Since we can’t bother to play by the rules, it’s hardly surprising that our leaders can’t bother to look out for all the players. Earlier this year, mass rallies designed to intimidate and denigrate gay Jamaicans were met with appalling silence by politicians, who value their popularity more than their principles. Domestic abuse is a nationwide epidemic, but women can find little recourse in state programmes or protections. And government officials openly discourage religious tolerance. Case in point — junior minister Damion Crawford, who said publicly last week, “All of a sudden everybody a atheist and agnostic and undecided and non-believer unuh need fi rahtid stop it… that a nuh Jamaica.”
Fair elections? Not really. Rule of law? Not so much. Universal civil rights? Not even close. Although in theory we are a liberal democracy, in practice Jamaica is a populist tribal theocracy, ruled by short-sighted strongmen with a Bible in one hand and a bulletproof vest in the other, one well-timed uprising away from being a failed state. This is why we are treated like background entertainment in the international community. It isn’t because we are a small country (Luxembourg is smaller, with a fifth the population) or because we are a young country (Singapore is younger and has political clout). It’s because we are an incompetent country, whose contribution to the world stage is limited to music and athletics.
Depressing? Maybe, but there’s a 52-year-old bit of paper that claims the power to change it lies entirely with us.
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The truth is we are nothing more or less than rearranged stardust, a cosmic hiccup, the arbitrary result of billions of years of evolution, with an assist from a handful of meteors. We are weaker than the horse, slower than the dog, more fragile than the cow and more fussy than the pig. Yet we domesticated them all with our overinflated brains. We’re here by chance but not fortune; what we are is fixed, but what we become is not.
Yes, like other animals, we’re shackled to the imperatives of nutrition, rest and reproduction. But we’re also smart enough to add our own items to the list, and it’s insulting to our hard-won intelligence not to try. Surrender superstition and think. What constitutes a life well-lived? Nelson Mandela suggests the “difference we have made to the lives of others”, but there are many valid answers — travel, wisdom, hedonism, charity. The key is you get to decide, and for worrywarts like us, that’s the most reassuring thought of all.
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But maybe you think no amount of material wealth can offset the immorality of homosexuality. Fine, let’s trade a large-scale experiment for a small-scale one. What if we took a regular God-fearing Jamaican, some Mr Williams or Mr Brown, and gave him a gay child? Would the reality of knowing and loving the person cause a more balanced outlook? Let’s raise the stakes and make it a clergyman. Better yet, from the most pious town in Jamaica. How about then? No need for sorcery. Here’s Pastor Browne from Mandeville earlier this week:
“My daughter’s sexuality has not changed anything about her; she is still just as ambitious and intelligent and still has the same dreams and hopes as any other young woman. Gay Jamaicans do not want anything but the right to live, work and spend time with their loved ones.”
To call an insistence on dignity and respect ‘the gay agenda’ is to call the body’s need to respire and pump blood ‘the anatomical agenda’. Every human being deserves the same freedoms that fundamentalists are now abusing. How warped has the Jamaican church become? Under current criteria, Jesus himself wouldn’t qualify for salvation — he was infamously gentle, kissed his countrymen and supposedly never had a girlfriend.
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To be fair, the decline in Windies cricket is a misnomer, more accurately described as stagnation amidst a rise elsewhere. Just as sabermetrics upended baseball, creating new winners and losers, so cricket transformed itself in the 1990s from a game of talent to a game of training and technology, a change that benefited richer nations at the expense of the poorer. Thus Australia, England, and South Africa have batted the top spots between them since 1995, while Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the West Indies (alongside newcomers Zimbabwe and Bangladesh) continue to struggle.
This more precise, more demanding, more lucrative sport has less room for anomalies like the boy from Unity Village, whose crab-like stance, unorthodox shuffle-step and overall eccentricity would now be excised in the name of efficiency and an IPL contract. (Plus, you can’t take your guard with LCD light-up bails.) For better or worse, the game has moved on, rejuvenated for a new century, with restless impatience for nostalgia. All the old generals (Jayawardene, Kallis, Tendulkar) have fallen. The last man standing — as always, as it should be — was Shivnarine Chanderpaul.
A version of this article appeared in The Jamaica Gleaner online on 30 May 2015, and in print on 31 May 2015, on pages F1 and F8. The online version was then removed following a complaint from █████ █████. An apology appeared in print on 1 Jun 2015. This archival copy of the article has been partially redacted, to avoid the possibility of defamation.