Tribal Politics and Society


Tribal politics and Jamaican society have enjoyed a tragically symbiotic relationship for decades since independence with the unenviable status of creating an intravenous link between democracy and destruction.  The pre-seventies era had its time and place for rowdy behaviour accelerating into sticks, stones and the breaking of bones.  The seventies brought about a new generation of political history and animal, who has several tentacles and functions.  The evolution, merging and morphing of the beast has manifested itself in different ways, but the stain and long term implications remain.


It has been argued relentlessly that politics created a lifestyle of dependency on the politicians and they manipulated the poorer class who believed by and large that their ascension and life legacy could sit entirely in the hands of the Member of Parliament or councillor.  These servants of the people created a safety net of loyalty by appointing a set of “strongmen” to regulate and oversee the political capital and influence within various communities.  The drug trade created wealth and independent control for the strongmen, who subsequently started to wield their own brand of violence and power.  The politician soon understood that certain factors would ensure the grassroots would never become trees.  The strongmen adapted and adopted the template of divide and rule, the influence of money and power and literally overnight the poorer class was ruled twofold…by the elected representative of the people, by the people and the strongmen from within who ruled the people while aiding and abetting the same cause.


This would eventually immortalise the essence of anarchy and lawlessness under the guise of political expediency…like squatting, dumping garbage in gullies, theft of electricity and water and all the other trappings in line with what was allowed.  The politician could always argue that “poor people need a bly because they can’t afford to do any better”.  How ironic that the politicians’ number one Sermon on the Mount usually includes an infinite list of things guaranteed to reform, revamp and restore a sense of upward mobility and self-sufficiency.  Instead of ensuring the basic infrastructure was always improved, it was politically correct to allow lawless living and increased deplorable conditions to become the ingrained nature and mentality.  The forever told story of “we and them” has been used for the poorer class to believe the reason they live in depravity should be placed squarely at the feet of those more financially secure and achieved.  The nationwide circus of inner-city life which makes countless people with little to no advanced education become believers in underachievement is still with us today.


We have seen anarchy loose and liquid across the country and every time the politicians are asked why nothing significant has been done the answers remain the same.  If they demand a change in social policy and structure it will cause problems.  They will say “I would love to remove them from the landscape as is and create viable lives and income…but I can’t, based on the number of votes that cling perilously close to becoming supporters of the other side or rebellious participants against the tide.


One of the first things you will hear from those who collectively break the law…squatters, vendors who block main thoroughfares, illegal taxi operators who are like marauding thugs and the rest will be to call on the politicians to secure their tenure of societal mayhem.  What happens most times? The politician will find a way to negotiate the continuity of destruction and erosion of the moral and social fabric of society.  Also intertwined in this is an ability to defer blame and make promises to improve a lot of the anarchists instead of ensuring they are brought to book under the law.  This guarantees generations have come and many more will mature into a thought process and evaluation that “runnings, hustlings and unrest” belong in their narrative of existence.  It comes down to the fact that the shift in power has allowed those well trained and schooled in lawlessness to hold the politicians to ransom and ultimately, the society in general.  The police force has long believed it is facing an uphill battle, an almost insurmountable task to bring a sense of safety, security and social order.


An additional pivotal role is played by the corporate groups and civic enterprises sitting as the beneficiaries of the poorer class.  It is instructive that while businesses make billions, the owners are insulated from the stark realities by way of residential address.  It is only when crime creates murder of one of their own or the business is prone to extortion…which ironically is most times facilitated by the willingness of big business to “partner” in the name of greater security…that we hear an uproar and a sense of revolt against the disorder.


What will it take for us to truly achieve social stability and retrieve social and civic pride? A full and fearless acknowledgment from politicians that the beast they created for decades has now taken on a life of its own.  Added to that, the talk shops and pillars of promises need not be par for the course, but instead action and determination to recreate a new Jamaica must be forefront on the agenda of both political parties.  The love of votes and the fear of loss is little liability to consider compared to the generational dysfunction and national deterioration that has plagued the country for decades.  Sooner or later we will be overrun by far more than criminals and criminality, but a sense of despair so deep and eternally abysmal, there will be little chance of a return in this century.  Let’s face it.


Rodney Campbell


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