My essay on why Michael Manley should be the 8th Jamaican National Hero is published on Pambazuka News: Pan African Voices for Freedom and Justice.
I go ahead and post the entire article below. (It's a bit psychological (my degree is in psych.) ps Stir It Up, my novel of history roots and culture, is currently sale-priced worldwide on Amazon ($3.99 Kindle) and 10 -18% off Print edition. (18% Amazon-UK). No one will know of this book (highly praised by Roger Steffens, Russell Bell of JA youth and elders and many others) unless the Reggae community helps spread the word. Buy the book on sale and post your reviews on the net. Thanks and bless up beca' Babylon must fall (peacefully, one hopes!).
Jamaica: Taking back the narrative
Why Michael Manley should be a national hero
2014-06-12, Issue 682
[Jamaica’s national consciousness needs to be liberated from false and harmful narratives created by others, especially the US. And one of those false narratives is about the public life and contribution of former Prime Minister Michael Manley] - added by Editors)))
As a child grows from infancy, it is subjected to a virtual bombardment of thoughts and ideas, rules and regulations, moral principles, values and life strategies. A major developmental goal in reaching adulthood is to be able to take all this input and make it one’s own, that is, to sift through all the teachings and trainings and decide for oneself what is right and wrong, good and bad, moral and immoral, just and unjust. In Jungian terms, it is to separate ourselves from our parents (and in turn the society which they represent) and become the unique individual only we can be, fulfilling the potentials with which at birth we were gifted, reaffirming those values that we accept and dismissing those we find outdated, inappropriate or just plain wrong. One develops one’s own narrative of the world and his/her place in it.
Much the same might be said of a young nation. Has Jamaica, barely fifty-two years after Independence—and despite Jamaicans’ vibrant and much-merited national pride—not had to struggle to find its way—developed its own narrative—in a world dominated by its “elders,” historically Spain and Britain but since World War II overwhelmingly the United States? For three-quarters of a century or more—for Latin America and the Caribbean since at least the Monroe Doctrine—the US has defined the terms by which all games are played, erected the boundaries, established the prizes and penalties. America makes the rules, calls the shots, sets the moral tone, delineates values, codifies and enforces laws and sits in judgment of transgressors. In other words, America creates “the system.” Essentially, the narrative is the system, or perhaps more technically, its philosophical underpinning. Its operating manual.
It is impossible for Jamaica’s national consciousness not to have been shaped by the Spanish-British-American system/narrative. This is not to deny the extremely important heritage of Africa and Black Consciousness, which it might be argued is the soul of the country, to a large extent even for those of British and non-African ancestry. But the System, aka “Babylon,” does not emphasize Black Pride, African Consciousness or Jamaican hopes and dreams—unless these are subsumed within a strictly demarcated confined space within the broader narrative. Even Martin Luther King (who had been on the FBI watch list) did not become a mainstream American hero until after his death, when the immense power of his presence was removed and the more radical of his preachings—that most challenged the fundaments of the System—were shunted off to relative obscurity within the System’s narrative.
The narrative settles into the psyche at all levels, from uppermost consciousness to the deepest layers of the unconscious. Once in her daytime TV show, Oprah Winfrey remarked in a discussion of race that it was impossible for both whites and blacks not to have internalized the society’s historical values. Nobody can grow up in the system without being subjected over and over again to the notion of white superiority. This notion is a horrible lie but the unceasing telling of it is historical fact, an incessant drumbeat that internalizes the lie deep into the unconscious mind. True, there is a counter-narrative that color is skin deep and folks are just folks and notions of superiority are falsehoods, the product of immature and corrupted minds, but this on the whole is much weaker. The memory traces of “superiority” are written over with new scripts of equality but never expunged. One may consciously reject them even as they continue to wield influence, channeling thought processes in the manner in which the earth’s outer mantle channels surface topography. Yet humans are blessed with a miracle of the universe: the capacity for self-awareness.
With heightened self-awareness, as one brings his/her unconscious into the light of understanding, s/he can declaw and defang the many-headed beasts lurking in the dungeons of the mind and become relatively free of their poisonous hissings. Zen Buddhism teaches detachment from thoughts that pass through one’s mind; watching them float harmlessly along like leaves on a stream we become emancipated from them, released from the demons of our unconscious (such is the goal, at least). At this point one is “enlightened.” In the average guy or gal, though, even in relatively saintly souls who consider themselves liberated from all prejudices or in nations that present themselves as egalitarian, the hounds can break their chains. Under duress, in times of strife or fear or anger, we may blame our suffering on a scapegoat, like Germany of the 1930s did to the Jews. In the West the scapegoat typically has black (or brown) skin. The prejudices drummed into the psyche are still there, deep down.
