During a brief period at York University in Toronto, I had asked a black woman I was enamored with, why was she so in love with the modern type of dance hall music that seemed to degrade black women. This was a woman who was very vocal about oppression of black women and women’s right. Her response to my question was simply she couldn’t help it, she just loved the vibes.
The love of music in general and music like dance hall and hip hop, was about the beat and nothing else. A few people can recount the lyrical content. However, the type of lyrics black people embrace was not uplifting and never promoted positivity, that was around in earlier Reggae music before the death of Bob Marley. Even when the music drifted into sex or other nonsensical things, it never delved into the kind of disgusting side-show that now seem to impact reggae music.
Right now artist like Spice and the incarcerated and still working Vybze Kartel are the biggest male and female reggae artists in the country. And what do these two sell? What consistently make them popular? Selling sex or “slackness”.
Now this by itself is very base, but for two clear-cut instigation that made slackness music a lifestyle and sexual denigration a current lifestyle and culture in Jamaica. It has been said that music soothes the savage breast. Music is also an escape and speaks to people’s psychological state. As an escape the type of music you listen to can be uplifting or can push one further into a degraded state.
With slackness music firmly entrenched in the culture and the spirit of the people, the introduction of bashment, a form of dance hall music, where slackness is overtly acted out in the type of dancing that went from pseudo sexual acts, direct sexual acts and then into sexual violence as an act.
Videos of men tossing women around and rag dolling them like some WWF competition, or the women allowing such behaviors on their bodies, become the kind of car wreck event for the world to rubber neck. You think it’s horrible but you still look in morbid fascination.
Along with the introduction of slackness in the music, was a parallel social taint that where actually promoted by both parties and most of the power brokers in Jamaica. Combining systemic and political neglect, societal impoverishment and the promotion of foreign commodities and lifestyle over a local one, created numerous spiritual impoverishment and neediness. The lack of which gave birth to brand new monster.
That is violence! And like violence everywhere, the most vulnerable seem to catch the most hell. In Jamaica it is the women and children. Violence in Jamaica against women and children, doesn’t stop at physical, but also sexual. So it is no surprise that while the movement to fight against child sexual violence rose over the last couple of years, we are now seeing a rise in female sexual violence as well; and violence against women over all was rising.
Many of the violence against women comes from hyper masculine males, overly aggressive males and emotionally stunted males, who feel rejected, experience jealousy and a need to feel empowered. While this is never any reason to assault or kill a women, many females, both young and old, played a role in their own demise, due to lack of parenting supervision of little girls who see their mothers acting in seriously unsafe ways. Multiple men coming in and out of the house, because these women were looking for love or a financial provider.
These days these animals are not even pretending to sweet talk or promise women financial assistance for sex. They are just straight up kidnapping them and killing them to hide their identity.
On February 6th, women drawn from all sectors of society staged a peaceful march in Montego Bay to call for an end to violence against women and children. Accompanied by a small contingent of men including Government Senator Charles Sinclair, marched from Barnett Street into the historic Sam Sharpe Square, where they blended their voices in a unified call for an end to violence.
They bore placards with messages such as “end violence now”, “save our children”, “protect our girls and women”, and “enough is enough.”
Chief organiser, Natasha Wilson, told JIS News that the march aimed a strong message to the perpetrators of crimes against women as well as to the relevant authorities that the women and, by extension, the country was at a breaking point. She said the march was also aimed at moving the conversation about violence against women and children from the social medial platforms to public spaces.
“The women’s movement has decided to stand up against what is happening against women and children. Persons share these situations on social media and they made individual calls to their friends but we need to stand up in the public and say no to what is happening,” she said.
She is also calling on citizens to pay closer attention to domestic or other forms of violence being committed in their homes and communities. “We need to start from within our homes and our communities, these small areas that are personal to us. In your homes, persons see the abuse. In your communities, you know about the neighbours, who are being abused…you need to speak out,” Ms. Wilson said.
Unfortunately the main reasons behind the violence is not being addressed. The 47 years of political mismanagement and the system support of drug gangs, violence and gun culture. Because many in Jamaica continue to support the two parties for partisan benefits and when that fails, they turn to the Dons for food, cloths and shelter. Some of the biggest contributors to violence in Jamaica are the police themselves. And some of the biggest perpetrators of sexual violence are again the police as well as preachers, teachers and other professionals.
And like any society that is failing, people adapt or die. People learn to live a dog eat dog existence. And that includes exercise no restraint and little or no repercussion from the power that be. A long with the increase in violence and the brazenness of the perpetrators, was the increase in citizen taking things into their hands. Social media was responsible for showing vigilante justice meted out against thieves and rapist. But it was also responsible for exposure like what transpired below.
