Friday, February 25, 2011

The Behavior of Nation Builders?

A country, any country is only as good as its people, so in order to understand the problems that exist in Jamaica one must first understand the people of Jamaica, the way they think and their relationship to the country of their birth, do they see themselves as part of the nation building process?

Three hundred and fifty years of British rule helped mold the Jamaican mind into what it is today, British rule was based on the path of least resistance, it was best to have a willing and docile people to govern, if required, force was used to achieve this objective but for the most part the British regarded the use of force to be counterproductive and costly, the use of soft power was preferred.  By the early 1900s Britain was able to pacify the inhabitants of Jamaica simply by making them believe that they were British subjects like any other British Subject, a valid part and parcel of the grand Empire, even without the rights and privileges given to their Anglo Saxon counterpart. 

At the start of the 19th century present day concept of Jamaica and Jamaicans simply did not exist, the population did not see themselves as patriotic, nationalistic Jamaicans entrusted to build a nation state, a society future generations of Jamaicans would be proud of, they saw themselves as British Subjects which is exactly how the British wanted them to feel since they were not in the business of promoting pro Jamaica Nationalist movements, to do so would be counterproductive as the population would start to question British rule, as such they preferred the Borg approach to conquest and colonization “Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated” and in 1948 the British Nationality Act conferred the status of British citizen on all Commonwealth subjects.

Jamaican Flag 1906-1957
 
The Section of the population that saw themselves as and believed themselves to be British men and women of the empire, for the empire even without the rights, wealth and privileges of their Anglo Saxon counterpart began to see Jamaica as the problem, its distance from the source of power, the mother country was affecting their ability to achieve the rights, wealth and privilege that every true British men and women should have, this blasted rock, this island outpost, this satellite of the Empire was keeping them from their goals, to walk hand in hand with their Anglo Saxon brothers and sisters united under the crown. England had done a proper job on the mindset of the people, brainwashing at its best, so good was this mind job that it continues to this very day as the current generation still sees Jamaica as the problem and still tries to distance themselves from her. 

River of Blood
While the Colonial Office was busy convincing the population of the various colonies that they were British, part and parcel of a grand empire, working for queen and country they failed however to send that memo to inhabitants of the British Isles. One must understand that at the start of the 19th century the inhabitants of Jamaica had no idea that a poor working class Britain existed and how could they, the closest thing to working class Britain they saw was British soldiers and they had guns and was entrusted with the task of policing the inhabitants, so they were seen from a position of authority.  Other than that the British contingent was made up of Ladies and Gents of the colonial office, civil servants of the crown, judges, estate and business owners, working class Britain just could not afford to travel and had little or no information about the empire or how the people within it lived. As such the conflicts that followed after their arrival was bound to happen, it was inevitable.
One of the adverts used back in the 50s to entice travellers from Kingston to England.

Several of my family members who migrated in the late 50s and 60 expressed to me how shock they were with the living conditions when they first arrived in England, the Mother Country, they just did not expect to find such poor working class white Britons living in such poor conditions, shocked that they left better conditions at home in Jamaica and some too embarrassed and too broke to return home so they decided to stick with it, "England or Bust!!". All that coupled with the fact that they were now experiencing blatant racism the likes of which they have never experienced before in their lives, white Britain was not afraid to tell them exactly what they thought of them and their non-white skin.


If you have not read the story of Enrico Stennett, a privileged half-black Jamaican youth, and two friends, who stowed away to England, where he thought he belonged because of his white British half, on the SS Empire Windrush, well then I suggest you do, the Jamaica Gleaner published a three part excerpt from the Book titled “Buckra massa pickney”.

[Enrico Stennett: "Each day, as I sat on the harbour and gazed out to sea, I could only see England through my eyes, thinking of the land of milk and honey, the land where the streets were paved with gold ... the land my ancestors so proudly talked about ... the land I had been told I was a part of and where the people were Christian and good people. Now my only goal in life was to reach this land."
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AFTER FIVE weeks of homelessness in London's East End, Enrico Stennett came to the grim realisation that stowing away to England was a big mistake. Post-war London was in disarray, so much so that even the Britons themselves were left in the cold. Racism was there to welcome him, and nobody cared about his mixed heritage and privileged upbringing in Jamaica. He was just another black man.

Enrico: "Sometimes I would burst into tears knowing that I had reduced myself to living like this. Jamaica was too far away to help me now. I could not take the next ship back, it was too late, and I had disobeyed the wishes of the people who knew best. For this, I had to pay the price."


Enrico: "The funniest incident that happened to me at that time was when I was standing in a long queue at a bus stop, when a child of about seven years old shouted to his mother, 'Momma, Momma, look there is a white man with a nigger's head'. ... At the same bus stop on another day, a child approached me and said, 'Mister, can I see your tail?' When I told the child I had no tail, the child said I was lying, because his father had said all black people have tails."] ("must be our famous, well endowed third leg..... hahahaha")..


The day the Empire Windrush first docked in Kingston harbour sealed Jamaica’s faith, we never stood a chance. These British men and women of African decedent, who lived their entire lives in Jamaica was going home to the Mother Country, to coexist with their fellow Ladies and Gents in the upper echelons of British society and to take their rightful place and position within Her Majesty’s Realm.  However when the people of Jamaica arrived in England they immediately found out to their shock and horror, that they were not British Citizens but Jamaicans, this title was not a title they wanted or wore with pride at first, the title of Jamaican was forced upon them by the Anglo Saxons of the land. The resistance to their presence by the native British population forced them to rally around and embrace the only thing they knew, the only thing they had in common and that was their “Jamaicanness”, they became Jamaicans not because they wanted to but because they had to in order to survive because of the great hardship they were experiencing.