Chris Rock, the comedian, does a funny bit on this. He cautions white folks against getting too comfortable with ghetto terminology and starting to use the “n” word, but notes there may be circumstances when it can be excused (remember, this is just humor). So if a black couple happen to get a table at the restaurant before you white person do, don’t start shouting “hey n-word!” The offense is too minor. If however the guy in the car ahead sits through a couple green lights when you have to be somewhere fast, you white person might be forgiven for yelling out the vile word and even embellishing with a few choice adjectives. The (comical) point being it is okay to act like a racist in that situation (it really isn’t, of course). The more relevant point for the present discussion is that we all are likely to have racist ideas in our unconscious mind, however much we consciously might despise and reject such ideas.
After the Jamaican flag was hoisted in 1962, Babylon didn’t crumble into nothingness. The old British-American narrative didn’t vanish into thin air; the modern police and security forces, for example, were the heritage of the British West Indies Regiment and largely internalized its racist, ethnocentric and class-based prejudices (thus Bob Marley’s claim that the biggest danger in Trench Town wasn’t the rudeboys, it was The Man). The new Jamaican narrative had to be written over top the old script, in the manner in which cities are built over earlier settlements. The ancient archeological sites are analogous to the unconscious foundations of the mind.
Once in an online chat room, as I was interviewed about my novel Stir It Up (about the CIA in Jamaica during the ‘70s) a caller—Jamaican-American, I presume—asked if I didn’t think the key thing was for Jamaicans to buckle down and pull themselves up by the bootstraps. It’s a beautiful idea, one we all should try to follow. I replied though that I didn’t really think that was the problem, that on the contrary Jamaicans have always worked hard. It seems just what the US narrative would have us believe about Jamaicans, Americans, Greeks and anybody else—that Average Joe and Jane aren’t working hard enough, otherwise they’d be successful. One can’t help but conclude that many of the rich and their admirer-protectors in the mainstream media really do think they are better than everybody else, smarter, harder working, more responsible, ala Romney’s incredible disparagement of “47%” of the entire American public. “Stop whining and get to work, loser,” the cry rises. Cuts are demanded in social security, unemployment benefits, school lunches and art classes, health services and especially in payments to “welfare queens” supposedly gaming the system for a few extra dollars as billions—trillions?—are pumped into the banks and investment houses that caused the worldwide economic catastrophe. This austerity nonsense is a cruel lie, product of a corrupt, greed-driven American narrative, dominated by an elite that spews such garbage as Chicago School economics and the vacuous “philosophy” of Ayn Rand.
One of the most bitter rendings in the Jamaican national psyche, arguably, is the Manley-Seaga schism. The rift doesn’t appear to have healed much, even today. Michael Manley, prime minister 1972-1980 and 1989-1992, in particular conjures fierce hatred from the other side. Perhaps with time it will all simply fade away, but that may not promote healing and the unity that Bob Marley called for time and again.
HYPOTHESIS: That animosity toward Manley, both then and now, is to a significant extent a product of the United States controlling the narrative, both then and now.
PROPOSAL: That Jamaica take back the narrative to where it rightly belongs, with the people and state of Jamaica.
ACTION: First, that each side, the People’s National Party (PNP) and Jamaican Labor Party (JLP) acknowledge that Manley and Seaga both did what they honestly felt was best for Jamaica, whether one agreed/agrees with their policies or not. Second, that Michael Manley be recognized for his achievements and principled actions by being named the eighth Jamaican national hero.
The time may be right for this to happen. The American narrative has shown itself for what it is, or at least has become—a fairy tale spun by the oligarchy (the “1%”) to keep rich people rich and their political lackeys in power. This may long have been apparent to most Jamaicans, for whom Big Brother to the North has never been much of a friend, other than offering a place to find work, maybe, if you can get a green card and afford plane fare. Increasingly the lies are becoming apparent to Americans too.
