Monday, 15 July 2013

The Colour of Justice: Who and What Failed Trayvon Martin

The Colour of Justice: 

Who and What Failed Trayvon Martin?

Trayvon Martin

[On a personal note] “I find myself trying to separate the “Trayvon Martin Story” from the “Zimmerman Trial” – unlike many of My Liberal counterparts – maybe to ease personal discontentment with “The System” for allowing itself to be used to prop-up a “self-defence” claim over the obvious truth of “racial profiling” that lead to the death of a unarmed, African-American youth; Who had no intention of committing a crime the night he died.

However, I have to submit to the rule of law, whether it’s fair or not, and it was on the basis of Florida’s “stand your ground” (SYG) law, that the Jurors deliberated on – Was George Zimmerman’s life ‘sufficiently’ in danger for him to have shot and killed Trayvon? – And with my own eyes I watched the Defence team resuscitate Trayvon Martin in that court room with the intention of painting him as “Black”, using racial stereotypes to convince the jurors and the public that Zimmerman was right in “pursuing”, “engaging” and “killing” the “Black” in a hoodie because his “Profile” was indicative of a troublemaker of some kind.”

Who Failed Trayvon

But unfortunately, the prosecution was simply afraid to touch on race; rather they focused squarely on storytelling with the evidence and purely based on that – I gave Zimmerman, a gut wrenching “Not-Guilty” long before the verdict.

It was no hard task for Zimmerman’s attorneys to destabilize the sturdy ground on which the prosecution felt they stood on with their case of killing without justification. The needless death of Trayvon Martin was placed second to the ineffective refuting Zimmerman’s “self-defence” story – the prosecution faulted when they refused to highlight the thinking of Zimmerman when he had called the police, in his capacity as a neighbourhood watchman complained of suspicious persons, who were all “Black”.

Earlier in the trial, the star witness for the prosecution was a female friend of Trayvon, who was the last person to speak to Trayvon except Zimmerman – and the Defence turned her into a representative for all “Blacks” across America because of her heavy creole – even asking “Do you have a problem understanding English”, although it obvious she didn't  When the Defence brought out the witness, whom had her house broken into by a “Black” teenager to prove somehow that all African-American youth are “burglars” (No offense, of course); How did the prosecution miss the opportunity to expose such blatant “profiling”.

What Failed Trayvon

And it is that profiling that caused Zimmerman to leave his truck to further pursue Trayvon (despite being told not to by a 911 dispatcher) with a loaded gun, with the “SYG” law on his side, Mr Zimmerman would have 
been embolden to take the confrontation as far as he wanted it to go.

Without a doubt the highest tier of “The System” failed an unarmed teenager. The law created and supported by a fully conservative state legislature that gave so much power to George Zimmerman wasn't able to stop Dr Marissa Alexander from getting sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot into the roof of her home to stop the violent advances of her ex-husband.

It was also that same law that made the Stanford police, treat dead Trayvon Martin as a suspect and living Zimmerman free for days after the incident and as it was proven that “Justice delayed is justice denied”. The Justice Department said Sunday it will weigh criminal civil rights charges against Zimmerman, as urged by the NAACP and others. That course would be satisfying on one level, presumably addressing the actions that led to the fight, probably rendering the “Stand Your Ground” law ineffective – because the confrontation was unnecessary and triggered by “Profiling”. Just as Federal Government has done repeatedly in history it must do again in defending the civil rights and dignity of the minority – Race, Gender, Sexuality, Religion, etc.

Going Forward:

“Salvation for a race, nation or class must come from within. Freedom is never granted, it is won. Justice is never given; it is exacted.” – A. Phillip Randolph

This time Freedom will be won not in court or through the legislature but through the actions of a people angered and saddened by death and the perceived injustice following that death; we must not falter in our commitment to Trayvon Martin, Dr King, Marcus Garvey, Nelson Mandela, Bob Marley, Rosa Parks or any other who spoke, stood, sat or died in our place so that we could have salvation in knowing that we are all equal.

