All nations tell stories about themselves. These narratives tell us where we came from, who we are and where we want to go. Consequently, they change as the storytellers provide contesting viewpoints.
The thread is twisted by grief, sentimentality, pride, or shame. Bare facts form only part of the saga as we, as a nation, seek to produce a sense of moral identity that would fuel our efforts to move forward.
Gazing into the mirror of our history can either end in despair or help us appreciate where we are and what is needed.
Emerging from slavery and indentureship, our citizens have struggled for basic human dignity. The cruelty of colonialism persists. The uneven sharing of the country’s natural resources continues to be challenging.
The acquisition of wealth became the holy grail—we did not realize that voting, once considered the pinnacle of our rights, was undermined by money shovelled into the pockets of party officials, who paid it back via corrupt contracts.
We were no longer citizens but consumers, entrepreneurs or taxpayers. We were continually quieted as more incentives went to marauding investors.
When our trade unions were broken, we were told it was for the good and prosperity will trickle down to us. But silence reigned when we could no longer satisfy the greed, and the investors pulled up their roots and fled. In our data-starved country, we cannot tell how much is lost via capital flight.
Job losses hit the wage earners. There was no longer a community, but every man was alone. Despair shrouded the land.
Devious politicians manipulated the anger of the dispossessed, and the national discourse became darker. The quality of national leadership became poorer and visionless as they callously exploited the voters.
Those who won the game of wealth acquisition withdrew and segregated themselves, both in choice of residential and shopping locations. They lost all sense of the pain felt by others and looked down on the less fortunate with a sense of satisfaction.
“You should have been more like me.”
The centre was hollowed out—nothing held the nation together.
In this context of the “worthlessness” of our fellow man, we can understand the roots of crime. The unpleasantness of capitalism gone rogue was matched by the masses’ sporadic, publicly expressed anger.
We lurched from the 1970 marches to the 1990 attempted coup to the Section 34 mass protest without stopping to read the proverbial tea leaves.
People were hurting, and children were being left undone. When these children grew up, they became prey to those paid by successive governments via sweetheart arrangements. These new paymasters blended the seedy lives of crime with the patina of respectability under the noses of government ministers.
Goaded by the Fortunates, the politicians empowered the modern-day version of “slave patrols”. The media supported the terror unleashed. We made heroes of those who were disrespectful of our rights.
We bestowed the honorific “John Wick” on their leader and thirsted for more violence. We brought to life Angela Davis’ 2003 argument that the label “criminal” works to maintain a social, political, and economic structure that does not see certain beings as fully human.
Remember the “cockroach” characterisation? We made many of our citizens disposable. This sadness is the tale of the US State Department’s 2022 Country Report on Human Rights Practices.
Yet we clamour for the return of “John Wick”. We pretend they have supernatural powers of crime detection and fight desperately to support their proven lies because we believe criminals have too much power.
The ASJA spokesman touched the sore: “There is no spirituality in the people… the world is only about money or worldly things, and they not concerned about praying and getting themselves committed to God.”
Several commentators have sneered at the Police Commissioner’s remarks. Yet we bestowed mythical power on our John Wick, and we lap up the Marvel comics and Star Wars—the franchises of supernatural powers.
Harry Potter and the Avengers series make magic believable. So why can we not accept that a mystical power can intervene and change our course of events? Why not rid ourselves of cliched versions of God?
How different is Commissioner Erla Harewood-Christopher’s comment—that “the police can come up with whatever strategy, but unless we enlist the help of God, we will be working in vain”—from the Haitian Revolution leader, Dutty Boukman’s prayer?
“The God who created the earth, who created the sun that gives us light. The God who holds up the ocean, who makes the thunder roar. Our God who has ears to hear.
“You, who are hidden in the clouds, who watch us from where you are. You see all that the white has made us suffer. The white man’s God asks him to commit crimes. But the God within us wants to do good. Our God, who is so good, so just, He orders us to revenge our wrongs.
“It’s He who will direct our arms and bring us the victory. It’s He who will assist us. We all should throw away the image of the white men’s God, who is so pitiless. Listen to the voice for liberty that speaks in all our hearts.”
Will her prayer-infused work give us, the besieged ones, the freedom we crave? Will we join her?
May God help us, or else we face danse macabre!