By Corey Gilkes
June 19, 2013 – www.trinicenter.com/Gilkes
They say the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. Regarding Trinis, that will have to be revised to include people who do NOTHING, close their eyes in denial and either expect different results or that the issues will somehow work themselves out – what the late Lloyd Best called “unresponsibility.” On Monday a boy who hadn’t even begun to live yet had his life taken away in a fight reportedly over a girl in the same school. Over the last couple days I listened to several talk shows and was almost lulled to sleep by the usual hand-wringing and cries of “oh how could this have happened,” “lord, wha dis place coming to” yap, yap, yap and all manner of nonsense.
You’d swear this is something new.
Why, why, WHY do we religiously refuse to learn from the past? Matter ah fact, dais a big part of the problem right dey; we pay no attention to our history – or anyone else’s – except perhaps to romanticise it, talking some escapist nonsense about the old time days. In the editorial of yesterday’s Newsday, for instance, we see that “(t)he moral moorings of yesteryear have loosened, leading to a break-down of individuals, families, communities and nation.” f***ries.
Susan Craig-James in her examination of the Butler Rebellion of 1937, drew links to the earlier riots of 1919 and made mention of the fact that the colonial authorities and print media studied nothing about the conditions that led to the events of 1919 – and the 1903 Water Riots before it – and spoke with stunned surprise about the spate of violence in 1937 as if there was no backdrop, no lead-up, no causative factors, no relation to the events that had gone before. Similarly, a lot of what I heard on radio and read in the papers was mostly a lot of reactionary, emotive, hypocritical, moralistic rubbish. There were some welcomed rational, informed views but they were sparse to say the least. And of course yuh know what were the remedies right? That’s right, more scanners, more metal detectors, more security, more police presence at schools…and yes, more prayers.
Now people like Dr Morgan Job have valid points when they argue that we need to stop “blaming” (more correctly, hiding behind) history, enslavement, colonialism, European/Euro-American imperialism. As we become older and older as an independent and republican nation these reasons become excuses and pathetic ones at that. However, in attempting to deal with the problem in our society, we obviously must examine the root causes in all the various dimensions – something I am yet to see done in a meaningful way by the academics outside of the gilded ivory towers (or even in it from what I’m hearing) – and I don’t know that we should be letting the coloniser and the imperialist off the hook yet.
There is in our society a strong, deeply embedded culture of violence that existed since the Caribbean was settled and colonised. Ours is a society that has violence as its foundational bedrock. Colonialism was established and maintained through physical and psychological violence (our laws still reflect that, drafted under the lie of maintaining “good” order) through a patricentric expression of power that emasculated and enslaved everyone. Even the colonisers were prisoners of their own violent, illegitimate rule. But the feelings of impotence were especially felt by the colonised as various aggressive expressions of masculinity kept them shackled while at the same time instilling in them, especially the males, the valuated ideal of violence as an appropriate form of settling all conflicts and asserting one’s manhood.
We’ve never properly dealt with it so wha allyuh did expect woulda happen?
How them people at Newsday and other media houses could talk this nonsense of loose “moral moorings?” It is those same ideas of morality that lead us to this point. All the sanctimonious bible-wavers and holders of sundry sacred books from other faiths take note, this means you, the blood of this boy is on your hands too. None of this is new, none of it started to happen a few years ago. Our foreparents were no less violent in dealing with domestic and romantic issues; in the late 19th and early 20th century, for instance, there was a rash of killings in the cane-cutting plantations as male Indian indentures killed each other and the women too over spurned love. For that matter, home was one of the very few places where that emasculated African and Indian male got to vent his rage. And, as Dr Job says at times, with the coming of Independence we moved from Picton as Governor-General (ie, the embodiment of the powerful maximum leader and possessor) to the Prime Minister as Picton. So those values of predominant masculinity didn’t go anywhere. They stayed very much in our collective psyche. Earlier this year we got a gem of kaiso reminding the sanctimonious among us that our culture of violence was a “tainted legacy” from earlier generations fed on war movies, gangster movies and westerns all glorifying violence and raw masculinity. This included the ideal of aggressively pursuing a woman and “taking” and possessing her as private property.
And that brings us to the sexual-shaming aspect.
Do not take this to mean I know the young girl was sexually intimate with either or both of them; I don’t know anything at all about that and I do not care either for that is not important here. Yeah, I said it, that’s not important. It was appalling to hear of certain callers and posters on the social networking sites labelling the poor young girl who is apparently part of this “love triangle” a “ho” as one grown woman specifically called her. Furthermore, according to the Newsday, the young girl already traumatised by the tragic incident was “booed” and blamed for causing the death of the boy and the incarceration of the next.