Besides the degradation of the music was the deliberate impoverishment of the society as far back as the 1970’s. Michael Manley was a symbol of resistance not only in Jamaica but internationally. He first came to office in the 1972 election. Manley’s early years in power saw a number of important progressive reforms for the population.
The previous ban on Marxist and Black Power literature was lifted. Secondary education was made free and accessible, and a partial land reform policy was enacted. The foreign-owned electricity, telephone and bus companies were nationalized.
In January of 1974, Manley’s government announced a plan to alter the system of tax breaks offered to US and Canadian bauxite (aluminium ore) companies based in Jamaica. These companies mined aluminium for the war industry. The PNP annulled previous agreements and imposed a production levy on all bauxite mined or processed in Jamaica.
This ruling severely provoked the anger of the US and other ruling classes. A massive, and now well-documented, destabilization campaign followed.
Aluminium and bauxite processing were shifted to other locations. The levy was claimed to be illegal and contested by the bauxite companies, which filed actions with the World Bank’s international center for the settlement of investment disputes. Local businesses, which had gone part way with Manley on the nationalization of foreign businesses, now buckled and found common cause with their international allies.
Lay-offs and soaring price increases set off an inflationary spiral that wiped out previous wage increases. Foreign capital inflow plummeted, and the CIA became involved with fomenting local political rivalries.
A terror campaign was unleashed as young Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) members found ready access to weapons, via the CIA, in a guns-for-ganja trade. At first Manley attempted to hold a steady course. Fueled by popular support among Jamaica’s working class and peasantry, resisting the terms of an IMF reform package.
When Michael Manley the People’s National Party (PNP) were elected in Jamaica for a second term in December 1976, all who challenged imperialism and racism walked tall. It showed that the country backed his refusal to adhere to the repressive terms demanded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). “We are not for sale,” he announced to a cheering crowd of 35,000 at the National Stadium in the capital Kingston. At the time, Manley was recognized as “the Socialist International’s most important representative in the Third World”.
This was a test case – for both the IMF and the anti-imperialist movement. The proposed IMF structural adjustment program for Jamaica was to be a model for neoliberalism and global debt negotiations throughout the Third World. The story of the rise and demise of Manley’s battle with the IMF is rich in lessons for today’s anti-globalization movement. Jamaica like almost every other Caribbean islands have always been the object of colonialist occupation and exploitation.
In the December 1976 election Manley was re-elected in a landslide, winning 47 of the 60 seats in the parliament. But after Manley’s refusal to adhere to the terms of the IMF, the economy was strangled by sanctions while a media campaign sent a wave of fear among potential tourists.
Lay-offs increased, interest rates skyrocketed and everything from soap to canned fish was in desperately short supply. This was the limit of social democratic reform. Manley would soon prove an unreliable ally of the poor and the working class – and there would not be sufficient independent organisation among the mass of the Jamaican working class to steer their own course when he started to retreat.
In 1977 Manley announced Jamaica’s “People’s Plan” for economic and political reform. Despite radical rhetoric, by May of that year Jamaica had accepted an IMF “standby agreement” of £38 million to ease the balance of payments crisis. The IMF re-established a line of credit – with massive strings attached. The loan was conditional on an attack on the standard of living of the population. The poorest were hit the hardest, with a dramatic cut in public spending as the leading edge of the program.
As Jamaica was put to various IMF “tests”, repeated failures led to more and more regulation of the island’s domestic economic program. Confusion and despair spread among Jamaica’s population, especially young students and the poorest sections of workers and peasants. Political violence and the fortunes of the black market soared.
By the election of October 1980, the JLP under the leadership of Edward Seaga was back in office, and with the largest margin of victory in its history – 52 seats to the PNP’s eight.
Only a year earlier, revolutions in Grenada and Nicaragua indicated that there was a growing mood of opposition to the US-dominated market model in the region. But now Jamaica had set a pattern of moving halfway in opposing the grip of the imperialist market, and then backing down.
The JLP’s Seaga government was welcomed by the US as the new model of the times. This gave confidence to the likes of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher – and heralded the rise of neoliberalism. At the end of the eight years of Manley’s “democratic socialism”, the average income in Jamaica was 25 percent lower and the cost of living 320 percent higher.
Like many social democratic governments before and since, Manley’s reformist politics proved incapable of mounting the challenge needed to halt the force of global capital. But at the end of Seaga’s term, Jamaica had paid out a total of £443 million to its foreign creditors, including £176 million to the IMF.
