains any of the specified content elements that would qualify it for a NFT (Not for Transmission) rating may be edited to either eliminate or obscure the specific references, terms, or depictions before transmission. If the decision is taken by the media house to use an obscuring mechanism e.g. beeping of lyrics or blurring, after editing the elements must not be recognizable to the normal viewer or listener.

Now this approach works well for songs in English, but is completely inadequate for tackling songs sung primarily in Jamaican Creole. Besides the established ‘bad words’ that color our language, which these regulations would omit, all other mature themes go untouched. Whether this arises out of a general disregard for the first language of most Jamaicans, or an inability to censor lyrical expression is unknown to me, but something needs to change. The mere obscuration of a few objectionable terms does little to dilute the excessive sexual and violent references and the crude language. Further, the programming code is inappropriate for songs in Jamaican Creole, because regulators are far more tolerant of the views expressed in the language for the reason that “a jos so Jamiekan piipl stie” (That is just the way Jamaicans are). This is the only reason I can come up with for justifying why more songs are not banned don Jamaican radio. Is this a good enough reason? Hardly.

Besides objectifying women, many Dancehall songs glorify sexual aggression towards and the abuse of women. Many argue that people are able to distinguish literal from metaphorical, and do not actually act on the teachings of Dancehall artistes. Yet, Jamaica has in recent months been plagued by the manifestations of this demeaning tolerance. The current spate of abductions, rapes and murders, terms now synonymous, cannot be separated from the tolerant attitudes towards sexual aggression that our music embodies. music. Jamaican women, heads of many households, the stalwarts of the informal economy, and the nurturers of the values that define us as Jamaicans are no longer accorded much respect. We preach equality of the sexes; yet speak of our women as if they are commodities- objects of men’s debauched sexual fantasies. Many will tell you that Dancehall music reveres women, ‘kaaz a bie uman wi sing bout,’ but let us consider the song ‘Squeeze Breast’ by Mavado- an established ‘lyrical genius’ in Dancehall, and make that decision for ourselves:

Original Version
Shi se shi waahn mi skwiiz ar bres dem laik di triga af ma gon,
Ton ar bak wie ahn fok ar aad ahn mek shi kom,
Outa di bedruum shi ron, mi no nuo a we shi ton,
Di pusi kech a faiya an di pusi staat bon

Vors 1
Dem gyal ya waahn stif kak,
So mi fok ar out aad wen shi pozishan fram bak
Worse di gyal skin kliin, yes an di pum pum fat

Mi fok ar tu di maks

Vors 2
Its a fokin afier…
Gyal sidong pon mi kaki laik chier,
Gyal no yuu did a se dat de no fier,
Nou yu a baal se di pusi jaa tier,
Waahn mek a ron bot mi grab ina di ier,
Fling ar pan i grong ahn put I fut ina di ier
Kaki ina beli plos I buuts don pripier
pier naiz a mek aal di nieba a ier
Gyangsta no kier.

English Translation
She said she wanted me to, squeeze her breasts like the trigger of my gun,
Turn her backwards and f*ck her hard until she cums,
Out of the bedroom she runs, I do not know where she turned,
The vagina caught on fire and started to burn.

Verse 1
These girls want stiff cocks,
So I f*cked her our hard, when she positioned from that back,
Even better her skin is smooth, and her vagina is fat

I fucked her to the max

Verse 2
This is a f*cking affair,
Chick, sit down on my cock as though it is a chair,
Chick, aren’t you the one who claimed that it wasn’t fair,
Now you are crying that your pussy wall tore,
Wanted to make a run, but I grabbed her in the hair
Violently threw her on the floor and tossed her feet in the air,
C*ck in her belly, and the condom is in place,
She’s making lots of noise, even the neighbors can hear,
Gagsters don’t care.

