Columns

Neo-colonialism 56 years later

Michael
Burke

Thursday, August 02, 2018

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So we are about to celebrate 56 years of political independence. Several infrastructural advancements have taken place in Jamaica over the last 56 years. While many Jamaicans are able to own more material things today (cars, houses, furniture, and so on), many workers are still oppressed. Their bosses overwork them as they know that the workers desperately need their jobs for their debt repayments.

Real development of people starts when people have confidence in themselves. When Ghana received its political independence in 1957 its prime minister, Kwame Nkrumah, began a process of conscientisation which was also the title of one of his books. No such process took place in the Jamaican education system — unless you believe that merely teaching our children the national anthem is sufficient conscientisation.

The Black Power movement reached Jamaica, the home of Marcus Garvey, in the mid-to-late 1960s. There were the attempts by Rastafarians and Garveyites to bring about a sense of black consciousness. That such persons were oppressed in the first 10 years of political independence demonstrates that officialdom did not want it.

But without conscientisation, and with a return to old-fashioned values following the general election of 1980, we still contend with a disgusting class system. There is also racial prejudice here, although very few admit it. Domestic helpers are still treated a third-class citizens at best or slaves, at worst.

So education helps some of the poor and some are able to get important jobs. But many who work in civil service jobs where they interface with the public feel that they have to oppress John Public. We see this also in the police force, among security guards. And we see it in the middle management of companies.

Even in the churches we find 'neo-clericalism'. If someone is secretary to a bishop or elder he/she feels as if he/she holds the office, not just the support position of secretary. Somehow peoples have been led to believe by their negative experiences that this is what should be done if they hold a position of authority. And the problem goes back to the way that the estates were structured during slavery.

Every slave wanted to be the slave master so that, instead of being flogged, they would do the flogging. And 27 years after the ex-slaves received their full freedom there was the Morant Bay Rebellion. As a consequence of that, the tyrant Governor Edward John Eyre had his local militia round up some 900 individuals and had them slaughtered.

While it is stated officially that Edward John Eyre was removed as governor, the fact is he received something of a hero's welcome in England. And the new governor, who brought about some infrastructural improvements, established a police force to ensure that the poor black peasants of Jamaica never again rise up against the white planter class. That system has not changed with political independence and continues 56 years later.

I know of a recent incident in which youngsters who attend a church were waiting on a bus to take them on a church camp for young people and they were assaulted while waiting. While I cannot condone the action of the three young men who retaliated and assaulted the security guard, it was established that the youngsters were doing nothing wrong while waiting for the bus.

The church hall was rented by outside interests for a function. They brought their own security guards, who were oblivious to the fact that its church members are entitled to be on the compound. The situation got serious and the police were called in, but it was resolved without charges being pressed.

At the police station the security guard kept saying that he was only doing his job. If he was speaking the truth, does this mean that his guard company taught him to unlawfully assault citizens? I believe that an investigation should be done on all aspects of the guard training in these security companies.

In any event, it smacks of neo-colonialism — a problem that we should have seen the back of after being politically independent for such a long time. Part of the problem is that it seems that it is not every political party while in Government is in favour of seeing to the diminishing of neo-colonialism and mental slavery.

Then there is the matter of the beaches. In 1956 National Hero Norman Washington Manley, as chief minister, piloted a Bill through the legislature called the Beach Control Authority Act to ensure that everyone had access to the beaches. But today, just as in colonial times, once again black people cannot access beaches reserved for 'baccra”. Both the Jamaica Labour Party and the People's National Party are guilty of allowing this to happen.

Part of neo-colonialism in just about all of the former colonies of Great Britain all over the world is this terrible business of corruption. It was the late Professor Sir Arthur Lewis who remarked after the passing of National Hero Norman Washington Manley that it is only when West Africa is able to produce politicians of high integrity like Norman Manley that West Africa will truly develop.

Co-operative businesses are the way forward for Jamaica, but it is a struggle while dealing with the neo-colonial mentality of disunity. Still, it has to be done because it is the only way. It reminds me of the days before Jamaica had highways.

In the 1960s, a car with tourists was going through the narrow Junction main road from Constant Spring in St Andrew to Annotto Bay in St Mary. One of the tourists asked: Where do the trucks and trailers go to get from one place to the other? To which the driver replied: “Nuh de same road, Sahr; we nuh ha' no odda else road.”

Similarly, we have a struggle to really get producers and service cooperatives going in Jamaica, but it is the only way to empower the poor.

Michael Burke is a research consultant, historian and current affairs analyst. Send comments to the Observer or ekrubm765@yahoo.com.

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