I have had reason to reflect in the last couple of months on several issues that form part of a broad philosophical outlook about Jamaica and what we are about. I pondered whether we still make sense of our independence, and whether, as a people, we are on the road to truly understanding our role in the polity as citizens, to live in harmony, one with the other. What will it take to make us recognise the value of regionalism, however, it may be defined? Whether the wider cause of reparation, social justice, egalitarianism means anything to us after 60 years of independence? What of the next generation, what is our legacy?
There is an intelligentsia class that must lead the process — our teachers, politicians, academics. But unlike Socrates they have failed to realise that the only thing they know, is that they know nothing. In many respects we lack knowledge; what we have is information, and I am saddened by the fact that such information in the hands of our intelligentsia is too often used as a weapon. We quite often embarrass people who have less information, insult them, make them feel inferior. We listen very little and talk too much, showing off the information we have of course, and strut with an air of arrogance and snobbish attitude. We revel in titles, accolades and positions and prove to be woefully lacking in the ability to implement.
The real tragedy is that we do not accept these as weaknesses on our part; such criticisms incur our wrath and cause us to want to humiliate the critics. We have become the new house slaves, cultured, cultivated and nurtured after 400 years of tutelage in a total institution system known as slavery and colonialism. This is how we have been taught to think, and our education, our brilliance in our chosen field, with the benefit of training in first world countries has invariably done wonders to reinforce the very legacy of the system we have inherited, and over which we proudly preside as house slaves.
It is supremely naïve for us to ever think that our education has caused us to automatically escape from the very psyche that largely left us entrapped as enslaved people. We remain entrapped, vaunted as mimic men and women in a cause in which the meaning remains largely superficial to us. It’s not surprising, of course, for the enslavement of the mind is the burden we still carry, whether we know or acknowledge it or not. Too many of us with a little information about our history as people of African descent laud over others a notion of power and superiority. This is not about any individual, it is not for anybody to run to his or her own defence and say, ‘I am not like that’. It is sociological.
Where, in the last 60 years, have we seen a concerted effort to re-engineer the mindset of the next generation to learn to respect themselves and others? Oh yes, we have spoken about it time and time again, and unless something dramatic happens, will continue to talk about it for another 60 years while our soul, our humanity continues to waste away.
‘None but ourselves can free our mind’. What does reparation mean for a people not yet re-educated from the legacies of the past. Remember the Sugar Workers’ Cooperation project? What have we done with the legacy of colonialism which encouraged a culture of savings? Are we satisfied with the state of our roads, our infrastructure which we have inherited from the colonizers? What are we waiting on — largesse, hand-outs, reparation?
I have long stopped blaming slavery and colonialism for our present state. Past, yes, but certainly not present; and I am fundamentally, philosophically and morally committed to reparation. The searchlight needs to turn inwards and it must begin with the recognition among our leaders that we have to teach, train, cultivate and re-engineer a new thinking among the next generation if ever we are to benefit and make sense of reparation.
‘Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery for none but ourselves can free our mind’ is not a glib quote to be repeated. It is a creed, an article of faith, a call to action, and we must begin to prepare ourselves through no other means but lifting our consciousness through education for that day.