The mainstream trumpets the US narrative continuously, at all levels. Consider, for example, one of the first portrayals of Jamaica in a major Western publication as Bob Marley’s growing fame brought attention to the island. In its August 12, 1976 edition, Rolling Stone magazine ran a cover spread headlined “Rastaman With a Bullet” and composed of two essays. In “The Rastas Are Coming! The Rastas Are Coming!” bylined Michael Thomas but accredited in a note to I. V. Panno, Manley is discounted and ridiculed from the word go: Manley is seen as having a vision “…to remake the nation in his own image…. A whole nation in bush jackets!” As if the leader of Jamaica had the mentality of a primary grader. Further on: “From where he sits, Manley has been charged by a higher authority than the electorate, a kind of historical imperative, clear only to him, to save Jamaica or die trying.” It boggles the mind why the intent of programs to overcome the inequities of colonialism would be clear only to Manley. After four hundred years of Spanish and British rule, were Jamaicans unaware of the hardships and suffering?
One source of animosity toward Manley among Jamaicans seems to have been that he was brash and impudent; that even if many of his programs were felt to be worthwhile, he was too fiery and outspoken and downright insulting. He wasn’t diplomatic and tactful. He angered the United States, didn’t play the game; in other words, he didn’t kowtow like a “good Negro.” Is this not the underlying British/American narrative speaking? Should Manley have bent to his knees and groveled before his American “superiors,” begged for crumbs from the rich man’s table? True, his heated rhetoric aggravated crises of capital flight and foreign exchange, in particular by challenging any Jamaican who objected to paying higher taxes as a patriotic duty to hop a flight to Miami. But should blame fall only on Manley—whose intentions were admirable—or equally, at least, on the well-off elite who fled their homeland rather than pay more to build up the young nation and help fellow Jamaicans in need? This is an oversimplification of a complex situation but the question begs pondering.
The JLP’s Edward Seaga was the US favorite, thus that of the Daily Gleaner (the Jamaican newspaper of record) as well. In this narrative, Michael Manley was villain and scoundrel. One can be sure any and all of his failings were trumpeted full blast and no doubt many imaginary ones as well. The fly in the ointment was Cuba. Manley’s official state recognition of post-Revolution Cuba and his friendly alliance with Castro made him a high-profile target in the eyes of the Establishment, both in US and Jamaica. It didn’t matter that Manley was no Marxist ideologue; a graduate of London School of Economics, he favored Fabian Socialism, the gradualist approach to reform preached by moderates like H. G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw and despised by hardcore Marxist-Leninists as detrimental to the cause. He had even supported the expelling of communists from the PNP during his father’s administration. The insinuation Castro would persuade him to take the final step and go communist infuriated him—who was to say he wouldn’t entice Fidel to come over to democratic socialism? Michael Manley was his own man.
None of this mattered because top US policy for the entire Western Hemisphere was to isolate Cuba. The threat of Cuba, as Professor Noam Chomsky has made clear time and again, was the example it set: If other countries saw this small Caribbean nation developing and prospering while rejecting US-style capitalism, what was to stop them from following suit? Thus the hideously cruel economic embargo, so Cuba wouldn’t develop and prosper. Thus the policy of isolation. One revolutionary government was bad enough, but if you couldn’t assassinate or overthrow Castro—Lord knows they tried—second best was to prevent the rogue upstart from forming alliances, thereby minimizing the damage. Containment was the name of the game (and still is).
The most sinister element of the US narrative is that anyone who stands against American-style capitalism is ipso facto evil and worthy of eradication. This is the rationale in a nutshell for Operation Condor, one of the most brutal movements of the latter 20th Century. In Latin America of the 1970s and ‘80s, any farmer, student, professor, social worker, anyone deemed “leftist” who advocated for the rights of the poor against the dominance of corporations-capital-the big ranches, however moderate their intentions, however benign their actions, was labeled “socialist” and “communist” and became fair game for the bloody scourges of right-wing governments and their murderous militias. The earth ran red with the blood of tens of thousands—if not hundreds of thousands—of these evil leftist villains. Often—if not always—the butchers were aided and abetted by the CIA. Open discussion of Marx or Jesus Christ as champions of the poor could get you tortured and “disappeared,” as it did of many Catholic priests (and nuns) following the Church’s newfound affinity for “liberation theology.”