Lyrical masterpiece or literary non-fiction? I think the latter, because the song graphically describes a horrific scene in which a girl is raped at the hands of a most callous man. We have a society where women are abducted, raped, and murdered like nowhere else. We cry, we try to understand why, but the answer is never forthcoming... we never realize that it is through our own negligence, that such abuses are allowed to happen in the first place. Jamaicans are too passive when it comes to rejecting influences- we should stop pretending as if we didn't have all this crime /barbarism / disregard for our women and children coming- A manifestation of the blind eye we turned to the media to which we exposed our children

Adults have- or should have, the intelligence to separate ‘metaphor’ from reality, but children cannot. For this reason, our tolerance of dancehall is helping to create a new generation of heartless, ignoramuses who will only perpetuate the negative themes in Dancehall. The glorification of violence in Dancehall music now goes unnoticed, because the retaliative stance taken against ‘offenders’ is now entrenched in our value systems. We are so desensitized to savagery that shooting, stabbing and the like are considered just action by many Jamaicans- so long as the situation warrants such action. We show descent by actively through violence, because reaching a common understanding and working through one’s problems is not a valid course to take anymore. How often we hear about delinquent students, with aggression problems wreaking havoc in our schools. Surely many socio-economic factors contribute to this kind of deviant behavior; but the fact that such attitudes are tolerated and even glorified in popular culture cannot help.

Your company/organization has vowed to protect the interests of our children, and the Broadcasting Commission has created the Children’s Code for Programming to regulate material for television and radio productions. It is very disheartening however, that you have taken a seemingly lax approach to censoring objectionable lyrics. Criteria that qualify songs for NFT (Not for Transmission) as defined in the Programming Code, are omnipresent in Jamaican Dancehall music. Here is a reminder of some of them:

Excessive Violence – V4

B) There may be express or implied encouragement of violent activity against persons according to demographic characteristics e.g. gender, or race. D) Violence is portrayed as the primary means of resolving all problems. It is also portrayed or described as a heroic, glamorous activity, and the real, negative consequences of resort to violence are not included.

Excessive sexual content S3

A) Sexual portrayals or discussion are highly pervasive and an integral part of the programming.

B) There is explicit sexual content including characters simulating sexual activity frontal nudity, and description or portrayal of male and /or female genitals.

C) The programming includes frank sexual dialogue or discussion.

D) The portrayals, discussion, or descriptions are not meant for scientific, educational or journalistic purposes but meant to titillate the viewer or listener.

Excessive language L3

A) Obscene, sexually explicit or profane language is pervasive throughout the programming.

B) Obscene gestures are depicted, described or discussed.

C) Graphic verbal expletives in either English or Jamaican Creole are included e.g. “fuck”, “battyhole”.

D) Language is used to abuse and denigrate.

Dancehall artistes now belch out the very same mature themes that the regulations in the Children’s Code for Programming were meant to protect our children from. When are we going to take a stand? The inhumanity of our lyrical declarations is an embarrassment to the foundations of the reggae movement in Jamaica. This is not what our music used to be, and it does not have to remain this way. How much longer will we sit by and create a society of immoral savages who perpetuate such a degrading worldview? These songs preach that the sexual exploitation of our women is okay. I cannot be convinced that these songs do not fuel the sadistic intentions of rapists! The rapists must surely be empowered by the fact that they live in a society it is entrenched that men are superior to women and have the authority to do as they please, by whatever means. Our feeble attempts at regulating the content of the music on our airwaves must improve. Albeit a small change in the grand scheme of things, and only one of many wrongs in Jamaica that need to be corrected, we can do something now to effect change in Jamaica- ahn wi kyaahn tari no langga.

