The past few years have seen a massive surge in support for far-right, crypto-fascist politicians and parties. Election results from India to The Philippines, from Germany to Italy and most notably the USA in 2016 have elevated candidates with reprehensible ideologies to the highest offices in their respective lands.
This trend has continued in Brazil as the Hitler-praising Bolsonaro resoundingly won the recent second round of elections in that nation. Such results have naturally caused many to ponder seriously what is going on in the world that could cause so many people to act in such a reactionary way, and locally the question on some persons’ lips is, could such a politician succeed here?
It is very easy to understand why this is happening, though many in the liberal class will find it stomach-churning. These elections are going this way because the system as is, that is the current system of wealth distribution, is visibly decayed and the persons in the centre have provided no alternatives.
The 2007-8 financial crash has shown people that the current economic model is unsustainable and harmful to the common man. They understand that the prospective for upward mobility has been stymied or shut off completely and they are not pleased.
The economic hardship which these people have felt, coupled with rapid social changes, have naturally led those who are conservative in their beliefs to gravitate towards far-right/fascist parties. It is, after all, common knowledge that prejudices (while still held) are suppressed during times of economic boom. As to the question could this happen in Jamaica, could the far right take power, the answer I’m sad to say is yes.
Jamaica is a strange land, a Christian country with no Christian morals. A nation whose people yearn for some collective behaviour and who have been bombarded with concepts of ‘the individual’. A nation that is immensely proud of its culture but whose culture has been deliberately destroyed and ignored. That is a delicious recipe for any far-right reactionary who wishes to take power. All they have to do is whip the masses up into a frenzy. Let us also not forget that this is a country which has known nothing but economic heartache for some 50 years.
It need not take the form of a Trump, but it could take the form of a Duterte or Bolsonaro. Who in this country, for example, can honestly say that a candidate who got up and said just shoot and kill all suspected gangsters wouldn’t be swept to office? Do we remember the petition for Adams?
Who in this country can honestly say that a candidate who got up and said the gay lobby has too much power, they must be actively fought against, wouldn’t sweep into office? Who can honestly say that any candidate who got up and violently railed against foreigners taking our scarce jobs wouldn’t get elected?
The seeds are already there and have in fact sprouted. They can be seen in the churches sowing things which would make an American evangelical proud. They can be seen in the calls by both state and civil society for draconian measures to deal with crime. They can be seen in the bars (and even some politicians and their affiliates) as they deride and condemn the ‘Chinese invasion’, and they can be seen in the poll which stated that most Jamaicans would openly welcome some form of police state.
The upcoming elections in India and The Philippines must be watched and assessed by the left in the global south, but we in Jamaica should also pay careful attention as well.
We have a sick mixture of economic hardship, a real desire for the strongman and are at a point where we will accept drastic actions to solve problems. Coupled with the insidious forms of Christianity parading around the place, Jamaica could easily see itself saddled with a politician in the mould of Duterte and his ilk. True, we don’t have the same problems of The Philippines (wide-scale drug use/sale, religious strife, armed political movements) or Brazil (a large settler colonial class who feels threatened by the left-wing surge), but we do have a crime problem which does not look like it’s going anywhere fast, and a middle class becoming more and more receptive to authoritarian behaviour.
The possibilities of this are increased even more because of Jamaica’s flirting with China. The 70s have shown that the US will use far-right elements to get its way (see the failed coup), and with many Jamaican churches having close links to politically active churches in the US it is not far fetched to think that a far right candidate could be swept to power to block China (Bolsonaro has received funding from shady US churches),
In the end Jamaica is not immune from this virus. The national body is weak. And though we may not fall victim to the forces of the far right the possibility is there and very real.
It must be nipped in the bud. The crime problem must be solved, people must have jobs which pay above a living wage and the churches which preach hate and reactionary doctrine must be hounded out. If not, then we are merely waiting for the shoe to drop and praying it won’t hurt that much.