Recently a comment made on social media by an unsuspecting visitor caused much brouhaha online. The poor soul made the mistake of saying that she was vacationing in Jamaica and feeling relaxed and rejuvenated after visiting the jungles in Portland.
Comments ranging from ‘typical first world person degrading us’ to long soliloquies stating how Jamaica, with our many houses, cars and net access, is far from the jungle (some even tongue in cheek asked if she was referring to the inner-city community called jungle). All of this was rather confusing for me and only served to highlight how we as a people have long since lost the meanings and definitions of words while at the same time are blind to the things which we mock and detest yet embody every day.
We are lost when it comes to the definitions and meanings of words (and that is not the fault of patois) for how else could we end up having this discussion? A person who felt slightly irritated by the term or confused by its application should simply have gone to a dictionary — they are even available online — where they would have seen the offending message; but instead they have chosen to make asses of themselves simply because in their minds the jungle represents some heart of darkness, white man’s burden nonsense.
A jungle can be defined as ‘An area of land overgrown with dense forest and tangled vegetation, typically in the tropics’. The people who took offence and hurled abuse at the commenter should feel ashamed that their ignorance of basic facts caused them to hound a person looking to relax and give the state some good F/X.
But they won’t, and I’m sure don’t feel ashamed because the persons who hurled the abuse without fact checking are the same ones who yearn for the nation to be run in the same manner as they imagine happens in the jungle — ‘A situation or place of bewildering complexity or brutal competitiveness’. That leads me to the hypocrisy and blindness we exhibit.
We are a nation living in a form of state of emergency for the past 3 years if one wishes to include the ZOSO which, as is written, is nothing more than a polite SOE. This is the kind of thing seen in countries like Egypt, Sudan, Indonesia, and even Guatemala. We are a nation with a police force that has members guilty of extrajudicial killings, as is the case in Nigeria, India and Burma. We have a state which has bilked us of some $20 million in pay-outs and billions in appropriations and scandals the types of which can be found in say Malaysia or South Africa. All of these countries in one form or another come to mind when one speaks of jungles and societies with jungles, up to and including the green, green forests. So, what makes their woods jungles and ours simply bush or verdant green hills?
Why is it that these people take such offence to the term jungle for our bush but act as if we live in a jungle society? Could it be that those who feel wronged and insulted are themselves the individuals that go around maintaining our classist and racist society and that despite their wealth, power and position feel cut to the quick when those comments are made? Could it be that the comments, as innocent as they are, reveal the true face of this idyllic island paradise? That far from out of many one people it is the law of the jungle and survival of the fittest?
I believe that these persons, in a mad rush of ignorance and embarrassment, have railroaded this tourist, fearful that they are being called out for what they are — wild jungle beasts who prey on the weak — totally internalising and misinterpreting a few sentences.
Jamaica has jungles. Go to Portland or St Mary or Trelawny and look for yourself. In spite of our high-rises, high-end car dealerships etc we are run and are ruled by the very same kind of person one thinks of in our Eurocentric minds when we talk of countries with jungles.
The racists and classists are out in force, the wind is beneath their wings both globally and locally, and all it will take is one more economic kerfuffle or violent upheaval for them to ascend to power in Jamaica. Like all of their hue, they abhor the image of the ‘jungle’, they view it as primitive and a place of backwardness where we must never venture, go back to or compare ourselves with but act as any creature from the said ‘jungle’ and follow all the tropes of the ‘jungle man’ which we find in books.
These people and their ignorance must be called out and they must be stopped. It is beyond funny now and their actions now actively hurt us. We go around condemning and mocking all and sundry (such as Haiti by saying they are just doomed dumb and can’t get their act together) without realising that in many aspects we are actually in a worse position.
Haiti, the ‘jungle’ of the Caribbean is littered with citizens who are politically knowledgeable, active and agitating for change (have been since 1804). They are currently demanding, in the face of a murderous police force, that their corrupt government go. Jamaica, a land of people too good for jungles, is currently praising the head of one corrupt party for outing the other party as corrupt.
Yes, we are a jungle country in every sense, both the literal and Eurocentric view. We need to get over it, accept it and look to change it. Keep the verdant green jungle, keep our tropical jungle but move to get rid of the ‘jungle’ in us. We can keep lying to ourselves, telling each other that we are far from the jungle but if we do that then we will find ourselves in a ‘jungle’ so dense that we may never get out.