This is mind control of the worst kind: Demonization of anyone reading, discussing or even thinking any political philosophy that is not consistent with the implicit US narrative. Labels like “Marxist,” “socialist,” “union worker” and “farmers co-operative” became a cover for the spilling of blood of anyone straying however slightly from the straight and narrow.
This was very much part of the narrative alive in Jamaica during the same years. Just whisper the word “communist” and tempers ran hot, blood cold. Manley was guilty by association with the bloody purges of Lenin and Stalin. He may have been a world apart from the Russians but he was deemed guilty because his leftist agenda struck the chord of “evil.” The narrative had done its dirty work. The PNP platform of “democratic socialism” sounded the alarm loud and clear. If Mother Theresa had been elected prime minister, would she have been demonized like Manley? Would her administration, like Manley’s PNP, have become the target of CIA “destabilization?” The answer is clear.
The average Jamaican of the mid-to-late ‘70s who was ridiculed by the Establishment for seeing CIA agents lurking everywhere, should know s/he was right. There can be little doubt that the CIA was actively engaged in a destabilization program against the Manley government. Former CIA agents Philip Agee and John Stockwell have said so explicitly. Agee even verbalized the claim in a talk on Jamaican soil in September 1976.
A CIA destabilization program is not merely an attack upon the politicians. It is a systematic plan of destruction waged against the target country and her people. Nowhere was this more cruelly obvious than in Richard Nixon’s exhortation to the CIA regarding 1970s Chile under left-leaning Salvador Allende: “Make the economy scream.” Methods of destabilization, as Agee has delineated, include: Fouling the bearings of city buses and dumping dirt in the gas tank. Contaminating the water and food. Blowing up bridges and power plants and reservoirs. Burning down the tenement yards. Shooting up the fancy hotels and scaring the crap out of foreign journalists to weaken tourism. These inconveniences and hardships will cause the people to suffer, for which they will blame the country’s leader and cast him (or her) out of office, by ballot or bullet. So the thinking goes, anyway.
Full-on destabilization is what Manley was up against. The country was already staggering from the oil crisis—in a single sitting in 1974 OPEC nearly quadrupled the price of a barrel of oil. Three incidents of flour or rice poisoning in less than a year, one which killed twenty persons. It is illuminating in this regard to read in apostate CIA man Agee’s blockbuster expose Inside the Company: CIA Diary that one of many methods of CIA destabilization programs is the “contamination of agricultural products”—easily achieved through the use of tainted sacks. All three outbreaks were reportedly caused by parathion, long banned in Jamaica.
Lengthy labor strikes in the first six months of 1976 against Alpart, Alcan and Alcoa cut bauxite production by 400,000 tons. Did the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD), said to be a CIA front, have anything to do with that?
And where were all the high-powered weapons coming from, the M1s and M16s and the like? The endless rounds of ammunition? Beyond perhaps a few Saturday night specials, guns weren’t produced in Jamaica. Somebody brought them onto the island—along with a lot of cocaine. This is not the casual paranoia of the man on the street. The CIA’s Air America flying opium out of Burma? The CIA fueling the Contra War in Nicaragua with the profit of cocaine smuggled into (mostly black) neighborhoods back in the States? Journalist Gary Webb wrote about the latter in a thoroughly researched and documented account that caused a stir until the Establishment crushed him, smothered the very life out of him. That the US government and CIA could be complicit in drug running couldn’t be allowed within the narrative. Kill the messenger.
Against all this, what could Manley possibly achieve? With his wife Beverley, head of the PNP Women’s Movement at his side, he gave it a valiant effort, instituting a plethora of social programs to redress the lingering inequities of colonialism. Public works schemes. A national minimum wage. Land lease and agrarian reform. An effective literacy campaign. Free education through university. A forty-hour work week. Unemployment was cut by 15% over the course of his first term as rising wages outpaced inflation. A renegotiated levy on bauxite injected $145 million into the economy in the first year alone.
Not only was Michael Manley a champion of the Jamaican people, he was a hero to the entire Third World (is the establishment term “developing nations” not a misleading euphemism?). The New International Economic Order (NIEO) Manley threw himself behind—in which developed countries would transfer resources and technology to poor nations—could have gone far toward lifting a billion people out of poverty. Had support come in from the United States, Manley (and his fellow NIEO backers) might literally have changed the world. It might have been the biggest advance toward social justice since Emancipation.