If Vybz Kartel or any of the popular artistes was to sing, 'mek mi baks ar, a we shi tek dis fa,’ it would not be out of context, because our women are treated much worse in vile illustrations of the sex act they often describe. Singing about sexual intercourse is fine, but describing intercourse in the manner that is typical (as in Vybz Kartel and Spice’s new song Rampin Shap), is illegal or it should be. Unfortunately, objectifying and commodifying our women is allowable, as is inciting violence against others whether homosexuals or rival gang members ‘pan di goli said’. There is no self-respecting woman who would gyrate to these lyrics. The fact that so many enjoy these lecherous excuses for music speaks volumes to the tolerance of sexism in our society. Worst of all, our young females hear these songs and soon accept this debased view of them in society. They are not equals, they are inanimate, and without feeling, ready to be exploited by perverted neighbors, fathers, and strangers. As Mavado reminds us in his song, “shi se shi wahn mi skwiiz ar bres dem laik di triga af ma gon.” Dancehall’s portrayal of the woman is fully embraced, so now the women ask to be treated like objects. What has our country come to?

I am not na├»ve enough to think that banning these songs in their entirety will lessen the demand for such crude lyrics, or adversely affect the careers of the DJ’s- surely not in the short term. Regardless though, those who know better need to do better. If you were to unanimously refuse to play the music of artistes notorious for promoting these depraved behaviours, you could put enormous pressure on them and their producers to clean up their act. We need to send a very strong message that Jamaican ears and brains are being eaten out by maggots which fester in the lyrics they spew, and that we will no longer support it. These men and women are lyrical geniuses; they can do better. This positive feedback loop wherein popular demand for such degrading lyrics increases the production of it, which then increases our love and demand for the music needs to be intercepted. I lack the benefit of proof that this system is as destructive as I claim it to be, but my concern should warrant a full psycho-sociological evaluation of Dancehall culture’s contribution to the moral degradation of Jamaican society and its effect on our children. Regulations that are more inflexible need to be put in place; or the Broadcasting commission must be given increased authority to patrol our airwaves and ban certain songs permanently. I love Dancehall music. The beats are intoxicating, and they stir within me a desire to express myself through movement. I hope for the music to evolve and regain its crown as one of Jamaica’s signature cultural forms. As is now though, whose best interests is the music serving- the consumers? The beats can remain, but the lyrics must go!

I am an avid supporter of our native language, Jamaican Creole, and have taken it upon myself to translate into English our literature, and our music, so that I can share them with the greater world. Shock and disgust are the two reactions I get most frequently, after sharing the interpretation of today’s popular dancehall songs. Many cannot believe that the main themes explored in Dancehall music could ever be played over loud speakers in one’s home, much less on national radio. Our immune response to detest filth has apparently been suppressed as we have become desensitized to issues that others easily identify as pressing in other nations. I am a concerned Jamaica looking out for the interest of our children. Your company/ organization has mandated to do the same, and it is time you step fully to the plate. The acquiescence with which we approach the unraveling elements of Jamaican’s moribund social fabric must be done away with. Let us act now to reclaim the Jamaica we love and miss- if only for future generations.


Monday, November 10, 2008

The Woeful State of Our Nation

Evridie mi riid di niuuz-piepa dem mi aat bliid. Iat mi fi nuo se mi priti priti kontri an mi piipl dem a sofa aanda presha frahn di kriminal dem ahn pavati. A taim fi di yong piipl dem step op, ahn staat werk fi a beta Jumieka. Bot wi niid fi staat somwe, so mek wi taak ahn si we wi kiahn kom op wid.

Jumiekans niid sinting fi bring dem tugeda, fi mek dem rialaiz se di uola wi a wan set a piipl wid di siem uops ahn driimz. Mi fiil se wi langwij kyaahn bi de gluu de, we jraa piiple frahn aal bakgrong tigeda...no brait spaax gens no donsibat, no puo man gens no tapanaaris. Nobadi fi luk dong ar op pahn nobadi- bot evribadi az wan. An tu, mi kanvins se di edikieshan sistim uda beta ef pikni dida lerni Patwa langsaid Inglish. Chuu dis, mi gwaihn rait evrting ina Patwa ahn den chranslieti ina Inglish. Di vokiabileri mait shaata, bot ino miin se yo kyaahn se we yo waahn fi se. Til nou mi aalwiez wanda ou kom wen yo aax pikni kwestian, dem kyaahn aalwie gi yo ansa, ef a iivn 'nuo', alduo fi dem vokiabileri so shaat. Wan a di riizn dem mek wi fiil se di vokiabilieri tuu shaat a kaaz wi get so yuuz to hexpresin wi komplex aidiia dem ina Inglish...a taim fi go bak tu wi ruuts. Mi no si wa mek Jumiekan piipl kyaahn laan tuu langwij wan taim- fi di muos paat, no dat wi du nou?

