By Juleus Ghunta
If Mr Garnett Roper is to be believed, the conviction of Vybz Kartel is a sign that the Christian God has positively sanctioned the prayers of the limping security minister. This unsound assertion, made in his article: ‘Dancehall dulls the senses, poisons minds’ (The Gleaner, March 26, 2014), fades against the backdrop of his other claims.
Juleus Ghunta is a youth motivational speaker, dreamrighter and poet. He is the creator of the D.R.E.A.M.R.I.G.H.T concept. Ghunta has delivered moving presentations at numerous organisations in Jamaica, across the Caribbean and in Africa. In 2013 Ghunta received the Prime Minister’s National Youth Award for Excellence for his work as a youth advocate. Ghunta’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Bim: Arts for the 21st Century (Barbados), Bookends (Sunday Observer) and Poetry Pacific (Canada). Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
A shameless megaphone for the People’s National Party (PNP), Mr Roper attempted the unforgivable: he rendered dancehall responsible for the material and immaterial degeneration of the masses.
I too have been disappointed by dancehall and Kartel, but any such criticism as proffered by Mr Roper, a politician, must be done in view of the larger context of dancehall’s origins, and in particular, the kind of political activism which fuelled its “ethos”.
Mr Roper urged us to “hasten the demise of this sponsored music” and once this is achieved we will be able to “to dream again… sing again… laugh again and love again”. In his view, these indices of happiness have eluded the masses because we have ‘imbibed the dancehall ethos’.
That Transparency International (TI) consistently ranks Jamaica as one of the most corrupt countries in the world has very little to do with dancehall and everything to do with politics.
Mr Roper’s attempt at political scapegoating is pitiful. After the demise of ‘the dancehall culture’, Jamaica’s politics of sectarianism, clientilism and ‘garrisocratic’ dictatorship will likely remain, and similar music/art forms will likely emerge to compensate for the inadequacies of leaders like Mr Roper.
The following statements by Mr Roper are more apt descriptions of seven decades of Jamaican politics than three decades of dancehall: “(It) has no… big story, only fragments, discontinuity and nihilism. It has made the poor appear to be a people without imagination of the ideal… (It erodes) conscience and (pits) neighbour against neighbour… (It is) mercenary… It makes (the poor) gullible to buy shoddy goods… and most of all, guns. It dulls their senses. It is the …opiate of the people… It promotes paranoia and self-hate.”
Mr Roper’s view of history must not eliminate or redefine his role in it. Of all the allegations made against dancehall, none are as egregious as the role that ‘politics’ has played in bringing Jamaica to her knees. “Politicians”, according to the 1997 Report on Political Tribalism, “…are to a great extent responsible for… the factional conflicts in the country”.
Will Mr Roper inform the public of dancehall’s role in the bloody 1980 elections; the killing of Rastafarians by state agents at Coral Gardens in 1963; the erection of political garrisons in the 1960s and beyond? What of the 1990s financial crisis; the invasion of Tivoli Gardens by the military in 2010; our dismal economic and education ratings? Can you in all seriousness blame dancehall, Mr Roper?
Our politics, which often cultivates and lauds mindless submission from voters, more than any other variable dulls our senses; poisons our minds!
The radical restructuring of our socio-political systems to others more democratic, egalitarian and inclusive would contribute more to the masses’ “dreaming again” than the eradication of dancehall.
Were Mr Roper’s and Mr Bunting’s God less selective, He would have answered my prayers too. I dare not hold my breath. The great promise that Jamaica holds – the focus of my prayers -- will only be realised after we challenge, and where necessary, dismantle all regressive monuments of ideas, and construct great, new ones on the foundations true democracy.
We, Mr Roper, must not seek refuge behind the ‘consequences’ (e.g. the dancehall culture, dysfunctional communities) of political opportunism, neither should we persist in hiding behind the veils of our well-reasoned indifference.