To invoke violence, would corrupt the advances we have made through peaceful protest and processes, like the election of the first African-American President Barack Obama.
Now is not the time to be Zimmerman’s “Black” but “I am Black and I am Proud” kind of “Black”.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

The Madness of It All: Jamaica’s Mental Health Challenges and Violent Crime

By Mario Boothe

“May Madness Jolts’ the Nation” was the title of “The Jamaica Gleaner’s” first Editorial for June; incidentally the start of the Atlantic hurricane season. Possibly a cautionary indication of the nation’s mental tempest caused by harsh economic times; maybe the unyielding cyclone of public opinion or the political storm to follow on the matter of National Security and our relentless struggle with crime and violence.

Unfortunately, not even a slight breathe of a whisper will be said of Mental Health in its truest form as a contributor to our crime rate. Although In Jamaica, neuropsychiatric disorders are estimated to contribute to 20.3% of the global burden of disease (WHO, 2008).

While the word “Madness” in the Editorial title may have suggested the topic of Mental Health, it read to the effect of repeated commentary with mentions of Jamaica’s high murder rate; the conventional public condemnation by Government officials; the ineffectiveness of our Law Enforcers; and our broken communities.

Notably missing was the criticisms of the church’s institutional role as the ‘moral compass’ (as it were) but they hinted to our pseudo Christian Nation claim it is scandalous that our small, supposedly God-fearing country ranks among the top 10 in the world for murder.” said the Editors.

“the dismembering of a four-year-old girl in Trelawny; the murder of an eight-year-old left to rot in a latrine in St Catherine; the dumping of a new-born’s body in a pit latrine in Trelawny; and the beheading of an octogenarian in Kingston, all within days”.  

The editorial recalls the gruesome acts of human violence (or Madness) but this sort of human behaviour is hardly human (at best) yet the church and other conservative/traditionalist stakeholders continue to push the issue of ‘Who is to Blame’ - Society or the Individual, when both are inseparable and link through many channels; the most fragile being “Mentally”. 

Tampered Thoughts

“Murder is so commonplace in Jamaica that the country appears to have become inured to the grisly litany of death and mayhem that stalks the land. There seems to be no more outrage left for another wave of brutal murders.”  

The opening lines read with truth ringing in every word. Jamaican sentiments concerning violent crimes have shifted over the years from absolute sensationalism characterized by the symbolic wearing of black and the now trending “Jungle Justice” rational, characterized by the mobbing of the ‘suspects”.

Have our minds been so littered with violence we have become immune to its emotional sting and still be susceptible to its virus-like effects ourselves?

It’s been argued for decades whether violent media (i.e. Video Games) can leave an impression on the thinking of adolescence, most research papers reject the claim of ‘virtual’ imprinting; However “actual” exposure to continuous violence does impact our mental status, from the extremities of war to the secrecy of domestic violence.

In a 2002 World Health Organization’s (WHO) fact report on “Youth Violence” stated that “In 2000, an estimated 199 000 youth murders took place globally – equivalent to 565 children and young people aged 10-29 years dying on average each day as a result of interpersonal violence”, the main risk factors and influences included:
  • ·         “history of early aggressive behaviour”

  • ·         “parental conflict in early childhood”

  • ·         “Gangs and a local supply of guns and drugs area potent mixture, increasing the likelihood of youth violence”

Jamaican youths are three for three on the ‘main risk factors and influences’ listed.
The late detection or refusal to acknowledge the existence of mental illness in its many forms (depression, stress, bi-polar disorder, etc.) caused by the ‘factors and influences’ is indicative of a Black society as studies show that Blacks have tabooed mental illness treatment due to the “crazy, coke-head or madman” stigma attached to the issue – the religiosity of the race places even more pressure on the individual relating mental illness to a sin or demonic possession, although many churches provide train therapist.

In a 2007 Study conducted by the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Baylor University, USA; involving self-identified Christians on an online mental illness discussion group. 

Interestingly though, when the participant were asked “As a result of the church’s involvement, the problem seemed” the results showed (Unchanged, 39.9%; Worse, 25.9%, Better, 34.1%), meaning more than half the participant had ‘no change or got worst’ after their churches involvement. 

Then do we really need “Divine Intervention”?

Lacking Leadership

Also under the “main risk factors and influences” in the WHO’s “Youth Violence” report was “The quality of a country’s governance – its laws and the extent to which they are enforced, as well as policies for social protection – has an important effect on violence” .

