Jamaica in “1984”

Dissent

In 1949 the dystopian novel “1984”, written by George Orwell, was published.  I can only assume that at the time of its publication it brought to one’s imagination a society so far-fetched in its ideals and practices.  Perhaps no one could ever conceptualize a society in which one’s thoughts and activities were policed and subjected to such keen and intrusive government surveillance.  It would be hard to imagine a place where independent thinking is a crime, dissent is subjected to punishment and persecution, and only love and obedience for “The Party” is rewarded.

In the brouhaha that unfolded in the United States concerning whistleblower Edward Snowden, Orwell’s “1984” regained popularity, and it is during that period of time that I first read the book in its entirety.  At the very least, I was amazed at the prophetic nature of the novel.  But now, considering events unfolding in my own country, I am becoming increasingly concerned.

Firstly, we heard Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller suggesting that the Opposition Leader may be “an enemy of the state” for comments he made raising concerns about the state of the economy.  We heard expressions tossed around about Jamaicans who criticize the state of governance as being “unpatriotic” and “anti-Jamaica”.

Then last week we saw Minister of Youth and Culture, Lisa Hanna, referring the matter of a petition by civic group Jamaicans for Justice to the Attorney General for review – branding their petition as “disingenuous, dishonest, dangerous and clearly designed to damage the reputation of this country” (Jamaica Gleaner – July 18, 2013).  Right on the heels of this we have government MP Raymond Pryce putting forward a motion for civic groups and NGO’s to be registered and audited because of concerns regarding “…unknown donors with unspecified agendas…”  He said, “…many times, they can receive funds in a subversive way that has hidden agendas, and many times those sources of funds come from agencies that are inimical to the way of life of the wider society…” (Jamaica Gleaner – July 24, 2013).  As “good” as that sounds, one cannot help but wonder what the true motive behind this is, considering how vocal civil society and the public in general have been regarding governance in Jamaica in the last year or so.

Then, imagine my shock when news emerged this week that PNPYO Kingston Chapter Chairman, Keron Woods, was suspended for two years for daring to criticize PNPYO President, Alric Campbell for “not consulting with the membership before announcing that the organization did not support a Commission of Enquiry into the 2010 Tivoli Gardens incursion”.  Woods, along with two other members of the PNPYO were not only suspended, but were mandated to do as many as 300 hours of community service.

This is a VERY disconcerting trend!  Why do I get the feeling that dissent is being punished?  That if one disagrees with “The Party” they are sidelined for their views?  Is the Government of Jamaica attempting to police public opinion?

The irony is that all this is unfolding as we prepare to commemorate “Emancipendence”.  It appears that independent thinking and freedom of opinion are slowly slipping through our fingers.

Are Jamaicans really going to sit by and let this happen?

*****

“There are only two choices: A police state in which all dissent is suppressed or rigidly controlled; or a society where law is responsive to human needs. If society is to be responsive to human needs, a vast restructuring of our laws is essential.
Realization of this need means adults must awaken to the urgency of the young people’s unrest—in other words there must be created an adult unrest against the inequities and injustices in the present system. If the government is in jeopardy, it is not because we are unable to cope with revolutionary situations. Jeopardy means that either the leaders or the people do not realize they have all the tools required to make the revolution come true. The tools and the opportunity exist. Only the moral imagination is missing.”

– William O. Douglas, 1970

@MizDurie, @THINKJamaica

Nelson Mandela: Speech at Cape Town Rally (immediately after his release from prison) – February 11, 1990

Nelson Mandela: Speech at Cape Town Rally (immediately after his release from prison) – February 11, 1990

Nelson Mandela

[Text of Speech]

Friends, comrades and fellow South Africans.

I greet you all in the name of peace, democracy and freedom for all.

I stand here before you not as a prophet but as a humble servant of you, the  people. Your tireless and heroic sacrifices have made it possible for me to be  here today. I therefore place the remaining years of my life in your hands.

On this day of my release, I extend my sincere and warmest gratitude to the  millions of my compatriots and those in every corner of the globe who have  campaigned tirelessly for my release.

I send special greetings to the people of Cape Town, this city which has been  my home for three decades. Your mass marches and other forms of struggle have  served as a constant source of strength to all political prisoners.

