Dirty Laundry

Imagine my surprise when as I recently read a New York Times article about a Kenyan priest who has been ministering in the American Diocese of Owensboro, Kentucky. Apparently, the priest had been born and trained in Kenya and had become a priest in Jamaica, prior to moving on to the United States.

According to the New York Times (all emphasis is mine):

In Kenya, Father Oneko became the sole pastor for 12 satellite parishes in an 80-mile stretch. He served more than 3,000 people communion on a typical weekend and ran a girls high school.

It was a hardship post. His car, the only one in the vicinity, was used as a school bus, an ambulance and, if the local officers caught a thief, a police car – with Father Oneko the driver.

When his bishop asked for volunteers to serve in a diocese in Jamaica that badly needed priests, Father Oneko put up his hand. He wanted a new challenge, and being a missionary suited his vision of serving the church.

He found conditions in Jamaica even more desperate than in Kenya. Violence was so common that thugs had killed a priest at the altar.

“The rats in the rectory ate my clothes,” he said. “I got a baby kitten to hunt the rats, but the kitten was eaten by hungry dogs.”

Father Oneko lasted nearly five years as pastor of five churches in Jamaica. But after so much time in hardship posts, he wanted to taste life in a developed country. He sent letters of introduction to dioceses in the United States.

Laurie Goodstein, Sunday New York Times, Dec. 28, 2008

I have read the part about the rats in the rectory like six to seven times and I still don’t know what to make of it, it is beautiful — it is a found poem that crystallizes what the Jamaican Experience is for so many people. I daresay it is like a parable you could read in the bible, or a fable of Aesop.

Later on in the article the Times writer points out, again emphasis mine:

Father Oneko lasted nearly five years as pastor of five churches in Jamaica. But after so much time in hardship posts, he wanted to taste life in a developed country. He sent letters of introduction to dioceses in the United States.

Laurie Goodstein, Sunday New York Times, Dec. 28, 2008

This is how my beloved island is being portrayed in the New York Times, like a place for only the wretched and the damned where simply being there is a hardship. And rather than be angry about it, I have to laugh as we are completely at fault for this.

Our society of silence now sends its dirty laundry abroad to be hung on the clothes line of cable television. For instance Black  Entertainment Television (BET) recently featured Vivian Blake and the Shower Posse on their series American Gangster. Gangster-for-Life Eddie Seaga features prominently in the telling of the tale. For those who missed it on cable it is available online if you follow a slightly convoluted process.

Screenshot of BET site

  1. Click on the link here: BET American Gangster Series
  2. At the top left you’ll see the words The Jamaican Shower Posse, followed by a summary and then the text “(5 clips)”
  3. Click on the box with Jamaican Shower Posse and then drag that playlist of 5 clips to the upper right hand side of the screen where it says “my playlist (0)”
  4. The playlist should change to reflect that it has 5 clips. Click the down arrow beside the words my playlist(5)
  5. When the pop-down menu appears as a result of clicking the down arrow, click Play All.
  • Hat-tip to Top5Jamaica for linking to this series on Twitter.

This analysis of the connection between Jamaican politicians, Jamaican crime, the CIA, and the Cold War would never have been completed by a Jamaican broadcast outlet. Yet it is left to an American woman, formerly in law enforcement, to point out with raised eyebrows and an aghast look on her face, that Edward Seaga delivered the eulogy at Jim Brown’s funeral. It is truly a shameful day when I learn more about Jamaica from media external to Jamaica than from our indigenous outlets.

Luckily we still have many redeeming qualities to bedazzle the world.

An informative show on Jamaican cuisine was recently broadcast on AlJazeera English of all places — again the OG Seaga makes a cameo. The feature is so delicious I had to box off some Christmas cake while watching it.

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21 thoughts on “Dirty Laundry

  1. Diatribalist, I lost my post regarding Dirty Linen. I do not know if you received it or not, but for some reason it has not posted.Please let me know if you did receive it. Thanks!!

  2. @ Esteban: I didn’t see it. Seems curious that it would disappear but please submit it again.
    PS: I only moderate comments of first time commentators.