I gwaihn tek nof enaji ahn main fi achiiv we di wola wi waahn Jumieka fi bi- wahn praaspros konchri we evribadi liv wid dehn wananeda widout waar. Mek wi staat di kanvasieshan no.


My heart bleeds each day when I read the newspapers. It hurts to see my beautiful country and fellow citizens suffer at the hands of criminals and poverty. Now is the time for Jamaica’s youth to join the fight for a better Jamaica. We need to start somewhere, so let us begin the discussions, and see what we can come up with.

Jamaicans need something to bring us together, to make us realize that we are united
through our nationality, having the same hopes and dreams. I am convinced that our language can be the glue which brings people from diverse backgrounds together...no intelligence versus ignorance dispute, no lower class versus high class squabbles. Where there will be no one to look down upon or up at another- but a Jamaica where everyone considers themself as part of a single unit. I am confident that our educations system would be more successful if Patwa was taught alongside English. In line with this, everything will be written in Patwa and then translated into English. Our Patwa vocabulary might be shorter, but that does not necessarly limit us in expressing ourselves. Till now, I always wonder how it is that children will always elicit a response to any question asked of them- if even just 'no'- though their vocabulary is so limited. One of the reasons we assume Patwa's vocabulary to be too short is the fact that we have grown so accustomed to expressing our complex ideas in English...but it is time for us go back to our roots. I see no reason why Jamaicans cannot leanr two langaugs at once- isn't that what we do now anyway?

It will take a lot of dedication and brain-power to achieve the Jamaica we all want to see: a prosperous island nation, in which people live in harmony and peace. Let’s start this conversation.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

My Love For Jamaican Patwa

I have read with interest the conflicting views regarding ‘wi langgwij, Jumiekan.’ I once refused to speak it, as mastery of Standard English was an expectation of the highest achievers. In 2006 I left Jamaica to study in Canada, and now believe in giving official status to ‘Jumiekan’ alongside English. It is no longer a matter of English or ‘Jumiekan;’ I want to be literate in both.

In Canada I looked forward to speaking with my family, as only they could fully understand the seriousness of my concerns. ‘Momi mi tap iit enuh, so mi a get maaga. Mi kiaahn bada wid dem kaina fuud ya agen!’ The English translation reads: ‘Mother, I no longer eat and so am losing weight; I am tired of eating this kind of food.’ Are there actually people who speak like this in Jamaica? (I tease) My sentiments are accurately expressed with potency when I speak Jamaican; there is no ambiguity.

Jamaican is a colourful and dynamic language that is as dear to me as ‘mi Sonde dina.’ It is preposterous for one to discount another’s academic abilities based on their propensity for speaking Jamaican. ‘Uu kuda brait tel mi se mi a yuuz ‘inappropriate language’ wen mi chuuz fi beta hexpres miself iina Jumiekan? Mi av mi wan ina “CSEC English” ahn nobadi kiaahn tek dat frahn mi!’