I salute the African National Congress. It has fulfilled our every  expectation in its role as leader of the great march to freedom.

I salute our President, Comrade Oliver Tambo, for leading the ANC even under  the most difficult circumstances.

I salute the rank and file members of the ANC. You have sacrificed life and  limb in the pursuit of the noble cause of our struggle.

I salute combatants of Umkhonto we Sizwe, like Solomon Mahlangu and Ashley  Kriel who have paid the ultimate price for the freedom of all South Africans.

I salute the South African Communist Party for its sterling contribution to  the struggle for democracy. You have survived 40 years of unrelenting  persecution. The memory of great communists like Moses Kotane, Yusuf Dadoo, Bram  Fischer and Moses Mabhida will be cherished for generations to come.

I salute General Secretary Joe Slovo, one of our finest patriots. We are  heartened by the fact that the alliance between ourselves and the Party remains  as strong as it always was.

I salute the United Democratic Front, the National Education Crisis  Committee, the South African Youth Congress, the Transvaal and Natal Indian  Congresses and COSATU and the many other formations of the Mass Democratic  Movement.

I also salute the Black Sash and the National Union of South African  Students. We note with pride that you have acted as the conscience of white  South Africa. Even during the darkest days in the history of our struggle you  held the flag of liberty high. The large-scale mass mobilisation of the past few  years is one of the key factors which led to the opening of the final chapter of  our struggle.

I extend my greetings to the working class of our country. Your organised  strength is the pride of our movement. You remain the most dependable force in  the struggle to end exploitation and oppression.

I pay tribute to the many religious communities who carried the campaign for  justice forward when the organisations for our people were silenced.

I greet the traditional leaders of our country – many of you continue to walk  in the footsteps of great heroes like Hintsa and Sekhukune.

I pay tribute to the endless heroism of youth, you, the young lions. You, the  young lions, have energised our entire struggle.

I pay tribute to the mothers and wives and sisters of our nation. You are the  rock-hard foundation of our struggle. Apartheid has inflicted more pain on you  than on anyone else.

On this occasion, we thank the world community for their great contribution  to the anti-apartheid struggle. Without your support our struggle would not have  reached this advanced stage. The sacrifice of the frontline states will be  remembered by South Africans forever.

My salutations would be incomplete without expressing my deep appreciation  for the strength given to me during my long and lonely years in prison by my  beloved wife and family. I am convinced that your pain and suffering was far  greater than my own.

Before I go any further I wish to make the point that I intend making only a  few preliminary comments at this stage. I will make a more complete statement  only after I have had the opportunity to consult with my comrades.

Today the majority of South Africans, black and white, recognise that  apartheid has no future. It has to be ended by our own decisive mass action in  order to build peace and security. The mass campaign of defiance and other  actions of our organisation and people can only culminate in the establishment  of democracy. The destruction caused by apartheid on our sub-continent is in-  calculable. The fabric of family life of millions of my people has been  shattered. Millions are homeless and unemployed. Our economy lies in ruins and  our people are embroiled in political strife. Our resort to the armed struggle  in 1960 with the formation of the military wing of the ANC, Umkhonto we Sizwe,  was a purely defensive action against the violence of apartheid. The factors  which necessitated the armed struggle still exist today. We have no option but  to continue. We express the hope that a climate conducive to a negotiated  settlement will be created soon so that there may no longer be the need for the  armed struggle.

I am a loyal and disciplined member of the African National Congress. I am  therefore in full agreement with all of its objectives, strategies and tactics.

The need to unite the people of our country is as important a task now as it  always has been. No individual leader is able to take on this enormous task on  his own. It is our task as leaders to place our views before our organisation  and to allow the democratic structures to decide. On the question of democratic  practice, I feel duty bound to make the point that a leader of the movement is a  person who has been democratically elected at a national conference. This is a  principle which must be upheld without any exceptions.

Today, I wish to report to you that my talks with the government have been  aimed at normalising the political situation in the country. We have not as yet  begun discussing the basic demands of the struggle. I wish to stress that I  myself have at no time entered into negotiations about the future of our country  except to insist on a meeting between the ANC and the government.

