Build your great wall

I asked the policeman and said
How much must I pay for my freedom?
He said to me, son
They won’ t build no schools anymore
They won’ t build no hospitals
All they’ ll build will be prison, prison
Prisoner, Lucky Dube

Build your wall high.  Build it high and mighty like your dreams to be better.  Build your wall and adorn it with barbed wire, steel teeth to stab the sky.
Build a wall around your failures, like you paint circles around potholes.  So that people know that it’s there and that you’re not doing something about it.
Build it higher than your determination to be more than just a random collection of shacks. Build it higher than the shame you feel about your black skin that makes you look like one of those lesser people.
Build it for your protection.  Build it to protect you from yourself.  Build it because this is us and them time.  This is after we is weevil time.  This is survival of the fittest time and concrete blocks is the way to solve the problems of the people who give you power every five years. Every five years, for fifty years.  Build the wall and lock it and throw away the key. Throw it far, but not too far.  Throw it so that you can find it in another five years when you need to
Sentence them to five years behind the wall, because Golden Grove is not wall enough and Royal Gaol is not wall enough.  And the La Basse’s pollution is not wall enough.
And after the five years of neglect, remember them behind the wall.  Take all the buses and all the rum and all the roti and make them jump and wave for your glory.  And then send them back behind the wall again with full bellies full of nothing and minds full of your eloquent promises.
Forget proper drainage.  Forget penalizing the polluting industries.  Forget regulating the waste that goes into the dump or at least legislating on the proper disposal or recycling of plastics or electronic waste.
Build your wall because this is the best plaster for this huge, massive, festering, pus-filled sore of a community.
Build it and they will sing your praises, because yours is the only name they know and the only one that matters.
Build it to show the world how forward thinking you are.  Show the world that even Third World people can be hateful and suspicious and racist.  Build it and show that colour is no reason for solidarity or sympathy or interest in consultation for the creating of solutions.  Build it weak like the levees in Lousiana.   And when the storms come and the people start to try to escape, maybe you’ll also have people waiting to shoot them as they try to break free of your wall.
Better build it so that they cannot escape.  Build it better than the mind walls you build when they’re in your failing education system.  Build it better than the walls in their minds that keep youth men on the blocks, their anger looking for any opportunity to manifest and young girls desperate for somebody to mind them.
Build it so that you can escape to your fantasies of civilization borne out of your obsession to be less like yourself whoever it is that you are.  Build it like you built your own palace as a statement to your absolute contempt for babies dying in under-equipped, inefficiently run hospitals.  Build it so that you cannot hear their children wheeze or see their young men’s eyes glaze more with anger.
Build it because they are the problem to which you have no solution.
Make it soundproof, to block out the sounds of gunshots, the sounds of defeat, the sounds of self-hate ricocheting off walls, bubbling in foetid drains full of someone else’s waste.
But most of all build it politician proof, so that they can escape the poisonous tongues more dangerous than any of the dump’s most noxious emissions.
Build walls because, yes, this is what the nation needs.  More division.  Physical separation.  A wall, because even poor people deserve to live in a gated community.  Like the rich ones who can only be safe behind their high walls.
Put in a buffer zone. Build back trees to atone for all the others that have been uprooted for progress’ sake. Make it so that we on the outside don’t have to deal with what’s on the inside.
Build it so that we can be even more suspicious and terrified of ourselves and know that them and us will love you for it.

Some Kind of Freedom

Meanwhile yuh dancin to dis musik
And tryin to figure out these lyrics
Meanwhile yuh drinkin and havin fun
Watch out
de revolution a come
Betta be a part a de solution
Dis mite be di final confrontation
Betta awake to dis reality
Dis is no time to lose yuh sanity

Any Which Way…Freedom, Mutabaruka

The smell of rotting sugar hangs over the Priority Bus Route like a ghostly reminder of times past.

It mingles with the more industrial smells of cars and burning copper.

The drains are dark brown into dark green, into plastic shiny silver in the early morning sunlight. Depending on what pollution the companies on the right side of the Bus Route are kind enough to share with the people of Beetham Gardens.

Emancipation Day comes and the smell of rum hangs like the spirits of all those angry restless ancestors.

Freedom, it seems, does not extend to the ability for some sections of our society to be able to breathe clean air.

Freedom does not mean that you have a right to enjoy the fact that massa day is done. And the bush that once lured your ancestors away from plantations is yours to roam free in whenever you please.

One hundred and seventy years later I am still trying to make sense of freedom on the Emancipation weekend.

One hundred and seventy years is much more than people can begin to imagine.

In the immediacy of these times, in the up-to-the-minute news and readily available everything-in-the-moment technology, yesterday seems like a faraway time and place.

One hundred and seventy years could very well be prehistoric times to young people who don’t have a sense of the presence far less for the past.

It seems like all celebrations are doomed to lose sight of what they really represent the further away from the event you go.

So Christmas becomes a reason to drink and eat to excess and Emancipation becomes a day to spend a lot of money to look like a free person.

And while the celebration continues and a holiday is a day for enjoying the fruits of one’s labours, who is really considering what it means to be free?

And in the same way that political leaders take an opportunity to dress up and pretend they care, and companies who don’t bother to support education programmes, never mind Emancipation programmes, put on big sales to sell pretty African fabric made in China, you have to wonder who are we pretending this sense of freedom for?

Too besides, do we really understand what it is to have chain-free ankles? Who knows that massa day is done? Who has switched physical chains for enslavement to a job and a house and a car?

Doomed to fail, for sure. Doomed to be forever divided between an underclass that has neither motivation nor means to improve and a black elite so profoundly terrified of being thought to be black, whatever that is.

The complication now is not the chains on the feet or the amount of work to be done. But how to find the fine line between not black enough for the masses and too black to be socially acceptable.

So you resolve to enslave yourself to the things that now count as acceptable masters. To conspicuous consumption. To big gold chains or designer shoes. To a way of thinking and being that convinces you that you belong.

You have to wonder if freedom is some bizarre notion that only exists for some people and not for others. Because the way this society operates, it’s as if some people have more of a right to be free.

Some people have more of a right to enjoy this country while others feel they have a right to stop them from enjoying it.

They set us up that way and left it like that for us to wallow in our hierarchies and stereotypes forever.

Here every creed and race find an equal place but there is no solidarity. Only the Africans celebrate the fact that they are free. Only the Indians celebrate the fact that they arrived. What is the point of being cosmopolitan if we can’t even be bothered to share our triumphs and our failures?

What is the point of being happy for yourself and no-one else?

In the stink of my own rubbish and the stink of rotting molasses and the horror of buildings that say that I am better than I used to be, I wonder if it isn’t a Pyrrhic sort of victory, if a victory at all, when there are plenty who are convinced that you should still be in chains.