The very same day I was attending a spectacular wedding ceremony in Jamaica, the police high command was publicizing the results of crime data compiled on murders between August 5 and August 26, 2017. Because I pay particular attention to the news, (as a journalist), this development was particularly ironic – even as one celebrates in Jamaica, there’s a parallel universe like no other, in which terror, destruction, and devastation are wrought on otherwise law-abiding Jamaicans. But isn’t this how life happens? Aren’t we supposed to accept the good with the bad? Even so, Jamaica has become such a land of extremes, where good is mistaken for bad and bad is mistaken for good.
The wedding service was held at the location where I offered my first confessions as a young Catholic boy at age seven when we were routinely marched to mass from St. Aloysius Boys School at Duke Street to the impressive Holy Trinity Cathedral on North Street. The memories came flooding back as I stood at the intersection of Lissant Road and North Street contemplating the amazing history surrounding me and for a brief moment, I felt overwhelmed. That remote spot on which I stood was a huge lot of land, naked of architecture, but abundant with debris, a stark reminder of the contradiction that is post – modern Jamaica. Here I was standing at the intersection of unquestionably three of the most iconic institutions in Jamaica, (possibly the world), given the talent they have bestowed to the world – Kingston College (KC) to my right, St. Georges College to my left, as I stood directly across from Holy Trinity Cathedral.
In retrospect, I now understand why three homies on bikes began to circle me, clearly out of curiosity, but also out of disbelief; when I engaged one of them in conversation regarding my memories, a meaningful and friendly dialogue ensued. Decked out in a light weight, brown three-piece with a red tie and accompanying accessories, my homies must have assumed I was either mad or bad, which is exactly what I hoped they’d think. During my ride to the reception, we drove through Fletchers Land to avoid the inevitable Sabina Park traffic on Elliston Road as more memories flooded my thoughts, memories of the times I had walked those streets without fear or apprehension. But the afternoon news featuring the police report reminded me that in the previous 20 days, 114 people had already been murdered in Jamaica; this quickly quenched any bravado or sense of security that I was tempted to assume.
Once I got to Terra Nova, the world changed, the festive mood of the wedding feast dispelled my growing discontent with a social order of a Jamaica on the brink of madness; any society that murders one of its own every seven minutes is not only in a state of terror, but is also at war with itself. With that thought, it occurred to me how traumatized the Jamaican psyche has become, so desensitized that for many, another murder is merely a statistic. The words of Jamaica’s opposition leader echoed my worst fears; Dr. Peter Phillips said, “a mood of hopelessness is gripping the nation, as marauding gangsters take control of our streets and communities. Nobody is safe.” What Dr. Phillips failed to say or, refused to say, was that Terrorists have taken over Jamaica and have hijacked the Jamaican way of life as we once knew it. My problem is – I cannot look away. Who looks away when 100 Jamaicans are murdered every thirty days? If you don’t see the crisis in Jamaica, then you’re not looking.
Somehow Robert Nesta Marley’s prophetic words in the anthem War is lost on Jamaicans, who all seem to think it was meant only for South Africa or the USA, whose discriminatory policies dominated so much of our attention. “Until the philosophy that holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned – everywhere is WAR – me say WAR! That until there is no longer first class and second class citizen of ANY nation – until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes – me say WAR, that until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all – without regard to race –dis a WAR.”
The happiness and joy of my newly married friends was my sensimilla, their event provided the altered consciousness I needed to match this alternate universe of Jamaica, so I temporarily suspended mourning for my nation and celebrated life with my friends, and as long as the celebration lasted my pain subsided.
Terra Nova has retained much of its old charm and legendary sense of sophistication, as it struggles to accommodate a new clientele of Jamaica’s nouveau riche, bridging the gap between then and now. The wedding reception was a blast and those who stayed for the after party enjoyed the Mayweather/McGregor fight; in the words of the Four Seasons, “Oh what a night!”
Sunday was another party, compliments of the bride and groom, (Patrick and Joan), in the hills where uptown met downtown and the vibe was so real you could touch it. God bless your union, my friends. I didn’t do a hotel this time around because a friend arranged my stay at an exclusive bed and breakfast in New Kingston. I have received permission to share the location with you on one condition,( that I refer you), it’s in the heart of New Kingston, close to everything you need, the environment is not only pristine but unusually beautiful and comfortable, a place you’ll never regret or forget. Call me when you need to know where to go.
My thoughts for this piece came together as I rode around with my driver Chris, who gave me a realistic perspective of today’s Jamaica, from the get rich quick mentality to the complete disregard for life in any form – this is a tiny nation that disproportionately produces many of the world’s greatest athletes, scholars, entertainers and professionals while accommodating too many of its own home grown terrorists who are dedicated to the destruction of its social and political order. Dr. Phillips didn’t call them terrorists because then he would openly admit that the dark underbelly of most criminal activity in Jamaica is associated too often with tribal political activity for territorial control and domination. I will explore more of the Jamaican paradox in the October issue of Whereitzat: how and why is it that an ultra-religious nation is so concerned with the elimination of homosexuals, (their children) yet turn a blind eye to an ever increasing escalation in corruption, rape, and murder?