  3. I thought I was one of the only people who caught the Shower Posse episode on BET. Good post! I stumbled on it in a google search of Vivian Blake; my cousin was one of the lead ATF agents on the Jamaican posse cases and he was on the American Gangster episode too.

    Jamaica is so beautiful…it is such a shame that so many people there suffer under gang rule.

  4. Yes, indeed, Diatribalist, you have hit the nail precisely on the head, pertaining to the culture of apathy, muteness, and reticence on the part of the Jamaican Fourth Estate in addressing Jamaica’s sores, scabs, warts and dirty laundry —- private matters whose public exposure and ventilation may bring or brings certain form(s) of extreme distress, embarassment, suffering, pain or calamity. Apparently, Jamaica has become a reservoir or a repository for journalists from metropolitan societies, with respect to exposing and unearthing sundry types and forms of Jamaica’s dirty laundry as you aptly and poignantly state. “Our society of silence now sends its laundry abroad to be hung abroad on the clothes line of cable television.” Why is it that the Jamaican Fourth Estate is totally, or, so aloof and indifferent with respect to divulging, revealing, and disclosing our various dirty laundry(ies)? Why is it that the Jamaican media is so boutonne, close-mouthed, taciturn, unforthcoming, and uncommunicative re this area of journalism? Is it a question of possible libel and slander litigations, or, is it a question of the vindictive and tribal nature of Jamaican politics and its attendant and concomitant victimization of journalists or writers who get involved in these supposedly sensitive and quasi-classified areas ? Meanwhile, it has become increasingly obvious, that the Fourth Estate from metropolitan polities are having a field day flaying our sores, scabs, warts and dirty laundry to the global village with a certain sense of relish and pleasure.Specifically, as it relates to boosting and improving their ratings/rankings in certain demographic markets peopled by Jamaicans and other Caribbean nationals. Indeed, it is quite frustrating to watch our dirty linen being documented, projected and ventilated by journalists from metropolitan societies, while local journalists and sundry media elites, ostensibly, appear indifferent, distanced and detached to or from these burning issues. Certainly, it is full time, that local journalists and other media types assert and reclaim this prerogative to be extremely involved in this critical area of journalism, as opposed to relinquishing and abdicating their duties, roles and responsibilities, as it relates to covering such sensitive stories and issues to the Fourth Estate from metropolitan societies.

  5. All the best for the new year, Everyone.

    I am intent on preserving my sanity this year and don’t intend to be aghast at anything that happens anymore on that isle they still call “blessed”. After the cops botched the investigation regarding the arms cache discovery, I figured that those who want the depravity to continue outnumber those who don’t.

    If not, why is everybody so tolerant of it?

  6. Kadene, wishing you the best for 2009! Also, I can empathize with your sentiment(s) about not being aghast regarding events and happenings on our “blessed” island, in terms of the preservation of one’s sanity.With regard to the botched arms cache, I concur with your position in your recent letter to the Gleaner editor, specifying/indicating the absurdity, lunacy, preposterousness and irrationality of Jamaican law enforcement authorities in disclosing/announcing the discovery of the arms cache, instead of utilizing that information, evidence and knowledge in solving the case, by arresting the principals and major players behind this importation of arms. Indeed, many of our law enforcement authorities function and behave like rank amateurs, as opposed to seasoned professionals and this is one of the main reason, why, as a society and a people, we are not able to put a dent or brakes on crime and criminality.Amateurism reigns supreme!!!

  7. @ Esteban: I am struck by the sense of calm and relative steadiness of the people there I speak to as I bring New Year’s greetings. It doesn’t seem to perturb them as much as it does the diaspora.

  8. Hey DD,
    Thanks for the link to the BET film on the Shower Posse. started watching it, its riveting. basically what they’re describing is a state that has been coopted to criminal purpose so that even the two major political parties have symbiotic links with these deadly gangs and according to the film provide cover for them!

    You’re right to finger the media, in fact they give a lot of space to politicians here without ever asking hard questions such as Stephen Sackur did. you have to conclude that they’re complicit with the runnings or just too scared to do anything. but it means that the media here is more shambolic than anything.

  9. Interesting story re member of parliament, Mr. James Robertson in his attempt to rescue wounded St. Thomas man supposedly shot by police, and the accusation by the police, that Mr. Robertson utilized and directed abusive language towards them.

