Three elec­tions and his­tory still teaches

Jamaica Gleaner - - IN FOCUS -

HIS­TORY IS an amaz­ing teacher. How­ever, too many po­lit­i­cal lead­ers and an­a­lysts have ap­par­ently skipped the class, and, there­fore, epit­o­mise the dumb in ref­er­en­dum.

Within three days, there were three such elec­tions. Two in the An­glo­phone Caribbean and one which pun­dits thought was an­other on the pres­i­dency of Don­ald Trump in the USA. The re­sults are in. An­tigua and Bar­buda voted 9, 234 to 8,509 to re­ject the Caribbean Court of Jus­tice (CCJ) as the fi­nal ap­pel­late court. Gre­na­di­ans were even more de­ci­sive, with 12,133 no votes to 9,846 yeses for the re­place­ment of the Privy Coun­cil (PC) with the CCJ.

North of the Caribbean, net­works had pre­dicted a blue wave, a tsunami even. Alas, there was in­deed a colour shift, with Democrats now hav­ing at least 225 of the 435 seats in Con­gress, but power re­mained in the hands of the Repub­li­cans, con­trol­ling at least 51 of the de­clared Se­nate seats and 33 of the 50 gov­er­nor­ships. At some point, the ro­mance with grand delu­sions must end. Amer­ica is still a di­vided coun­try with a democ­racy not as ma­ture as we all want it to be.

For all the neg­a­tives said about Trump, he man­aged to poll al­most half of the na­tional votes. True, Hi­lary Clin­ton got a mil­lion more votes and thus won the pop­u­lar vote. How­ever, the sober­ing fact is that there is still a very large seg­ment of the United States that has not walked away from its past. Nei­ther have we.

For our part, a re­gion that has pro­duced most of its cur­rent judges, at­tor­neys, prime min­is­ters, and in­tel­lec­tu­als seems to think that the ef­fects of our colo­nial and plan­ta­tion lega­cies would have dis­ap­peared in pe­ri­ods of In­de­pen­dence, which range from 56 to 35 years. Three hun­dred years of slav­ery and an­other cen­tury-plus of post-Eman­ci­pa­tion colo­nial rule can­not be wiped away by 74 years of uni­ver­sal adult suf­frage. While the lead­ers might not read any­thing I have writ­ten, they can­not plead ig­no­rance of the writ­ings of Eric Wil­liams, Ge­orge Beck­ford, Lloyd Best, Wal­ter Rod­ney, C.L.R. James and, in­deed, Mar­cus Gar­vey, who in­spired them all.


The sum to­tal of our his­tor­i­cal in­her­i­tance in­cludes, but is not lim­ited to, i) the in­abil­ity of our peo­ple to value them­selves and things lo­cal; ii) an overly re­spect­ful and un­duly def­er­en­tial at­ti­tude to things and peo­ple met­ro­pol­i­tan, which bor­ders on delu­sion; and iii) an in­ca­pac­ity to unite and recog­nise com­mon­al­i­ties, cou­pled with a quick­ness to drag or put down our neigh­bours.

In 1961, on the cusp of In­de­pen­dence, Ja­maicans voted against Fed­er­a­tion, and the fa­mous “one from 10 leaves zero” quote haunts us un­til the present. The dif­fer­ence is that the stupid eth­no­cen­trism, petty na­tion­al­ism, and parochial­ism are no longer the sole purview of the then dom­i­nant eco­nomic power, Ja­maica, but are now in the grasp of all.

Af­ter 45 years of the Treaty of Ch­aguara­mas in 1973, the Caribbean Com­mu­nity (CARICOM) has three main tan­gi­ble man­i­fes­ta­tions. These are the West In­dian cricket team, which I back for bet­ter or worse, although most of­ten the lat­ter; the CARICOM Sec­re­tariat; and my place of pri­mary em­ploy­ment, the for­mer plan­ta­tion, The Uni­ver­sity of the West Indies (UWI).

Now, tell me, if the ma­jor­ity of the cur­rent lead­er­ship of the re­gion are UWI grad­u­ates, how come they haven’t leg­is­lated that UWI aca­demics and se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tors be au­to­mat­i­cally given real CARICOM pass­ports so that on ar­riv­ing in each coun­try, some overzeal­ous im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cer doesn’t have the right to strip the dig­nity of the Guyanese pro­fes­sor who is go­ing to an­other branch of her work­place. Worse, he stamps her pass­port, gives her 30 days, and tells her she is not el­i­gi­ble to work. If these UWI alumni can’t per­form such a sim­ple and in­nocu­ous but highly sym­bolic task, how then can they ex­pect the pop­u­la­tion at large to not haul the mother coun­try into their thought pro­cesses?

For the record, there is no ba­sis in think­ing that West In­dian judges are less com­pe­tent. True, there are a few in­tel­lec­tu­ally chal­lenged ones who, in my opin­ion, ought to sit on the dunce bench and no other. How­ever, the ma­jor­ity are well schooled in Caribbean statutes and ju­rispru­dence. More­over, they also share the same cul­ture as the leg­is­la­tors. There­fore, they are in­fin­itely more qual­i­fied to un­der­stand the spirit and law in so­ci­ety el­e­ments sur­round­ing the cases be­fore them.

Fi­nally, this might irk my British ex­pa­tri­ates or An­glophiles who con­de­scend­ingly, and with less qual­i­fi­ca­tion than our lo­cals, speak with au­thor­ity over our short­com­ings. Data from Trans­parency In­ter­na­tional say that six per cent of Ja­maicans have bribed our judges, but 21 per cent of Bri­tons have greased the palm of ‘Milud’. When they mas­ter the de­bate over this scary fig­ure, then they might some­thing to back up their self­lov­ing as­ser­tions.


Now here is the Trump card. De­spite the nar­ra­tive, Amer­ica also has a more re­cent plan­ta­tion and slav­ery legacy. How can any sen­si­ble per­son with an eye on his­tory ex­pect that a coun­try that killed more than 700,000 per­sons a mere cen­tury and half ago in a war over whether black peo­ple were hu­man enough to be wor­thy of free­dom be sud­denly egal­i­tar­ian? If we in a black ma­jor­ity re­gion/coun­try can­not get to that point our­selves, why would the white ma­jor­ity in the USA and UK be there?

More­over, it is a mere 50 years since the mur­ders of Martin Luther King and oth­ers such as Medgar Evers. It is im­pos­si­ble to re­verse those lega­cies in such a short time. In­deed, as we find it sur­pris­ing that Ge­or­gia and Florida, two states with very large black pop­u­la­tions, have failed to elect black gov­er­nors and se­na­tors, just un­der­stand that black peo­ple in the USA only got uni­ver­sal suf­frage in 1965, some 21 years af­ter Ja­maica.

By the way: Look at the awe­some pow­ers that the Amer­i­can pres­i­dent and gov­er­nors have over the po­lice and le­gal and elec­toral sys­tems. Democ­racy is a long and tor­tu­ous road.

Dr Orville Tay­lor is head of the De­part­ment of So­ci­ol­ogy

Iat The UWI, a ra­dio talk­show host, and author of ‘ Bro­ken Prom­ises, Hearts and Pock­ets’. Email feed­back to columns@glean­ and tay­loron­black­line@ hot­

The dif­fer­ence is that the stupid eth­no­cen­trism, petty na­tion­al­ism, and parochial­ism are no longer the sole purview of the then dom­i­nant eco­nomic power, Ja­maica, but are now in the grasp of all.

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