Commentary Jamaica Magazine

Whose side are we on?

Before we all descend on the police, let us look a little deeper.  Let us examine the surroundings of those distressed mothers and girlfriends on TV news, as they grieve the loss of their loved ones during those recent police operations.  Their environment is run down and dilapidated with dusty paths posing as roads.  It is broad daylight and young men are milling about, obviously with no gainful employment.

Even as the investigations regarding the police operations take place, we should ask ourselves if we are not all complicit in the killing of our young men.  They could have been guilty but were all born innocent, like the innocent bystanders who also lost their lives.  Where were we when they reached that fork in the road? Where were the numerous politicians who strove so hard to win their seats in December and the ones gearing now for the upcoming local government elections?

Dr Blossom O’Meally Nelson told us at the memorable Women’s Bureau International Women’s Day event last week that we had “perfected the art of not taking responsibility – neither individually nor collectively.”

She quoted the Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky who in ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ wrote, “everyone of us is undoubtedly responsible for all men and everything on earth, not merely through the general sinfulness of creation, but each one personally for all mankind and every individual man.”

So transfixed was I by the thought that I looked up the rest of the quote, which reads, “Only through that knowledge, our heart grows soft with infinite, universal, inexhaustible love. Then every one of you will have the power to win over the whole world by love and to wash away the sins of the world with your tears.”

Obviously, we have not loved enough.  If we had, those communities would not be covered in dust and crawling with rats.  Those mothers would not be crying.  Those young men would not have been the targets of the police and so they would have been alive today.  By our unloving, uninvolved, “a nuh nutten” attitude, we have been killing them softly.

A business colleague, smarting from the hefty cheques he has been writing to the collector of taxes, says Jamaica ’s taxpayers are the biggest wimps he knows.  We kowtow to the leaders whose salaries we pay and act as if we are better than the humble hard-working folks we interact with every day.  This is a double-edged sword: our skewed values are giving a pass to unproductive leaders and increasing the desperation of their constituents.

The Contractor General, Public Defender and Political Ombudsman cannot be expected to clean up our yard by themselves, nor can our over-stressed police.  They are the ones  fighting crime not only with guns, but also through community policing and the operation of police youth clubs boasting a membership of over 25,000.

Human rights pioneer Flo O’Connor was one of the 50 women singled out for recognition by the Bureau of Women’s Affairs last Thursday, in commemoration of Jamaica ’s Independence Jubilee.   Flo dedicated her own resources to on-the-ground activism as a ‘big sister’ for many a troubled youth. It would be wonderful if the well funded Jamaicans for Justice could widen their remit to work on community projects with the police.  

What a sea change we would see, if a strategic plan could be created so representatives of political parties, private, public, civic and church organisations could have a cohesive approach to community empowerment. In a country of a mere 3 million, it can be done – if we are willing to do it. Then our people would see us all on the same side, their side, instead of wasting so much time and energy in bitter recrimination.

About the Author:
Jean Lowrie-Chin heads PRO Communications Ltd, an advertising and PR agency, in Kingston, Jamaica. She is a poet, blogger and columnist for the Jamaica Observer. She holds Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in English from the University of the West Indies. You can visit her blog at

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of

About the author

Jean Lowrie-Chin