Mr. De Klerk has gone further than any other Nationalist president in taking  real steps to normalise the situation. However, there are further steps as  outlined in the Harare Declaration that have to be met before negotiations on  the basic demands of our people can begin. I reiterate our call for, inter alia,  the immediate ending of the State of Emergency and the freeing of all, and not  only some, political prisoners. Only such a normalised situation, which allows  for free political activity, can allow us to consult our people in order to  obtain a mandate.

The people need to be consulted on who will negotiate and on the content of  such negotiations. Negotiations cannot take place above the heads or behind the  backs of our people. It is our belief that the future of our country can only be  determined by a body which is democratically elected on a non-racial basis.  Negotiations on the dismantling of apartheid will have to address the over-  whelming demand of our people for a democratic, non-racial and unitary South  Africa. There must be an end to white monopoly on political power and a  fundamental restructuring of our political and economic systems to ensure that  the inequalities of apartheid are addressed and our society thoroughly  democratised.

It must be added that Mr. De Klerk himself is a man of integrity who is  acutely aware of the dangers of a public figure not honouring his undertakings.  But as an organisation we base our policy and strategy on the harsh reality we  are faced with. And this reality is that we are still suffering under the policy  of the Nationalist government.

Our struggle has reached a decisive moment. We call on our people to seize  this moment so that the process towards democracy is rapid and uninterrupted. We  have waited too long for our freedom. We can no longer wait. Now is the time to  intensify the struggle on all fronts. To relax our efforts now would be a  mistake which generations to come will not be able to forgive. The sight of  freedom looming on the horizon should encourage us to redouble our efforts.

It is only through disciplined mass action that our victory can be assured.  We call on our white compatriots to join us in the shaping of a new South  Africa. The freedom movement is a political home for you too. We call on the  international community to continue the campaign to isolate the apartheid  regime. To lift sanctions now would be to run the risk of aborting the process  towards the complete eradication of apartheid.

Our march to freedom is irreversible. We must not allow fear to stand in our  way. Universal suffrage on a common voters’ role in a united democratic and  non-racial South Africa is the only way to peace and racial harmony.

In conclusion I wish to quote my own words during my trial in 1964. They are  true today as they were then:

‘I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black  domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in  which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is  an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an  ideal for which I am prepared to die.

The Moment of Truth

picture-of-jamaica

This beautiful island nation of ours is scarred. It makes no sense we continue spewing platitudes of a paradise that has been wronged through the course of its history. We have long been subjected to speeches that allude to our hope and longing for a Jamaica that is either too far in the past, or yet to be.

So here’s to the truth.

We take pride in the resilience and strength of the Jamaican people, but shy away from looking directly into the eyes of the brutal hardship against which our resilience is built. We have a rich history of breaking free from the shackles of slavery. However, we still carry with us the ghosts of bondage as we hang on to the chains that restrict our scope of vision.

Jamaica has been short-changed by consecutive governments. For too long the leadership has failed the nation. In spite of the many areas of success that we celebrate as a nation, our leaders have made grave errors. We have policies that threaten to exploit our natural resources. We have made agreements that, instead of expanding our reach as an independent nation, create such strangleholds of debt and dependence for generations to come. Even though we tout the importance of quality health and education for our people, we can barely provide this. This is not a phenomenon that has come upon us overnight. This is after years of inadequate and generally poor stewardship. The next generation have been grossly failed by our choices – and in some cases, our apathy.

And our politics.

It is time we acknowledge and confront the politics of our past that has haunted us into fear, silence, and immobility. It is a shame, but it has to be said: our politics (and more specifically, political parties) have for too long enabled conditions for criminality and victimization of our people. This is not simply a problem for any one party. This is a NATIONAL CRISIS. Too many victims of injustice have been created in the name of politics.

As we chart our way beyond 50 years of independence, we recognize that governance no longer carries with it a sense of humility and servitude. It cannot be that our people continue to perceive its leadership as corrupt, arrogant, and out-of-touch. We know that Jamaica, in the face of all its flaws AND glory, deserves good governance from those for whom standards of quality should never be lowered.

So in this moment of truth, let us commit to unmasking the problems that plague us, and resolve to disarm the enemies of dishonesty, hypocrisy and injustice.

This, for Jamaica – land we love.