Our Politicians must begin to personally take serious the ‘Culture of Thinking and Behaviour’ among the population not just hold hands with the nearest priest - singing “Holy Mary” - as though the human component is expendable. In respond to the high levels of misfits within our society, who only see themselves as other and replaceable; bitter about their economic situation and lifestyle; seeking leaders to rap with them on their level and not just be a jacket and tie aristocrat.

An officially approved mental health policy exists and was approved or most recently revised in 2004. Mental health is specifically mentioned in the general health policy.
While our laws maybe up-to-date, there needs to be systematic changes for mental health in Jamaica, to fix the legal provisions concerning mental health that are not covered in other laws (e.g., welfare, disability and general health legislation); education about mental disorders and the treatment process is a critical part in reducing barriers to treatment including public education campaigns (e.g., social media), and educational presentations at community venues and mental health sessions at local health clinics.

The cost of treatment may be prohibitive for many, especially among those without insurance coverage. Many low-income individuals can find help in the community health system, but such systems may suffer from a lack of clinicians able to treat complex and less common conditions.

Inability to Access care has been noted by a WHO report on the website stated “Persons with mental illnesses in Jamaica are also affected by the lack of appropriate and timely care. Most of the patients are sent for treatment to the capital city, Kingston, due to lack of facilities in other areas.  The World Health Organization has indicated that this situation violates its regulation regarding treatment of patients as near to their homes or communities as possible, and called on the Jamaican State to address this issue in the revision of its mental health policies.”

Where is the public private partnership on Mental Healthcare? It would make sense to keep your workforce in ‘working order’ to keep your labour force effective and efficient to pump revenue in the government.

Going Forward

According to the Mental Health Atlas 2011 - Department of Mental Health and Substance
Abuse, World Health Organization: Jamaica

“Jamaica’s mental health expenditures by the government health department/ministry are 6.04% of the total health budget. Precise mental hospital expenditures are not available. However, data from 2006/2007 estimate mental hospital expenditures to be approximately 80% of the mental health budget.”

The budget allocation is up from 5% in 2005 to 6.04 in 2011, a jump of 1.04% which is a good direction for our Government to continue on as the society begins to adjust into the new reality of relating mental illness to violent crime, and it can no longer be a stigma or something to be ashamed of. The economic, physical, political, social, spiritual pressures all contribute to the well being of your mental health therefore the welfare of society itself because as an individual you are a part of humanity.
When we engage in these conversations we use of the term “society” as a way to deflect responsibility. We do this because, well, it’s the easy thing to do. To accept one’s membership within to society is to accept responsibility for the injustices.
The truth of the matter is this; we do not have the option, or the privilege, of opting out of our membership to society whenever we feel that it’s convenient to us.  We should not embrace our membership to society whenever we make strides of wealth; only to distance ourselves from, and blame, society whenever we feel it is convenient to us.  Collectively, we all participate in this thing we call “society”.

Rather than focusing so much on how society impacts the individual; we need to place an equal (or greater) amount of emphasis on how the individual can impact society. It is only then that we can begin to engage in a discourse than can foster real change and limit the “Madness”.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Yeah Mon, a Touchdown! The Super Bowl in Jamaica