  10. Ironies galore. We KNOW that the everyday reality of many people is more akin to the “expose’ s” whe’ di farrin reporta dem come mek up. But di minute di sitt’n reach pon TV, all yuh kyan ear a complain: anno so it go! we nuh tan so bad! dem too lie! Well, the foreign reporters are working off the notion that such madness is in fact astonishing and contradictory to the sun/sex/sea rhythm. We are working off a parallel narrative; we love to tell stories about how we wish we were: a nation that resembles upper saint andrew in hue and status, and are the happy go lucky types just waiting for the tourists to come. Did you see that spread done a couple weeks ago in the NYT? Priceless, especially when paired with Mimi Sheller’s response in a LTE. So, we close our eyes and ears to how we really are, and instead hand down blame and judgment to dem – yuh know, DEM – who a make us look bad. The mass media has been very good at preserving this void in our understanding of ourselves, hence every time these things air, we are “surprised” at seeing parts of ourselves – corrupt, violent, enamoured with excess and the grotesque – reflected back at us.

    EAR – I’ve been hearing about the story and the irony is just too much, in my opinion. Here we have a bunch of police officers who are so hyperaware of how incompetent they are and how we perceive them as little more than rent-a-cops, that any slight against them is quickly blown out of proportion and treated as a crime against the state. They certainly hope we won’t notice that the bigger fish are starting to bloat in the hot sun, ’cause JCF can’t find the dutchie. After dem done arrest Missa Robertson, maybe dem kyan go knock pon di criminal dem door outa Gravel Heights and beg dem fi go dung a station fi a likkle talk.

  11. Yes Longbench, as you rightly contend, a parallel narrative — universe — is indeed heavily at work in Jamaica. Ironies and incongruities are a plentiful in our socially troubled, self-destructive, nihilistic and pathological society. Interestingly, such ironies and paradoxes are apparently more pronounced, conspicuous, definite and unmistakable when it involves, the police, politicians and the dons, as is the current case unfolding in St. Thomas.

  12. I find it funny that the police were present during Sting, where I heard that a considerable amount of expletives and verbal abuse were hurled back and forth onstage, yet no one was arrested. I guess the real crime in the St. Thomas case is that the Minister dissed the police, even though the language may be the same. Tells you who run tings.

    Everyday life on this island seems to have all the elements of the Theater of the Absurd.

  13. Kleptocrat, Kern Spencer’s trial starts next week. Mr. Randy Chin has turned state’s witness.This should be a very interesting trial.LET THE GAMES BEGIN!!!!

  14. yeah there’s the way we wannabe which is an exclusively upper st andrew narrative (or fantasy) and there’s the way we ARE — a dancehall soundtrack–daggerin our way thru life or gully creepin or signalin di plane…the question is which is the real or dominant one and which the parallel?

  15. WOW!! Heavy, heavy, language indeed, ” one day digest the venom of his own spleen,” on the part of Mr.Ernie Smith, government backbencher and private counsel for Minister Joseph Hibbert re the Contractor General, Mr Greg Christie ‘s supposed enthusiasm to probe for corrupt allegations pertaining to Minister Hibbert. Bwoy, this sounds like a threat!! Certainly, it is not a riddle!!

  16. Question!! Is there a calculated and systematic conspiracy to keep us —- Jamaicans —- poor and stupid??

  17. Yes, the Observer’s blog has been down for a considerable period of time. I thought it was under some form of reconstruction. Nonetheless, I am not necessarily or overtly surprised that it has been terminated, knowing Jamaica. But it is definitely odd, that they —- owner/management —- would terminate such a blog, in light of the fact that blogs have become so popular —- even blogs administered by sundry newspapers —- and are experiencing tremendous growth globally. One wonders what is/was the logic and reason for its termination. Hopefully, at some point in the medium term, both the Gleaner and the Observer newspapers will restore this critical and salient aspect/feature of communications and journalism.

  18. 34 people murdered between January 1-9. Totally sickening and outrageous !!! What the HELL is the Prime Minister, the Minister of National Security and the Jamaica Constabulary Force doing to abate and stanch this madnesss? This is totally unacceptable!!!

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