While it is true that many who do not speak Standard English simply are not able to, I am revolted that some continue to relegate ‘Jumiekan Patwa’ to the status of a low language. ‘Wi biga dan dat man!’ The ‘Bad English’ we loathe will only disappear when we teach our people the difference between the two languages. Over the last week, I have spent countless hours perusing the website ‘www.jumieka.com,’ gaining literacy in ‘Jumiekan’ using the pre-eminent Cassidy- Le Page orthography. It is easier to learn than I ever imagined and I have fallen in love ‘wid wi langwij’ all over again. Seeing it in written form reinvigorated my waning patriotism and spoke volumes to the possibility of a fully bilingual society.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Classist Reports in Jamaican Print Media

One day, while leisurely reading through the Jamaica Observer online, I was shocked to come across this article, which seemed to me a subjective evaluation of "ghetto people", as opposed to the impartial news report it should have been.

Residents protest against detention of 53 people
Saturday, November 01, 2008- The Jamaica Observer

RESIDENTS of several communities along Spanish Town Road in Kingston yesterday staged a noisy demonstration to protest against last Friday's fatal shooting of a gang leader and Thursday's detention of 53 people.

The noisy protesters, who congregated at the entrance to the volatile (not poverty stricken or impoverished) Crescent and St Joseph roads (along Spanish Town Road, lambasted (criticize harshly) the police of unfairly targeting their communities and accused them of killing their community leader in cold blood last Friday.

The gang leader, identified as Dave Sterling, alias 'Machine Man', was shot dead when he allegedly pointed a firearm at the police along Collie Smith Drive in Trench Town. Among the 53 detained in the early morning raids by the police on Thursday was a man who the police said was earlier this week 'installed' as head of the Rat Bat gang, less than a week after the death of Machine Man.

Police did not release the name of the reputed gang leader but said he was behind a series of criminal activities in Kingston, including murder, rape and extortion.

The detainees, which include two women, were still being processed late yesterday afternoon. Yesterday, the placard-bearing demonstrators accused the police of targeting their communities, even as (what, they were brazen in their accusations? Mistaken in their approach?) a group of officers kept watch from the opposite side of the road.

"Them a terrorise we and we not warring with anybody," a lanky youngster said. "Machine Man take care of we; is him send whole heap of people pickney go school and them kill him, for what?" a bleached-out face woman asked.

"Them come lock up the people them from yesterday (Thursday) and is them same people keeping the peace in the place," said another woman, clad in a skimpy outfit as she stood at the entrance to Delacree Park.

Sections of Spanish Town Road, Crescent and St Joseph Roads and Coral Lane, where the raids were carried out on Thursday morning, have been tense since Machine Man's death last Friday. According to the police, the Rat Bat gang and men from other sections of the community located between Spanish Town and Waltham Park roads have been involved in an ongoing fight for turf. More than a dozen people have been murdered in the bloody rivalry since the start of the year, the police said.

In grade 8 at St. Mary High School, I was taught that unlike tabloids and magazines, which sensationalize headlines in reaching a target group of individuals, the Observer and the Gleaner were more objective. I trusted that view, until I was able to discern subjective blabber from that which truly serves to enhance the intelligence of Jamaicans, in lifting the illiterate and unaware from the abyss of ignorance.

An article printed in the Observer on November 1 entitled “Residents protest against detention of 53 people” is one example of the ‘subjective blabber’ I detest reading in these reputed sources of news and information. Though I am aware that it is difficult to be completely unbiased in reporting anything, it was startling to see the writer blatantly convey a bias towards one impoverished, and marginalized community in Spanish Town.

It is well known that criminal masterminds shrewdly take advantage of the destitute in their communities, by offering them money and ‘security’, which inadvertently buys their allegiance. It is therefore not surprising that community members passionately turn to the streets to protest the death of their ‘community leaders’, whatever the cause of death.

In the article, the writer labels the community members as ‘noisy protesters’ and further invalidates their claims by using descriptors such as ‘lanky youngster’, ‘bleached-out face woman’ and ‘woman, clad in a skimpy outfit’. These terms undermine both the value of their opinions, and the authority of the Observer, which has failed in its responsibility to accurately report the views of Jamaicans from all socioeconomic backgrounds. With this article, a great disservice was done to those in Jamaica who are mired in an exploitative relationship they are oblivious to and helpless to changing.

