By Jason Latty
Tomorrow will mark 38 years since the now deceased Prime Minister Michael Manley called the infamous State of Emergency. Many view that 1976 episode as one of the worst attacks on freedom of speech since Jamaica gained universal adult suffrage in 1944. It led to the killing of over 800 people in the 1980 election.
Today very little has changed in Jamaica. Corruption is still alive and kicking in our government and social sectors. The 2011 Tivoli Gardens massacre reminds us of state murders that buried freedom fighters of the Morant Bay Rebellion. We have upgraded from killing 800 people to 1300-1500 per year with little outcry in the country. And this past Saturday, a man was mobbed in Clarendon just for wearing lipstick.
The Peoples National Party remains the ruling party. It is now even more powerful. But it acts as though it is powerless, due to its lack of political will to advance the living conditions of the Jamaican people.
I saw Prime Minister Simpson-Miller cutting ribbon at a standpipe early this year. Prime Minister Simpson-Miller was launching an employment initiative that promised to benefit just 5000 Jamaicans. Indeed, Jamaicans are hungry for employment, but the prime minister’s offering was merely a short-term-employment promise for no more than 5000 Jamaicans. Yet the prime minister thought this was a great 2014 accomplishment.
Like the repercussions of the Manley government of the 1970s, the five-flights-to-Miami syndrome continues in Jamaica. The educated class is leaving is mass amounts. They are tired of the violence. Tired of the sexism. Tired of the high tolerance of child abuse by mothers, fathers, and community members. Tired of transphobia. So they are getting visas for countries all over the world. Anywhere else but Jamaica! is the mentality among the most patriotic Jamaicans.
Wackos have controlled Jamaica for years now. Deeply entrenched prejudices have contributed to a society where only 10% of the population will ever obtain a tertiary education. The high cost of living coupled with very little opportunity for economic advancement has left our people dazed and desensitized to the harsh and cold realities around them.
Our education system has failed our youths due to its failure to systematically target areas where children need help the most. This leaves us with a country where many people are uneducated and brainwashed. This rears a culture of good ole Jamaicans who show their ignorance, their love for Jamaica, by distributing violence against other Jamaicans in the name of nationalism, morality, and even education.
Jamaica has long gained a reputation as one of the most homophobic places on earth. Jamaicans continue to disown this title as they walk around with their machetes, trying to find the next gay man to torture, the next lesbian to corrective rape, and the next homeless trans person in a gully to murder.
There are now 1.1 million people living in abject poverty. Contrast this against Jamaica’s current population of 2.7 million. Dwayne’s House under the leadership of activists like Maurice Tomlinson and Yvonne McCalla Sobers continues to struggle to acquire funding to provide bread and butter, and hope for a roof for homeless LGBT teens whom families disown and society mobs regularly. The team of Caribbean Alliance For Equality (CAFE), at which I am the president, hopes to economically grow the organization and increase its membership so that we can better collaborate with LGBTQ organizations to dismantle phobias across the Caribbean.
The time is ripe now for a genesis in our thinking. If we stop and have a true reflection on our past and evaluate the present, we can salvage the future. Somewhere in the underbelly of the Jamaican people is still hidden a people with strong community building skills. A people who still values education. A people who understands the intrinsic value of life. A people desperately seeking love, freedom, and happiness. A people of a Jamaica, where the motto out of many one people needs to ring with more truthfulness.