Things Fall Apart

Things fall apart.
Things fall apart.

The cemetery will be filled with mourners soon. One aged pillar of our formative years, one of my peers at Sunday School, and a teacher whose pension was too devalued to go on, will be eulogized with sadness in our voices. None had died at ease with the country they had given their lives to build. The economic violence, except in the case of Sunday School peer who was shot and robbed, will not be implicated in their death. But that’s ok, the hoard of vendors lining the church premises and the cemetery will be testimony that not even a tragic death, more so the fall of a hero to the community, is free of the press and stress of what the Jamaican economy has become.

The cemetery is surrounded by unplowed fields, abandoned pastures, unplanned dumps and a mood that is unbothered by the resignation that next week and the next, we will be back at this same spot, agonizing at the ambush and neglect that characterize and define whom we have become. We will point fingers, assigning blame, begging politicians to fix a pot hole, fighting with a neighbor, preaching the comforting paradise of heaven, yet be unconcerned that the fields and farms surrounding the cemetery is unplowed.

Death and taxes are obligations that we intend to honor in a timely manner; however, our ability to honor vows, bonds, debts of gratitude or fidelity cannot but be compromised when fertility is fatigued by the underwhelming response, not so much to the terror of marauding gunmen, but to the unplowed fields surrounding the cemetery. Undertakers, even doctors are investors, and sensing that people are dying to get in, are upgrading their service and their profit. Mourners, numb with grief of their bereavement, struggle to understand the senseless violence we visit on each other, never recover their drive or enthusiasm to give their best to a country that is always breaking their hearts, and the police are still appealing for witnesses to come forward. People are dispirited, currency devalued, quality of life is compromised and the specter of death, tragic at the hands of cowards is debilitating and destabilizing.

We in the diaspora may no longer be in the eye of the Jamaica economic storm, but we are not so far removed that the deaths of our heroes and playmates and relatives at the hands of anxious men and failed economic wizards that we don’t feel a loss beyond tears and desperation. Our indignation is tempered by the weight of our expectation, for we know that if we had remained, that land of famed beauty and `One love one heart`, would have broken us too. We would be in the funeral procession, tears streaming, consumed with grief and still not see that the fertile fields that built and sustained England, helping her to fight, win and expand the boundaries of her empire are lying unplowed and neglected.

We contemplate what to do, how to turn the ship around, how to honor our playmates and heroes. Our dilemma is that we see ourselves through the eyes of victims. Our political messiahs are charlatans, faithfulness is a sigh and we are minded to catch and do grievous harm to the murderers than to prevent the murder in the first place. We have lost that fight. Let us concede that we have not been brave enough to fight anxiety with ingenuity, or courageous enough to forgo profit today for a quality of life worthy of our dearly departed heroes tomorrow.

When New York was overrun with lawlessness of recent memory, the mayor embraced a tactic of `no broken window`. The focus seemed foolish and reminded some folks of Don Quixote fighting windmills. The strategy was successful. Some skeptics woke up one morning liking the new New York.

Even as we mourn, we are not victims unless we consign ourselves to helplessness and refuse to organize our ideas and resources through our churches and alumni and high schools. Grief occasion tears we never knew we had, and a rage that expose the disconnect between our hopes, dreams and inability to prevent murder and mayhem. The tragedy is not our trek to honor our fallen, or the disquiet of our commerce in the spaces we call sacred, it is our rationalization to not plow the fields and our preoccupation with profits that we cannot collect today.

It is always interesting to hear our best and brightest explain why the chicken crosses the road, but not be able to say when next the chicken will cross the road or design policy to shepherd the chicken across the road or better yet, in our pots. Indeed, we express gratitude for chicken back, not daring to challenge fate or our circumstances for a more wholesome experience.

our schools, churches, and homes are cages of fear. Rather than risk a harvest’s plunder, we excuse our courage or explain the reality of our basket case. All that may well be true, but as we try to fathom who is a victim and why we mourn, let us be quite clear in our minds and our resolve, basket cases happen when fields go unplowed. We can change basket case to bread basket and honor those whom our courage failed.

Peter Peterkin, Readers Bureau, Fellow