Jamaicans everywhere are under attack from societal ills we seem powerless to solving. We must fight together as a nation, against the realities that lead to the exploitation of people in our marginalized communities. How brazen of the writer to articulate such despicable prejudice in a news report. The media has the capacity to shape perceptions, and must be careful that it does not promote divisiveness. Objectivity is but an ideal, but greater effort needs to be made towards achieving it.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Religion in Jamaican Society

I wrote an editorial in the Gleaner, which focused on a few of the reasons why Jamaica was fragmented as a nation. I had made some 'blasphemous' remarks about the church in the process, for which I was lambasted by a concerned Jamaican. The reply I made to his letter is an interesting discussion of the church in Jamaica, as I see it.

Dear Chadrick*,

I must first express my delight to read your response to my article. I greatly enjoy participating in intellectual discussions and am looking forward to an amicable online discussion with you, if you so desire. I am not sure how best to deal with your objections to the opinions I expressed, but I hope the format used below will be comprehensive and easy to follow.

Blaming the church for the current predicament in the country is inaccurate and serves no useful purpose.

Ina Mi Gutumaa:
I agree with you. I do not believe Jamaica's moral decay and resulting spiraling crime rate are caused by the actions of the church. Such a statement would be preposterous. The aim of my argument was not to discount the inherent good of the church, but instead to show how having a dominant religion might lead to the exclusion of smaller religious/ interest groups. This seems to me a blatant contradiction to our motto, which praises Jamaica for being a melting pot of cultures.

The role of churches is to convince people to follow the teachings of god, and by so doing becoming someone who would be less likely to resort to crime.

Ina Mi Gutumaa:
This makes perfect sense to me; I cannot imagine why it would be any different in practice.

The Christian church has no monopoly on morality. What is moral for a Christian would also be moral for a Muslim or a Hindu.

Ina Mi Gutumaa:
Here Robert I have to disagree with you. In theory no one group has a monopoly on morality. In the Jamaican context however it is undeniable that Christian morality is viewed as preeminent and that other value systems are frowned upon by the average individual. This is mostly due to ignorance, but that does not change the fact that many Jamaicans are highly intolerant to views outside of their own. Children are indoctrinated by authority figures to believe in the Christian God as soon as they enter the school system, where Christian devotions mark the start of every day. I am not saying that something is necessarily wrong with this. But I am of the view that different religious views are not very well understood or respected.

You are right in saying that 'what is moral for a Christian would also be moral for a Muslim or a Hindu,' but I think you have missed the point if you wont agree that brows are often raised when you are of religious persuasions outside of Christianity. A typical response might be: "Den a uu unu prie tu, kou?...mi no ina dem sitn de!" or "A wan Gad mi nuo, an im duohn niem Ala… go we wid dat!" Jamaicans are not very respectful of different points of view, for which reason my article purports that we are not as united, as our motto might suggest.

You should place the blame for moral decay in the society where it belongs, with politicians. They are the ones who armed their supporters and created garrisons, not the church.

Ina Mi Gutumaa:
Hmmm. I understand where you are coming from. I was not trying to point fingers in my article however, and I must apologize if it misled you to believe I was attempting such. Again, I was pointing out how fragmented Jamaicans are, not the cause of moral decay. I want us to be true to our motto or consider changing it, as it does not accurately reflect the modern reality. Politicians contribute to the disunity, yes; and I feel that having a dominant religion which tries to influence political decisions which will affect people of various religious persuasions does the same thing. I believe the political order should be impartial to all private interests (no matter the majority of supporters they have)!

Jamaica is a majority Christian country. As far as I know freedom of religion is a right all Jamaicans enjoy. So as a non Christian you have nothing to fear.

