Text Box: The first line of the article ‘Call for Afrikan Communal Self-Help’ by the Editorial Collective of Self Help News, caught my attention and has forced my pen out of its hiatus – a pause which was brought about in an effort to reflect on some of what has transpired over the past fifty odd years in Jamaica and to try and answer the question “How did we come to be in this crisis?” as the events of recent months unfolded. 
The sentence said “African communal self-help processes must now be refreshed, enhanced and mass-produced…..”  It seems that Africans and the people in the Diaspora are always forced to refresh, enhance and re-invent themselves almost on a daily basis, as it seems that our lives are deliberately kept in a state of flux.
There was a time when I was ignorant and naïve and could not imagine that after Emancipation, persons could conspire to keep others in a state of subjugation, where they are unable to take full responsibility for their own lives and must depend on the largesse or generosity of a few in order to subsist.  Many are not even conscious to realize that this is their reality-mental slavery.  So the stage upon which the Dudus Drama was played out, was built over fifty years ago by visible, yet invisible hands, that knew exactly what they were doing.
To illustrate my point let me take you back in time to a non-fictitious town in South Manchester.  The journey underscores the point that if given the chance and if left undisturbed, Black people can organize their communities along lines of communal self-help and self-reliance.  But if they are disturbed and uprooted, it becomes virtually impossible for them to settle and become independent and self-reliant.  
Spiritual law says you reap what you sow; so if you sow seeds of upheaval and discontent and you nurture the soil into which they have been sown; then you must reap a harvest of upheaval and discontent, however long ago you planted the seeds.
Cross Keys could easily have been described as the capital of South Manchester in its halcyon days; a time during the war years and before the political machinery as we know it today was designed.  Today this town, like so many other once vibrant rural towns, can only be described as a sleepy little hamlet, trying valiantly to enter the twenty-first century.
Some of the factors that led to the demise of this and other rural towns are the coming of the bauxite companies; rural migration to foreign lands and to Kingston seeking job opportunities; the now strong reliance on foreign foodstuff and poor political decisions.  The decisions were only poor because the majority of the people did not benefit from them, but the few benefitted tremendously.  
Proverbs 29:18 tells us that where there is no vision-the people perish.  Based on what has transpired in Jamaica these past months, it is fair to say that our political, public and private sector leaders never had any vision for the vast majority of the people, as far as their upliftment and progress are concerned.
Mr. Virtue, a very senior citizen who has lived all his life in this community and who I interviewed, recalled that Cross Keys was self-sufficient and you could buy from a pin to an anchor.  He described an intricate form of marketing and networking that interlaced two parishes.  The one truck would leave for the town of Alston in North Clarendon and laden with higglers (sellers) with Clarendon grown foodstuff would wend its way back to Manchester.  
The higglers would set up a market in Newport and stay there for about two hours, selling what they produced and buying what they did not produce.  They would close this market at the appointed time and make their way back to Cross Keys in South Manchester and they would repeat the same scenario.
They would close that market and move on down the hill to the coast and conduct a market in the fishing village of Alligator Pond.  By late evening all their produce would be sold and they would be laden with fish and foodstuff not grown in their section of the island along with dry goods to fill their needs.  They would return home and look forward to next week’s adventure, when friends would meet and trade and exchange stories and labrish (juicy gossip).
Mr. Virtue said the town had a market and other thriving businesses, as it was also a centre and meeting place for market trucks and delivery vans plying the south coast road from Savanah-la-mar (capital of Westmoreland) to Kingston and back.  In those days he said, many vehicles did not have engines that could challenge the steep and treacherous Spur Tree Hill, so this road was easier on man and vehicle.
By the early 1950s, the environment that had nurtured and fostered farming, especially among the landless peasants began to change.  Small farmers leased or rented parcels of land from the few large land barons.  However, when bauxite was found in economic quantities, these land barons found it more convenient to sell thousands of acres of agricultural lands to the then prospecting foreign bauxite companies.  These multi-national corporations found it necessary to fence and enclose these huge parcels of land, even though it would be years before any of it would be mined.
The bell began to toll for this way of life.  Without land to rent or lease, many small farmers could not exist and they were forced to drift from the country life.  As if by coincidence, the developed world needed an increase in their labour force and there was an exodus out of Jamaica to these foreign lands, as people looked for opportunities that were not afforded them in their homeland.  
Those who did not go to “foreign” migrated to Kingston and for the most part, swelled the housing stock left vacant by a middle-class that was moving upwards into the newly established suburbs of Kingston, as cars and gasoline became more accessible.  Those not fortunate to rent a room in what was once a one-family home, or a tenement yard, lived in shacks which developed into slums or shanty towns with names like “Back-o-wall” (this one was bull-dozed, reconstructed and renamed Tivoli Gardens.)
In his article “Lessons from the saga of Dudus in Jamaica” Horace Campbell opens up the possibility of revealing the full extent of the corruption of the politics in Jamaica and the Caribbean.  Our political leaders, especially since 1962, have only one vision; which is to see themselves as wealthy as our former colonial masters and living in the great houses and with their ‘slaves’ living in ‘slave villages’ they constructed, now called “garrisons”.  
To achieve this wealth, they have knowingly become puppets for the visible, yet invisible hands, as they collaborate with the intelligence, commercial and banking infrastructure of foreign powers and the ruling class.  Due to their lack of vision for the masses, they are unable to lift their people as they climb the social ladder.
Instead, they have created a situation where the loyalty of entire inner-city communities can be bought by anyone prepared to provide basic welfare services that should come from taxes collected for the central state.  This urban plight has been exploited through ‘gangsterism’ and violence over the years by politicians who were able to deliver ‘safe’ seats for their political parties.  Later on this ‘job’ was taken over by enterprising and highly intelligent young men, like Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke, who emerged as community dons.  This sociology of oppression, backed by bricks, mortar and guns can be read in Horace Campbell’s book ‘Rasta and Resistance: From Marcus Garvey to Walter Rodney’.
Due to our so-called leaders’ lack of vision, the people continue to perish in a struggle that has now reached proportions that were similar to the period of enslavement.  As Campbell points out, the struggle in Jamaica and the Caribbean is a struggle for a new form of society.  To achieve this, once again we have to become as enterprising as the generations described earlier in the article.   
As someone who is deeply interested in community redevelopment and empowerment, maybe that is why the sentence “African communal self-help processes must now be refreshed, enhanced and mass-produced…” resonated so loudly in my head.  It is imprinted in our DNA- the will to survive and thrive and we must now dig deep to bring it to the surface, in order to save ourselves from leaders who are only wealthy but not rich (big difference) and who, because they lack vision, cause their people to continue to perish.