Touchdown!!! – Maybe the only American football lingo that the regular Jamaican forged in the confines of our little island may have been exposed to up to the point of last night, when social media blew a fuse (like the Stadium) with Jamaicans expressing pleasure with the controversial VW “Get Happy” ad and even more satisfaction with BeyoncĂ©’s provocative “Dutty Wine” of a performance on the Halftime show. It seemed that the entire net savvy population on the island was commenting on every bit and piece of the pure American-styled occasion with the same level of enthusiasm as our Uncle Sam brethren.
As Jamaicans huddled around their Television and Computer screens, no doubt with FLOW provided cable and internet, some of us honestly with vigorous brain work attempted to learn the working of the game without much avail, while others became first class, million dollar – Super Bowl ad critics. As the ads passed there would be a humorous Jamaican take on its content to follow, the wannabe critics went wild as ‘Dodge’ presented their “God Made A Farmer” ad with many ‘Roger Clarke’ and ‘Preaching on the Bus’ twitter tags to follow.
The Highlight of the night was the most Jamaican moment in the entire experience; it was to solidify our presence, as if perfectly planned by the men and women at the Jamaica Tourist Board to add some ‘third world’ comedy to the ‘first world’ event – The Jamaica Public Service was not to be left out of anything remotely Jamaican as a ‘Power Cut’ that lasted 30 minutes occurred after BeyoncĂ©’s raunchy routine, it sent Jamaicans on a reminiscent trip to ‘JPS Land’ and back.
Couldn't Have Done It Better
It seems that the Ministry of Tourism has already begun their piggy back of the VW ‘Get Happy’ viral sensation with Hotel discounts under the promotion of “Get Happy in Jamaica”. This just hardens the truth about the Jamaica Tourist Board and its adjoined agencies, that there is little future, broad or forward thinking within our most lucrative sector among the technocrats, who rather enjoy a first class flight to a chic five star hotel to chatter about our so-called ‘tourism potential’. It has been revealed to our technocrats that panache, connections and exposure rule the world of Hospitality, lessons to be taken from a car manufacturer and a Pop Superstar.
Whether or not we will gain and profit wholesomely from the indirect global advertising of our ‘better-side’ that is enticing to eyes and mind, we ultimately rest on our shoulders and not the wheels or hips of our hi-jacked spokespersons for whom we are grateful – The true ‘Touchdown’ will come from the jobs and revenue that must be harvested from our newly found place in the world as the ‘Culture Mecca of the West’ somewhat depreciated by our other newly garnered position as “The Greece of the West”.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Sunday Sound Off: A Nation Trying To Survive

A Nation Trying To Survive:

The Economist
Sounding Off:There is a critical error in Jamaica’s design, that has surprisingly gain attention in the public domain with fewer viable options slowly going down the drain as we continue towards that dark hole of “Greece-Dom”, the “Chicago Tribune” had sketched it out relating to “Irresponsible Stewardship” but there is a deeper and more rooted issue than “Irresponsibility” that must come to the forefront and be dealt with in a manner that is wholesome with no hold backs on the part of government including opposition before we proceed to attempt fixing the Economy or anything else with bold long term measures.

This design flaw has been discussed by Central government with countless reports and proposals spun to the satisfy the calls and wails for its implementation as the Reforms are necessary and must go deeper than simple brush overs, this fix requires Power to siphon of Central Government and be channeled closer to the people, to open Government to more accountability and criticism and demands of us to expect from government, only as much as we put in.

This ultimate blooper in our 50 year old, politically independent Democracy is one that we might not have noticed, over looked or just forgot along the way, but it is critical to our development as a Nation with the 2030 goal of Developed Nation status – Unfortunately it took us this long to realize that we are A-N-T-T-S (A Nation Trying To Survive).

If we had developed our constitution and later development policies around the acronym ANTTS we would be so much better off as a Nation and People. Ants in reality are very productive and successful insects that are known to inhabit all but 1 of the continents of the world, they have a mechanism that is truly reputable, that involves thousands and sometimes millions of ants with different “Jobs’ and “Purposes” actually coordinating around a single purpose of bettering the ‘Colony’ and ensuring the future for the ‘next generation’. This idea of a generalized and centralized nation could carry us so far but at this point in time, we need a “New Reality Check” particularly in a small nation with tons of problems.

Mobilizing Government

The Prime Minister in December 2003 (Observer), as Local Government Minister under the P.J. Patterson administration can be recalled as saying:
"Local government reform is important, and at every sector in Jamaica, we need high caliber leadership and people who are courageous enough to stand up and be counted for what they believe in -- people of integrity who are not afraid of hard work," she said.
As Minister she said local governance was all about reducing the control of central government over local affairs and empowering local communities to take the major decisions affecting their well-being and development.
"We have to get back to basics. Part of the problems we are having and the challenges in this country today is that we are not putting enough focus and attention on our communities. What we need to do is to empower the people so that the communities will have strong parishes and that will lead to a much stronger and prosperous Jamaica," Simpson Miller said.
She said that those who serve at the local government level were far better equipped to hear what people were saying and be more responsive to their needs, adding that local government reform process was designed to lead to even greater levels of responsiveness and accountability, with public policy becoming more in line with public preferences.
"Everywhere, the evidence is piling up that central government is becoming too large and impersonal to be truly responsive to the needs of communities by means of centrally directed policies and programmes” said the PM Simpson-Miller
She mentioned a similar comment in 2004 (George Headly, The Gleaner)
"Communities will be empowered, since through the appropriate local machinery, Government answers directly to the people. Space is created for communities to have greater interest and more meaningful participation in local governance, but citizens need to become more community conscious and build effective community organisations which will help their political representatives to be more effective," said Mrs. Simpson Miller.