Allan Wilmot who arrived in 1947 wrote “I never knew what it was like to be broke, hungry or homeless until I came to this country. I couldn't even afford a cigarette”....... So why is it then that we are prepared to go to such length, to suffer and to fight for survival in any other country but not our own?

“Almost the entire population in Britain really expect the coloured man to live in an inferior area…devoted to coloured people…Most British people would be quite unwilling for a black man to enter their homes, nor would they wish to work with one as a colleague, nor stand shoulder to shoulder with one at a factory bench.”

Lord Leary Constantine
Cricket legend, Political activist and first black peer
From the book "The Colour Bar" (1954)
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Those who were left behind on the blasted rock simply decided to just sit around and bide their time, wait for their chance to escape this disgusting rock for the Mother country and when the mother country turned her back on her subjects, slam the door shut in their faces, the people of Jamaica searched high and low for her replacement this they found in the United States of America, Uncle Sam, our new colonial masters up North.
 
Not everyone supported Jamaica’s independence from Great Britain, large sections of the population including my own Grandmother was against it, most Jamaicans who migrated to Britain during the early 1900s hated the idea of independence as they declared that Jamaica needed Britain to take care of them, which is the exact same thing most Jamaicans today say with regards to the United States of America. Why are we so child like, why do we always need to be taken care of, a mindset that explains our current political predicament?

These Jamaican Royalist often declare with pride that Jamaica was once the pearl of the Caribbean, the pride and joy of Britain without an understanding of what it means when the British describe one of its colonies as a Pearl because Britain had many pearls most of which were underdeveloped societies but were big money earners for Queen and country. At the time when sugar was king Jamaica was a British pearl with a slave labour force,  It is this ability to extract maximum profit with minimal cost and minimal investment and at the expense of the local population that defines whether a country was a pearl or not.
 
Independence was an upper educated middle class concept, made up mainly of mix race Jamaicans who were not welcomed in England and had no real power at home, Middle Eastern Jewish immigrants who control the means of production and now needed the power to go with it and the British who had decided that Jamaica was now a drain on the purse of the crown, a has-been, use-to-be pearl and it was time to release her to the wild. 


After independence it quickly became apparent that we got rid of one Foreign Colonial Master only to be shackled by our own Home Grown Colonial “Muppets” and it did not take long for them to settle in the houses vacated by the old British colonials and start their own brand of oppression while paying lip service to the concept of Nation Building and “upliftment” of the masses. 

This was now easy to do because after 350 years of British rule the mindset of the population was subservient, self-hating and looking to be taken care of. 


Behavior of Nation Builders Part 2  





Colonization in Reverse - Louise Bennett
Wat a joyful news, miss Mattie, 
I feel like me heart gwine burs 
Jamaica people colonizin Englan in Reverse
By de hundred, by de tousan
From country and from town,
By de ship-load, by de plane load
Jamica is Englan boun.
Dem a pour out a Jamaica,
Everybody future plan
Is fe get a big-time job
An settle in de mother lan.
What an islan! What a people!
Man an woman, old an young
Jus a pack dem bag an baggage
An turn history upside dung!
Some people doan like travel,
But fe show dem loyalty
Dem all a open up cheap-fare-
To-England agency.
An week by week dem shippin off
Dem countryman like fire,
Fe immigrate an populate
De seat a de Empire.
Oonoo see how life is funny,
Oonoo see da turnabout?
jamaica live fe box bread
Out a English people mout'.
For wen dem ketch a Englan,
An start play dem different role,
Some will settle down to work
An some will settle fe de dole.
Jane says de dole is not too bad
Because dey payin she
Two pounds a week fe seek a job
dat suit her dignity.
me say Jane will never fine work
At de rate how she dah look,
For all day she stay popn Aunt Fan couch
An read love-story book.
Wat a devilment a Englan! 
Dem face war an brave de worse, 
But me wonderin how dem gwine stan Colonizin in reverse.
*
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(Don't worry I have trouble reading it also) 


I am very interested in Early Jamaican migration to Britain, the reality surrounding such migration, the mindset of the people in the early 1900s and why they decided to leave. I want to know what they found when they got there and what happened... I continue to interrogate the older members of my family whenever I get the chance, about conditions in Jamaica and the UK at time... A lot of history is based on nostalgia, fantasy and perception and I am forced to dig deep in order to get to the reality of the time… 

The social and economic condition of both Britain and the Jamaica is well documented and helps to dispel the nostalgia, fantasy and perception fog, even older Jamaica living in Jamaica would tell you things was better when they were a boy but they were a boy and they see reality through a boys eyes. Migration to America was just an extension of early 1900 migration and not very interesting as the migratory mindset that most Jamaican now have was conditioned in us from early 1900s and before. During Slavery we wanted to escape the plantation, to run away and after slavery we wanted to escape Jamaica.

Watch 1 to 16



 Rural life - turn of the Century


 
Going to Mother Country
Men of the British West Indian Regiment - For King and Country

 Caribbean Regiment

For King and Country


Caribbean Personnel Recruited By the RAF





 Working sugar plantation

2 comments:

  1. I'm sorry but your 'For King and Country' photograph is not men of the British West Indies regiment. The regiment was involved in operations during the First World War and was disbanded after WW1
    It happens to be a photograph of Caribbean personnel recruited by the RAF during the Second World War.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Image caption Corrected... Thank you

    ReplyDelete