The nine-day window
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.
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.
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.