Jamaica is in dire straits. With an economy that barely has a pulse, violent crime touching almost everyone, corruption rife and the people’s morale low, we can see where this island is looking into the eye of a hurricane. Things are made worse by the fact that we have two political parties which can ill afford to change a system which sees them directly benefit from the violent crime and the rampant corruption. Something has to give, something will give, but the question is, what will take its place when the dust has settled?
Jamaica, whether we admit it or not, has planted and lovingly grown a tree of anarchy. We are living in a state where rules don’t apply and those unfortunate fools who do follow the rules get buried. The people’s morale is at an all-time low and that now leaves them open and willing to accept any and everything (as seen with the JLP administration and its policies). They are desperate. They will be all the more desperate when the policies of this administration have their impact on them and then a nation that is both desperate and low on morale will be open to rebellion.
This is not wishy-washy talk, nor is this yearning for some ‘glorious and beautiful revolution’. The historical steps taken by this nation are in lock-step with others who have only wound up at revolution; the fact is that if things keep going as they are then it will happen. The odds are it probably will not be tomorrow, but the grass is dry and there are many sparks. As it relates to ‘glorious revolutions’ there is no such thing. One could fill many a tome with quotations stating things such as ‘a revolution is not a dinner-party’. They are violent, messy and pit man against man.
The evidence of us heading down this route are all around us and they have in fact intensified over the past few decades. Take for example the political and social elite of this country who are (and have been for some time) totally out of touch with the masses and their everyday realities. This is a group that has been living high on the hog for the past fifteen years while the average citizen has had to face what can only be called austere measures. This group has all, during the past decade and a half, been getting fat at the trough while unemployment remains a major concern.
In a land where the most pressing issue at hand in the houses of the elite is if they will have issues going to the US on their Jamaican passports (as they are dual citizens) while the poverty rate creeps back to the 20% rate one can safely say that the seeds of rebellion have been planted.
Another harbinger of revolt is the total apathy of the people, and in Jamaica we have a people who are bathed in apathy. This is a nation where murder no longer shakes us, it has to be dramatic, medieval for us to get talking about it. We are not surprised by corruption. It takes $200 million going astray for us to sit up. We are no longer shocked by police brutality; it now takes a pregnant woman being shot for us to talk about it.
The apathy is a deadly harbinger because it shows a people with no hope, and if you have no hope it’s only a matter of time before you realise that you have nothing to lose and that something must change. A person in that situation who feels powerless and oppressed by a harsh system is always open to the idea of rebellion.
One only need look at the elections to see that the nation is in a deep state of unrest. The last two general elections have seen the PNP first being elected, in what could only be described as a rout, on the promise of reform and then proceeded to lose in the most drastic way to the JLP which also campaigned on wholesale reform. Though the outcomes of those two elections were different (one with a super majority and one with a razor-thin lead), both were notable for their low voter turnout.
The low voter turnout was made all the more interesting by the fact that in those elections some ‘die-hard’ seats, not garrisons, changed hands showing that even the dyed in the wool voters were switching allegiances. Such actions are always the sign of a restless and desperate people, and such people always rebel and revolt. If such anaemic turnouts, coupled with the apathy of the people, continue then that creates a situation ready for any charismatic strongman who claims that they can reform the system.
If one looks at the security forces one also sees where rebellion, again while not imminent, punctuates the air. The new NSC and the proposed powers to be vested in the revamped JCF are alarm bells in a nation where a large number of the people already feel that if the armed forces were in charge we would have some semblance of discipline.
The citizenry (outside of the regular voters) are also speaking in terms that are usually followed up by upheaval. Many have absolutely given up on the state and are going it alone. Many are the individuals who, while not criminals, do react riotously to state intervention. They may be considered ‘vagabonds’, ‘squatters’ or ‘homesteaders’. Whichever label you give them, these ‘poor unwashed masses’ are the perfect breeding ground for actions and activities that may very well rend the state apart. They can be seen in small cliques and communities; some religious and some secular but these groups, which already have such a sceptical view of the state, should be worrying to those who fear for further instability in the land.
The clergy can also be seen as playing a crucial role in the ever-increasing rise of the rebellious fervour in the nation. The church has long been of the opinion that our leaders need to ‘come together and sing kumbayah’ so that we can right the wrongs of the nation, but in recent years we have moved past that stage as even the church is waking up to the fact that the system is inherently rotten. We hear them now no longer praying for our leaders to be divinely touched, rather they now call for full-fledged divine intervention.
Divine intervention is no joke, it is a call of a desperate people who realise (or rather feel) that the prevailing system is so oppressive and strong that a mere mortal cannot end the madness, only a God can stop the corruption. This is always a ringing bell for rebellion because it only then becomes a matter of time before a fanatic whips the people up into some zealous/righteous fervour a-la Iran, or the people flip the pages of the Bible and see that God only helps those who help themselves. When a desperate people find knowledge such as that, that is when one knows that the barricades will be manned shortly.
Rebellions and revolutions are usually triggered by some innocuous thing: an action which the heads don’t think will result in any massive sea change. Who would have thought that a man’s simple self-immolation would lead to the toppling (directly or indirectly) of four governments? Who would have thought that a relative few troublemakers on the streets of Damascus would lead to seven years of civil war? Desperate persons do desperate things and are more often than not spurred to action by a seemingly simple action.
The state and powers have had ample time (two decades) to stem the ever-increasing tide of rebelliousness in the people and they have all failed. The people are cowed, scared and undereducated, some would say that that is a recipe for continued stagnation, but all people have a breaking point and it is clear to anyone who has eyes that our breaking point is near. What the aftermath will look like is anyone’s guess.