Reading further in the Panno Rolling Stone essay, we learn the reason for the author’s out-of-hand trashing of Jamaica’s leader: “Nobody knows what [democratic socialism] means, but with Castro breathing so heavily to the north, they dread to think.”
Here we have it. The author is fully given over to the US narrative. He first dismisses democratic socialism out of hand, then implies Castro is a monster of the first order. No matter that Cuba sent and continues to send doctors, nurses, engineers around the world to help Third World nations at no cost to them, while extending scholarships to medical school in Cuba to students from those same regions. That Cuba had instituted universal health care and education. That the pace of development of Cuban infrastructure—in the early years, at least—put to shame virtually every other country in Latin America, including US favorite Puerto Rico, given over to the investment-of-capital model. Who needs to be reminded of Jamaica during the Reagan years, with its “free-trade zones” openly practicing what was basically modern slavery?
One may think what one will of the Cuban system. Early on, Castro, like Che before him, attempted to gain American support for the revolutionary government; such support and friendship, coupled with faith that Cuba would be allowed to develop on its own, may well have enabled a more open and democratic system to be implemented. It was not to be. One played by America’s rules or suffered the consequences. Beyond that, much of the blame for Cuba’s ongoing struggles can be laid squarely at the foot of a crippling, decades-long US embargo (not to mention unceasing attack by CIA-and-Condor-allied terrorists such as Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch). Search the mainstream media in vain for praise of Cuba’s progress—despite these mountainous obstacles—in meeting a number of United Nations millennium development goals. Good or bad, or both, Cuba is not what the prevailing narrative would have us believe it is.
The troops that Cuba sent to Angola in 1976 protected the revolutionary government from re-takeover by South African troops aided and abetted by the CIA—an action which immensely boosted the struggle against apartheid and helped pave the way for Nelson Mandela’s eventual release from prison. That Manley played an important role in this—standing in solidarity with Cuba, knowing full well what havoc it would create with the Americans and what political damage it would cause him at home—should be part of the Jamaican narrative and a source of intense national pride. Without the support of people like Manley, Mandela might never have stepped off Robben Island.
From outside Jamaica, the honors came in. A UN gold medal for his brave stance against apartheid. Induction into the anti-apartheid Walk of Fame at the Martin Luther King National Historic site in Atlanta. Granting of the South African Order of Supreme Companion of Oliver Tambo. Africa did not forget Michael Manley. Mandela did not forget Michael Manley. Should Jamaica not remember “Joshua” too?
Like Bob Marley, Michael Manley came not to bow but to conquer. Like Bob, Michael stood up for his (Jamaicans’) rights. Let those who opposed Manley take the lead in giving this hero his due. Take back this brash son, this fearless warrior, prodigal no longer, take him back in company with the Seven National Heroes, with Bogle, Nanny, Norman and the rest. As Bob sang: “Unite for the Africans abroad, unite for the Africans a yard.”
Perhaps this will set the stage for a revitalized Jamaican narrative to emerge. What would this narrative be like? Would it blend Manley’s boldness with diplomatic tact and outreach? Would it reject the neoliberal call to austerity and unregulated capitalism that brought the world to the brink of economic collapse? Should the government push hard for forgiveness of the country’s foreign debt? Might wealthy corporations and individuals like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett be approached for grants to build up the educational system and infrastructure? Should alliances continue to be pursued with individual nations in the Global South and communities like CELAC? Should the beaches and countryside be kept pristine or should monster shipping ports be built, with all the pollution and environmental degradation that would bring? Should marijuana be legalized and made into a profitable legitimate industry? Should the government extend assistance to help small farmers get certified “organic” and Fair Trade, given that many in the US and UK want to support these efforts with their purchasing dollars? What about hemp and “animal friendly” products? No doubt Jamaicans with their wonderful ingenuity and tenacity will come up with many brilliant ideas.
Turning for guidance and inspiration to America’s drone-launching president or the warmongering Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice is pursuing the American narrative. Jamaica, look to your roots. Look to Michael Manley. Look to Bob Marley. Both are well deserving of enshrinement as official Jamaican national heroes.
* David Dusty Cupples is the author of Stir It Up: The CIA Targets Jamaica, Bob Marley and the Progressive Manley Government, a novel. He can be contacted by email at StiritupBob@gmail.com or through his Facebook site: http://www.facebook.com/StirItUpCIAJamaica