First off, apparently these moralists have forgotten – or never experienced – that time in adolescence when you are discovering the giddiness of young love and wrestling with all those feelings, the changes in your body and coming to terms with emerging sexuality. But this is a society that does not hold proper, open, mature, informed analyses of sexuality and relationships in a world radically changed from the realities of 2-3000 years ago in one tiny part of the world or even 300 years ago, so we cyar go dey…else dem young people go be encouraged to become sexually active.
Another thing that struck me as I followed the callers, talk show hosts and posters was how easy the conversations shifted to the old, archaic narratives that assume the innate predatory sexuality of males and the need to protect young girls from that while at the same time keeping an eye on them anyway because THEIR natural selves enticed males to lose control. The need to rigidly police young people’s movements. How enlightening, I could have sworn I was living in the 1890s.
Even more obscene were the comments condemning and even threatening the young girl (and those who are in similar situations) for “playing” two guys at the same time. Have they given any thought to what effect they are having on that young girl who, in addition to this trauma, has to contend with all the teachings that inculcate guilt for emotional attachments outside of a monogamous context coming back to haunt her? The ones that remind her that her body, especially her genitals, are dirty? With the exception of a few callers, no one bothered to indict the highly poisonous ideas that shames people for harbouring emotional attachments for more than one person; the egregious idea that’s premised on monogamy-is-the-only-morality; the dehumanising mindset connected to this exclusive monogamy model that views one’s partner as an inanimate private sexual possession. If what is reported in the Newsday is factual is correct and then that rotten hypocritical moralising has already taken hold in the minds of the generation that’s supposed to be cleaning up the shit we are leaving behind. But I knew that already; sitting down in Rituals in UWI I remember hearing a very young man a few weeks ago speak of his cousin as “ho”…and why? Because once a girl sleep with more than three men, she’s ah ho…and this is in a place of higher learning eh.
So now we have three destroyed families. Wha we going and do bout it outside of the usual hollow hand-wringing? All this is the logical end product of the way we’ve been socialised to view romance as a competition to win and keep someone’s “heart” – in reality, their body – instilling such poisonous ideas of the “one,” the Soulmate, dressed up very nicely and sweetly over the centuries, as the sole legitimate (moral) model for intimate and sexual interactions. To support this we mine from a culturally schizophrenic muck bathed in perfume and disguised as “divine” teachings that at best now tolerates sex and intimacy but all the while has a bogey lurking around the corner to make us feel guilty for having such desires. Then, you pray to cool that “dangerous” desire. Up to today, some of the comments in the online editions of the newspapers bleat about this tragedy as a result of us no longer instilling god-“fearing” values into the young. So deep runs this patricentric, authoritarian cultural idea that the best way to keep people in line is through fear. Calling to mind the irrepressible Egyptologist Dr Yosef ben-Jochannan in his inimitable, irreverent style of looking at things, prayer never cooled off a vagina or softened a dick.
And doh come round me with no ol talk about the music; I don’t readily accept this nonsense of the “dirty” music encouraging dem chirren to do dey slackness. Yeah, plenty of them soca, rap and dancehall lyrics crude, crass, at times even misogynist. But all they do is reflect the reality of what are the prevailing values in the society. Years ago the late great Mighty Penguin sang “A Deputy Essential” and all them priests and pastors wanted to burn him in effigy, but all he did was to sing about what was already a reality (and frankly, if more people had internalised it, here might have been a less violent place. Listening to the lyrics, he encapsulated what some psychologists take an hour to say). Yuh feel “dirty” music started with Busy Signal or Iwer? Go on YouTube and type in Lucille Bogan “Till the Cows Come Home” and that was in the 1920s, go check out Shakespeare, as a matter of fact open yuh damn bible (now THAT’S a handbook for encouraging violence and raunchy lyrics, don’t take my blaspheming words for it, Song of Solomon anyone?).
Are we going to send away for foreign advisors to come and tell us this too? We might as well because we are already averse, indeed dogmatically opposed, to listening to our own voices to rectify our problem ourselves, to feed off of our unique experiences, to examine the social structures our ancestors brought with them while at the same time marrying that to contemporary understandings of the complexities of human sexuality. I wait to see what the gilded academics do with this.