Ina Mi Gutumaa:
A majority Christian country we are, yes. And too, many are forced to partake in Christian ceremonies from a very early age. Does the majority status justify this? I vividly remember being chastised for not clasping my hands and closing my eyes at the appropriate time. This might be an exaggeration of what is brute force, but it is nonetheless true and emphasizes the point I am trying to make. We cannot continue to pretend that Christian morality isn't forced down our children's throats. I was reciting the 23rd Psalm as early as grade 1! Many in turn accept Christianity as the true religion, but I ask: would they have done so independent of the influence and power of the church in society? What I call indoctrination is regularly defended by the statement: "train up a child in the way he should go and when he grows old he will not depart from it." People can say what they may, but I still don't believe in this logic.

In the constitution, freedom of religion is a right all Jamaicans enjoy, but I think mutual respect for different religions must be present for such freedoms to be appreciated. I am not worried as a non Christian, but I am saddened by the fact that my national motto is clearly propaganda. There is no freedom in this country to pursue modes of living that do not comply with accepted moral standards rooted in Christian morality. People get killed for deviating Robert; again, that's an extreme, but it happens.

For example, the church believes abortion is morally wrong. Okay, I understand and respect that. Now it is the church's duty to teach this to its followers so they may not fall prey to such sinful deeds. That seems appropriate. What I cannot and will never appreciate, is the church entering parliament trying to influence politicians against legalizing abortion. Those who do not believe in Christian morality should have the choice! The church should be able to trust that its teaching methods are effective and if they find that they aren't they should modify their approach accordingly. Trying to influence legislation is tantamount to suggesting that it would have been okay for God to put an electric fence around the Tree of Good and Evil. God left the choice to Adam and Eve, and I feel the church should follow suit and leave the final choice to the individual, Christian or not (but especially non Christians). I feel like I live in a religious state, and I do not appreciate that. I do not feel free. I have many unconventional views and when I express them I do not feel respected.

Though you might disagree with my point of view, I hope at least you may be able to see where I am coming from. Thank you for the opportunity offer clarification for the ambiguous statements in my article.


• Name has been changed

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Church- Dictating Morality for Utopia

My mother regularly listens to Love 101 FM, on which I overheard a few sermons about the “moral evil” abortion. The church preposterously presents a moral argument against it, while clearly ignoring conspicuous reasons why such measures might be necessary. The embarrassing reality is that too many children are born out of wedlock, to undereducated and often unemployed mothers, and to negligent or absentee fathers. These women have little chance of escaping the unyielding claws of poverty and abuse, which their children almost invariably get trapped by in a most vicious cycle. Women facing such situations understandably decide to abort their unwanted embryos and legalization of such action would minimize the health risks they face in their resolve to abort their pregnancies regardless of prohibitive laws.

Admonitions to seek God and to live responsibly are simply not enough. Sadly, the world does NOT work this way. Jamaica needs practical solutions to a perpetual problem. The church views the legalization of abortion as the pinnacle of moral depravity and degradation, so it seems logical for them to be most proactive in facilitating possible solutions. How about church run daycares for mothers who desire to go to work or continue their education after having children they are not ready for? Further, Jamaica needs to invest heavily in social programs to keep at risk youth busy, so they will not fall prey to beguiling decadent lifestyles. I am tired of listening to self-righteous ignoramuses who refuse to recognize people as imperfect and deserving of forgiveness. The church should stop dictating morality if it is not able to offer tangible help to inevitably struggling mothers and children!

It is no surprise that criminals are often from women led, single parent households, which struggle to afford food and other basic necessities. My sister in repeating the popular sentiment that ‘di stuon we di bilda rifuuz aafn bikom di ed kaanastuon,’ added an interesting twist: ‘bot somtaim dat siem stuon kom fi mash di uol bildin dong!’ In the absence of a host of crucial support services for unwanted children and their often vulnerable mothers, abortion SHOULD be legalized. I say ENOUGH blabbering from the church! In the face of truculent criminality and social ills, Jamaica needs less talk and more action!