Tuesday, May 8, 2018

REALITY BYTES... Tragic Factoids Informing Our Laughter And Our Tears

I grew up in Kingston, Jamaica, where the proliferation of “garrison communities” has to this day engendered a sense of persistent insecurity among the people who inhabit them. These are places where ruthless gangsters and politicians exploit the survival instincts of their henchmen in pursuit of their own ignoble goals. These “communities” suffer some of the highest murder rates in the world. The devaluation of life in these circumstances has led to the kind of social destitution in and around them that is described in Damian Marley’s “Welcome to Jamrock” :
“Welcome to Jamdown, poor people a dead at random
Political violence, can’t done!
Pure ghost and phantom,
The youth dem get blind by stardom… 
To see the sufferation sicken me
Them suit no fit me, to win election them trick we
Den them don’t do nuttin at all”
I lived my teenage years in the environment that Damian Marley so aptly describes in his lyrical exposition of the facts of life in these violence disposed ghettos. By the time I was 20 years old, many of the boys I had gone to elementary and secondary/high school with were either dead or in jail. They had become perpetrators or victims, all equally susceptible to the destructive wrath of the sharp edges and bullets of the criminal/political tribalism around them.
I have been robbed. I have been shot at. I have loved ones who were raped. I have seen the mayhem of brutality and murder. I have been called a “slave” for believing in the virtues of hard work by those who chose to be “thugs”. I have been caught up in curfews where a policeman told me to “run” so I would become a target of his trigger-happy, murderous inclination. 
I believe I am alive today because something greater than the fear in me made me stand firm against this prevalent inhumanity. Scary as it was, I learned to walk through it. I know about the corrupt influence of politicians, and cops, and preachers. There are evil people in the world, and no amount of naivete or pseudo-liberal idealism will, or can change that reality.
I make no excuses for those who choose to cultivate their depravity with excuses about being poor or disadvantaged. I grew up among the poor and disadvantaged; and I know that decency and industry was as much a part of our experience and aspirations as it may have been among some of those experiencing the abundance that we longed for. I also know that we did not have the quality education and training facilities around us that the privileged were exposed to. Neither did we have the resources to bribe the police and politicians and other servants of the status quo in order to gain access to the advantages that the moneyed around us had.
Despite the deleterious influences around me I have always seen my life in terms of making a positive difference in my world. 
By the time I was 18 years old I had boiled down my vocational choices after high school to either law enforcement or the priesthood. I chose the church because I was convinced I would be no good at taking orders. Chalk that decision up to my persistent naivete. After four years of seminary I found myself in a vocational crisis that led me to the couch of a renowned psychoanalyst, who, after many sessions, concluded that my personality was most suited to work in a prison.
 I left her office laughing, I wasn't sure why… I remember that I was very sad.

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