She noted that there were signs all over the island pointing to the fact that the more organised communities tend to command the most attention and respect. She also said, "the more organised is the community, the less opportunity provided for criminals and that the more protection is provided for children and young people".
PM Simpson-Miller knows that this system error is a sinkhole, and we must take care to at this problem structure problem, as our local small business are the back of the Nation and these we cannot in our right minds allow to falter because we failed to act, the Government needs to mobilize itself and apply itself outside of Kingston and Gordon House other than Social Programmes and Culture Development – the rural areas are begging for the Kingston experience so they don’t have to actually travel to Kingston for Government Business. Kingston is not Jamaica. 

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

New Reality Check: Reject Divisive Politicking

New Reality Check: 

Reject Divisive Politicking

As the rest of the World was counting down the days for the inevitable arrival of the New Year -contrary to Mayan Legends – Jamaican’s minds were fasten on a pending International Monetary Fund (IMF) deal or at least a Letter of Intent to begin our uphill recovery, either was expected to be in hand before year end as promised by the administration. The ‘N/A’ that would occupy the space for ‘IMF Deal’ on the Promises Kept Report Card for the 1st Year of the Simpson-Miller Administration was ultimately the expected result by the Politico-sphere and the informed populous.

The key negotiating components and needed reforms for a “deal” were in the Jamaican Parliament; floundering about like a “Fish out of water” including: Tax Reform, Pension Reform and Public Sector Reform, although the Opposition was vigorously anchoring the “Deal” to the Government, the general feeling about the “deal” was one of mild indifference rather than urgency – not to lower its importance, especially to the business sector.

The Audley Reality

With a looming IMF deal that could possibly be Do or Die, a sliding dollar, growing inflation, the unbearable cost of energy and an overall eroding Economy, adding the 2030 Vision of achieving Developed Nation Status; all on our plate with double portions as the world could possibly slip back into another deep recession, you would fathom that all hands would be on board and all those who were off would realize the magnitude of the situation and throw themselves head first at the problems: but “Politics ignores reality and creates a new one”.

And in his “World so-so-so far away” Audley Shaw, Opposition spokesman on Finance and former Minister; appeared on a current affairs programme in the very first week of the new year to give his insight on the issue of the Economy and specifically the IMF deal. The host and Mr Shaw begun with a tussle as the spokesman wanted to focus on the current administrations failures (politically acceptable) while the host understandably wanted to review Shaw’s own stint in office, which also heavily featured the IMF. The struggle continued till the last question, that any Jamaican with or without a Voters I.D. would ask if they had the opportunity to speak to their elected representative, the question said: “What would be your advice to the Government?” and Audley Shaw replied: “I will not offer any to advice the Government?”

I did an Article entitled: “The JLP and Rejection Hereafter”, in that article I mentioned that the Jamaica Labour Party is currently in a state of “Resentment” and has to remove this thorn in their side if they are to have any chance in an Election or forever be shunned by the populous, especially when the world is seeking corporation and unity to fix the common sense issues and it’s this fact that makes his stance seem odd and out of touch with our present situation. We just have to glance at the US Politico-sphere for enlightenment; as over the first term of the Obama administration after a Credit degrading battle over the debt ceiling, the United States Congress has its lowest approval rating of its existence – whether it was Tea Party hostage taking or Democrats welfare loving – both sides ended up losing.     

Shared Reality

Shaw’s unwillingness to fulfil his civil duty by providing his advice which most likely consist of alternative and opposing views as a Member of Parliament, representing half the political power within our Westminster structured Government; at a time of teamwork and collaboration with every single fibre of our society to push a “Recovery and Sustain” agenda - is beyond the simple Politicking and Resentful. The question to be asked: Is this the sentiment of an entire Opposition?

Jamaica has been given a negative outlook by Economist and even some Godly prophets but the journey is a dire and costly one, if our Government is made out to be a Lopsided, Half Dead Donkey. The reality is that our leaders have no choice but the refuse the Political Animal within and reject any sensation to cheer for each other’s downfall because we share a common reality.

A quote for Mr Shaw to reflect on by Albert Einstein “A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labours of other men, living and dead and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving.”