Jamaica’s innocents. Who is looking after their future  interests?

WITHOUT VISION: THE PEOPLE CONTINUE TO PERISH

By VALERIE DIXON (M.B.A.)

Focus on Jamaica’s ‘Unspoken State of Emergency’

Other works by Valerie Dixon can be read here

Archives

 

Remembering Marcus Garvey  Valerie Dixon Posted 1 August 2006 

Reparations Now  Valerie Dixon Posted 11 August 2006

‘We’ve lost our way?’ Valerie Dixon Posted 06 September 2006

The Ships are coming Valerie Dixon Posted 17 February 2007

Jamaica—Leadership And Betrayal  Valerie Dixon Posted 12 March 2008

JAMAICA: Time For Change   Valerie Dixon Posted 24 April 2008

POLLUTIONS: What Will Central Jamaica Look like in 60 Years Valerie Dixon Posted 20 June 2008

Lessons We Could Learn from Barack Obama’s Election as President of the USA on 4 November 2008

Valerie Dixon

Posted 14 November 2008

 

we are a nation of hypocrites

Valerie Dixon

Posted 2 February 2009

 

 

LACK OF CARE CREATES UNSAFE COMMUNITY

“Taking Cover Like A Warthog ”

 

Valerie Dixon

Posted 7 November 2009

 

WITHOUT VISION: THE PEOPLE CONTINUE TO PERISH

(Focus on Jamaica’s ‘Unspoken State of Emergency’)

 

Valerie Dixon

Posted 25 July 2010