WRITTEN BY: LIVITY
The myth of Jamaica is one of a picturesque island, with captivating music, and potent marijuana. Though in reality, it is a land captured by Europeans who executed a barbaric genocide on the indigenous inhabitants, Tainos and Arawaks. The need for free labor led the colonizers to import militant, unruly Africans, unwanted by North American slave masters, subjected to a life of harsh labor and inhumane enslavement.
The Maroons emerged from this oppression. These men and women were not exclusive to Jamaica, for every colony in the Western world contained rebellious slaves who refused to be oppressed under the whip of the taskmaster. The Maroons took refuge in the mountainous forest to live a rough life of self-sufficiency away from European lordship.
Jamaican Maroons were not as glorious as history portrays them. One of the clauses in their agreement with the British was their assistance in capturing other slaves who wanted the liberty experienced by their peers. Jamaica’s crab-in-a-barrel mentality that has crippled the country has existed since then, with Jamaicans experiencing over four hundred years of tearing down their brothers.
The militancy of national heroes Sam Sharpe and Paul Bogle has seemed to escape the bloodline of modern Jamaicans. Unlike other colonial countries, Jamaica never fought for Independence, it was granted. Jamaica has not had a group that tried to overthrow the government or inflict any type of violence against its oppressors in the last sixty-three years. Modern Jamaicans are docile, addicted to Western consumerist tastes mixed with a deadly dose of self-hate. The only acts of aggression Jamaicans exhibit are against themselves.
Jamaicans’ barbarous acts of violence are mostly against each other, for the most trivial of discrepancies. The world views Jamaicans as a conscious people when in reality they are unconscious, burdened by the psychological effects of a colonial education system, poverty, malnutrition, and mass unemployment/underemployment.
The psyche of Jamaica permeates thru the popular music of the island, sung by men who glorify materialism, violence, and self-hate, by proudly bleaching the melanin from their skin, desperately trying to escape their African ancestry. The powers that be must be pleased with the state of affairs, for they receive no resistance while enslaving the country through bad deals with the IMF or while engaging in insider trading, narcotics dealings, and unfettered corruption as they smile in the faces of the people they oppress. One does not have to look far to see the devastating plantocracy that still governs Jamaica, where the majority of those in positions of power carry low doses of melanin and those of darker shade struggle for their daily bread.
The social ills and moral decay of Jamaica are too complex to be remedied for, as Walter Rodney explained, colonies were never designed to flourish independently from the rule of the mother crown that colonized them. Currently in Jamaica, the minimum wage provides its struggling citizens with $5,600 for a 40-hour workweek. This is equivalent to $ 47 USD. A nation that fails to provide its citizens with the opportunity to earn a livable wage is destined for what Jamaica has become, a land of ‘sufferation.’
Jamaica today differs immensely from the island my grandmother described to me: A country where citizens cared for each other, social programs were prevalent, hospitals were efficient, and currency was stronger than the US dollar. While those experiences of nostalgia are pleasing, modern Jamaicans are unaware of those times, faced with the dreaded task of making something out of nothing.
What will ever happen to this mass of land situated in the Caribbean Sea that has influenced the world in arts, spirituality, culinary, and athletics? The potential for Jamaica and Jamaicans is immense, though the greed of those at the top ensures those seeds of potential will not germinate.