The nine-day win­dow

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY - Brian-Paul Welsh Brian-Paul Welsh is a writer and pub­lic af­fairs com­men­ta­tor. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­erjm.com and bri­an­paul.welsh@gmail.com, or tweet @is­land­cynic.

THERE WAS a time in Ja­maica when fil­ing cab­i­nets would spon­ta­neously burst into flames; when peo­ple could mys­te­ri­ously ‘dis­ap­pear’, or ‘mi­grate’; and when im­por­tant de­tails were left to wither from mem­ory with the ad­vanc­ing in­fir­mity of the mind.

In those days, Jamaican politi­cians fu­elled fact-engi­neer­ing mis­sions with a con­stant sup­ply of pro­pa­ganda fil­tered through sim­ple me­dia to a pop­u­la­tion with al­ready lim­ited ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion. News was dif­fused, ef­fused, and de­lib­er­ately con­fused, know­ing well that much of it wouldn’t stand the test of time. But that didn’t mat­ter be­cause of the im­me­di­acy of its ef­fect in ful­fill­ing the po­lit­i­cal agenda.

In the days be­fore Google, when news archives were lit­er­ally im­preg­nable fortresses ac­cessed only by the as­tute and the idle, very few could ac­tively take note of the fairy tales we so of­ten tell. Such a sit­u­a­tion was then, and still is, ripe for ex­ploita­tion, thus the op­ti­cal il­lu­sions of some po­lit­i­cal grand mas­ters, par­tic­u­larly those con­cern­ing their true (culp) abil­ity in the con­trol of crime in Ja­maica.

I can re­call, as a child, be­ing made painfully aware of the nine-day news cy­cle and the way the na­tion could be whipped into frenzy, a moral panic, over some mat­ter of grave con­cern. Then, within a mat­ter of days, we would come off that wave and re­turn to chaos as usual, but with our shock level raised a lit­tle higher, hav­ing es­tab­lished a new ‘nor­mal’, whether we re­alised it or not.

Through the nine-day win­dow, we wit­ness the cy­cle of pain, grief, and in­jus­tice un­til the next bom­bard­ment sig­nals the be­gin­ning of an­other cy­cle. It is a pat­tern to which we have seem­ingly grown ac­cus­tomed.

When news broke last week that a stu­dent of Ja­maica Col­lege had been killed in the Mona area in a rob­bery at­tempt, I in­stantly flashed back to all the sim­i­lar in­ci­dents over the years along the same stretch of road in­volv­ing stu­dents from the same nearby in­sti­tu­tions, all re­sult­ing in no­tice­able buzz and ac­tiv­ity for days, then by the ninth night, ev­ery­one was irie again.

HOR­ROR STORY

To­day’s news­pa­per prob­a­bly al­ready con­tains this week’s hor­ror story, de­scrib­ing once more the de­crepi­tude of Ja­maica’s moral state, and if so, surely the at­mos­phere will be abuzz to­mor­row and for the next few days as the cy­cle re­peats it­self.

Ten years ago, on a street close to where 14-year-old Nicholas Fran­cis was re­cently mur­dered, 15-year-old Jor­dano Flem­ming, a stu­dent of Mona High, was stabbed to death in a rob­bery at­tempt along Bougainvil­lea Drive. Jor­dano, re­port­edly the sixth child to be mur­dered in Ja­maica that week, was de­scribed, much like Nicholas Fran­cis, as a good boy and an ex­am­ple to his peers in a heart-rend­ing Ja­maica Ob­server story plainly ti­tled ‘An­other child mur­dered’.

In the 10 years since that Mon­day morn­ing ar­ti­cle gripped the na­tion, we have seen an­nounce­ments of per­haps just as many plans to ad­dress crime in Ja­maica, and we have also lived to see those once di­rectly fac­ing these fre­quent as­saults on the youth as­sume prin­ci­pal po­si­tions in Gov­ern­ment.

Last week, the na­tion was also shaken when the fa­mously de­layed and seem­ingly hexed mur­der trial for teenage vic­tim Kha­jeel Mais fell apart in spec­tac­u­lar fash­ion af­ter the rec­ol­lec­tion of the main wit­ness sud­denly went foggy, and it was also re­vealed the smok­ing gun had yet to be lo­cated. This led the for­mer ac­cused to de­clare “God is with me” upon his ex­on­er­a­tion.

I re­mem­ber the cir­cum­stances in 2005 un­der which ‘God’ left the pub­lic ser­vice, only to make a tri­umphant re­turn nine years later, tak­ing his place among the old pan­theon. Is ‘God’ still at work? Is this the same ‘God’ with whom the Rev Al Miller reg­u­larly con­sults on me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal and crim­i­nal mat­ters?

Mak­ing sense of this strange re­al­ity can be a heavy emo­tional bur­den for those whose in­ter­est in these mat­ters of con­cern ex­tends be­yond nine days. Some things are too mov­ing to be for­got­ten, too shock­ing to ig­nore.

We are in a much bet­ter po­si­tion now than ever be­fore to de­mand ac­count­abil­ity from those in whom we vest our trust be­cause we can now demon­strate with some de­gree of so­phis­ti­ca­tion, us­ing con­crete ev­i­dence of the atroc­i­ties we face, and the in­jus­tice we are ex­pected to ac­cept no longer should we need to burn tyres in protest.

It re­mains to be seen if, af­ter nine days, we will still be as in­censed about the in­jus­tices we recog­nise, and more im­por­tant, whether we will still be as mo­ti­vated to do our part in par­tic­i­pat­ing in the cre­ation of the com­mu­ni­ties we dream of.

RI­CARDO MAKYN/STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Ever­ton Flem­ming Jr is com­forted by his sis­ter-in-law, Pon­ci­eta Thomp­son, as he views the body of his son, Jor­dano, at the funeral at the Mona Church of Christ on March 23, 2006. Jor­dano, then a stu­dent of Mona High, was stabbed to death in a rob­bery at­tempt along Bougainvil­lea Drive 10 years ago, not far from the lo­ca­tion of the fa­tal at­tack on Nicholas Fran­cis last week.

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