Friday, May 30, 2008

This Jamaican Skullscape

So this morning, I paused for about 10 minutes looking at Las May's latest depiction of the crime situation in Jamaica (printed in today's Gleaner).

The imagery was really striking and though (since I work for the newspaper and sometimes hear the shots that take the lives of people in the surrounding communities), I came to the realization that not only have I (and I believe many others) become immune to feelings of discontent regarding these incidents of mass-murder, but that the issue has gone way passed the point of no return!

While I should be in fear of my life in these times, passing yellow tape on a street corner and hearing the echo of a gunshot has failed to have any effect on my psyche, the damage already done, I am too used to these things. WE are too used to these things, and so we have become apathetic, and thus we have become part of the problem.

If we have no feelings for the death of another, then how are we to be of any assistance to those who are concerned enough to combat the problem? Of course I know that it is not out of selfishness, rather a feeling of impotence; we ask ourselves, what can we do? Crime Stop doesn't work, even for those who are close enough to the criminals to report their activity.

To find a solution we must first identify the cause....yeah, yeah, yeah we all say POVERTY...but there has ALWAYS been poverty, and these days robbery is rarely ever the motive for a murder. It is the ruthless disregard for human life: there are people who have been killed simply as a rite of passage for gang initiation. "Gangstas" with bleached faces and skin-tight jeans brag about how many 'duppies' they've created, while Mavado continues to proclaim that he will remain a "gangsta for life", and thousands flock to buy his latest NIKE sneaker.

It is obvious, though many would love to deny it, though many would love to believe we have minds strong enough to resist external (sometimes subliminal) influences, though even I in my youth believed the same: THE DANCEHALL CULTURE IS POPULAR, IT DOES HAVE AN IMPACT. Now I never used to have a problem with dancehall music, I once admired it as a poetic form, and it is not as though the lyrical content has drastically changed in recent years, but we MUST admit that of those who need an image from which to model their own that which is most popular is the image of choice. We do not ALL suffer from a crisis of identity, but there are MANY of us who do.

Thus, becoming a 'badman', a 'shotta' or an 'outlaw' is seen as something to aspire to. The ladies love them, the public fears them, and fear is confused with respect in a society where respect is rarely shown to those deserving.

I pay my respects to positive roots/rock/reggae bands like Rootz Underground, who I saw live for the first time last Weekend at the Calabash Literary Festival in Treasure Beach, the only place (as someone pointed out) where the Police don't charge people for performing works with expletives in its content. I fell in love with a song called "Farming" and will quote the line which mesmerized me:

"Music, well it's farming, be careful what you plant..."

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