Jamaica’s foreign debt had grown to over £2.2 billion, among the highest per capita in the world. It was in this context that Manley returned as prime minister to lead another PNP government in 1989. He had abandoned the left rhetoric of his earlier government. Instead the market was seen as the triumphant model to pursue. However, even on the terms set by the IMF, Jamaica had clearly failed to meet anticipated development goals.
Rather than economic prosperity, Jamaica endured further decades of insufferable poverty. Today, even the IMF’s own economists are starting to recognize the problem. In a 2006 IMF-commissioned working paper, Public Debt and Productivity: The Difficult Quest for Growth in Jamaica, author Rodolphe Blavy struggles with the apparent “puzzle” of Jamaica’s low growth rates.
He concludes that perhaps massive debt might have something to do with it, noting that Jamaica is “among the most indebted countries in the world”. Today we are in a new period of radical reform in the Global South. There are certainly many similarities between the politics of Hugo Chavez and the first government of Michael Manley.
What Michael Manly started in the 1970’s, PJ Patterson fine tuned in the 1990’s to 2000’s being completed by Portia Simpson Miller between (2013) and 2016 and the JLP governments continues to this day.
The destruction of the Jamaican economy.
Yet today business people and politicians are seeking more IMF loans instead of finding alternative means to build up the society. It is in this vain, that lawlessness, anger, violence and depravity thrives. And under a dog eat dog environment, the violence against women and children escalates.
In 1947, John B. Calhoun build a rat enclosure on disused woodland behind his house in Towson, Maryland. What Calhoun built was quarter acre pen, what he called a “rat city,” and which he seeded with five pregnant females. Calhoun calculated that the habitat was sufficient to accommodate as many as 5000 rats. Instead, the population leveled off at 150, and throughout the two years Calhoun kept watch, never exceeded 200. That the predicated maximum was never reached ought to come as no surprise: 5000 rats would be tight indeed.
A quarter acre is little over 1000 square meters, meaning each rat would have to itself an area of only about 2000 square centimeters. Be that as it may, a population of only 150 seemed surprisingly low. What had happened? Employed in the Laboratory of Psychology of the National Institute of Mental Health from 1954, Calhoun repeated the experiment in specially constructed “rodent universes” – room-sized pens which could be viewed from the attic above via windows cut through the ceiling. Using a variety of strains of rats and mice, he once more provided his populations with food, bedding, and shelter. With no predators and with exposure to disease kept at a minimum, Calhoun described his experimental universes as “rat utopia,” “mouse paradise.” With all their visible needs met, the animals bred rapidly.
The only restriction Calhoun imposed on his population was of space – and as the population grew, this became increasingly problematic. As the pens heaved with animals, one of his assistants described rodent “utopia” as having become “hell” (Marsden 1972).
Dominant males became aggressive, some moving in groups, attacking females and the young. Mating behaviors were disrupted. Some became exclusively homosexual. Others became pan-sexual and hyper-sexual, attempting to mount any rat they encountered. Mothers neglected their infants, first failing to construct proper nests, and then carelessly abandoning and even attacking their pups.
In certain sections of the pens, infant mortality rose as high as 96%, the dead cannibalized by adults. Subordinate animals withdrew psychologically, surviving in a physical sense but at an immense psychological cost. They were the majority in the late phases of growth, existing as a vacant, huddled mass in the center of the pens. Unable to breed, the population plummeted and did not recover. The crowded rodents had lost the ability to co-exist harmoniously, even after the population numbers once again fell to low levels. At a certain density, they had ceased to act like rats and mice, and the change was permanent.
This is what an impoverished society wrought. Ever since I was a child in Jamaica, most of the population had already abandoned the farms and rural lands and invaded the city, looking for jobs and a better means of living. Many of these people were leaving…not selling…leaving lands abandoned for foreigners to take up or be given by the government. What they found was something akin to rat utopia. In densely packed areas with little or no options but to scramble in a dog eat dog existence. At one time the capital of Kingston was the mainstay of “rat Utopia”. Though now the “rat Utopia” has moved around, the psychological state remaining unchanged through generations, because of lack of access to better quality of life and means of living.
I am drawing a connection to the violence against the vulnerable and violence in general, by pointing out that material and spiritual impoverishment is always the cause of the kind of societal break down we are seeing in Jamaica right now. When people have options, they usually choose the best ones that elevates them and makes them comfortable. Lack of options And despite the defense of the music and partisan government, unless Jamaica changes these two things and promote a more holistic society, the savagery will continue unabated. No matter how much criminals are caught or executed. For the criminals are but the symptom of a deep and pervading rottenness.