Dear Damion Crawford,
First I must say maximum respect for responding to my open letter. That you would take the time to answer one of your critics speaks volumes to your character. Consistently you have been this Member of Parliament – who makes himself available. So I preface everything by giving thanks and much due respect to you for your openness.
- My Father’s Business
I was resigned at first to not continuing this conversation. I asked around, should I respond? And the overwhelming answer was – No, Kei. Leave it alone. No, Kei. It’s not worth your time. Academic communities in particular were flabbergasted by your reply. Kei, they said, anyone who aligns himself to McCarthyism without irony, just isn’t worth the energy. Anyone who invokes HUAC as positive precedence is somewhat of an intellectual lightweight.
So I went to bed sure that I wasn’t going to respond, but woke up realizing I had to — that it would be tragic if as Jamaican academics we got so pompous that we stopped engaging in public conversations. And I realized I didn’t have to stoop to the level you unfortunately did at the end of your open reply – I didn’t have to make this a trading of clever high school insults; I didn’t have to tell anyone to take a long nap; I didn’t have to turn this into a silly boy’s game – a pissing match. And also, I realized I wasn’t actually committed to changing your mind on anything; that’s not what I’m spending this energy on. I am however committed to Jamaica, and to thinking about our island-home in the most rigorous and ethical way possible. And also, I began to think about my father.
You told me about your uncle, so let me tell you about my father who you may or may not know. He isn’t a ‘big man’. He isn’t a pastor or a lawyer and so he certainly isn’t ‘QC’ like the uncle of which you casually boast and upon whose credentials you lean. Still, my father is the most amazing man I know. His lack of ‘QC’ notwithstanding, this year the Prime Minister has finally seen fit to give him some initials of his own – Commander of the Order of Distinction (CD). My father, Keith Miller, has worked alongside your government for years, in local government reform. He has tried to think of ways to weaken central government and give more power of self-determination to local communities. It’s been slogging and frustrating work. What was supposed to be a 5 year job has taken 20 years so far, well past his retirement. But I have learnt something through his example – that the most important conversations, conversations such as the one we are having now about how we perceive our nation, that they take time and we cannot just throw our hands up and keep our opinions to ourselves the first moment someone says something – well – a bit ill-considered.
You are a Christian man – apparently – so you will understand this metaphor: in continuing this conversation, I am about my father’s business.
- A Secular Jamaica
Damion, our concerns are slightly different. You are concerned – as many seem to be – about the secularization of Jamaica. I, on the other hand, am concerned about this rhetoric of the ‘un-Jamaican’. By your definition whatever is in the minority is Un-Jamaican, and in your own words these ‘un-Jamaican’ things need to stop. By your definition, Rastafari is Un-Jamaican; JLP (those ‘dutty labourites’) – are Un-Jamaican right now (though they could become Jamaican by the next election); Agnosticism in particular and lack of belief is Un-Jamaican. All these things need to ‘rhatid stop’. The cultural fascism that you endorse, whether wittingly or unwittingly, you think will lead to a strengthening – a fortification of traditional Jamaican values. The cultural diversity which I see as strength, you see as weakness.
I have no earnest desire to see Jamaica become a more secular place. If it happens, it happens. It will still be Jamaica. But the logic you use to make your case is spurious. Unable to call on any actual data, you instead take us to Damion’s Cookshop. And here is the grand supposition that comes out of your kitchen:
IF a man once had the fear of God instilled in him, and IF that fear of God prevented him from committing violent crimes, IF that fear of God were to be diminished, it is logical to conclude that this would lead to a higher propensity to commit violent crimes – the worst being murder.
So much dangles on the precarious edge of that tiny word – IF. Though the scenario is completely made up, you preach it with conviction. Implicitly you attribute Jamaica’s crime rate and other ills (I assume) to a turning away from Christian principles. While there is no data to back up such claims, it is enough, I suppose, that an imagined congregation is behind you shaking their tambourines and shouting, ‘Amen! Preach it, Bredda Damion! Preach it!’
Rhetoric might be on your side, but logic and statistics are not. For instance, I wonder that you do not consider the boast made by your own government: over the last five years, violent crimes have actually gone down in Jamaica. Your fellow MPs have been quite responsible in boasting about this, for they acknowledge that more needs to be done and that we are nowhere near the place that we ought to be. We are, however, on the right path. Violent crimes are down.
But how is this fact possible given your logic? Does it mean that Jamaica over the last 5 years has made a slow return to the principles you now claim we are SUDDENLY abandoning as surely as we abandon watch night service? Given your logic, Jamaica should have become more – not less violent, recently.
As well, you might take a look at the 10 most peaceful countries in the world right now, and the 10 least peaceful countries; similarly, you might look at the countries with the highest murder rates and the countries with the lowest murder rates. And when you reacquaint yourself with these statistics you might come back and explain to me why it is that countries that insist on affirming their fundamental and traditional religious principles are so steeped in violence and conflict — why they have such high murder rates, while countries that affirm secular, humanist and even atheistic principles are, by comparison, so peaceful? Why is that?
I only raise these questions to point out why your logic is simplistic and purposely blinds itself to several facts. The truth is, like you, I have no wish to see Jamaica turn its back on its Christian principles. I only wish that those principles would dig a little deeper, would extend to a more profound understanding of brotherly love. At Jesus’s table, there was more space for the unrighteous than there was for the righteous. But at the national table that you imagine, there is no space for those your very saviour made space for.
- The Un-Jamaican
In your open reply to me you are quite triumphant when you make a distinction between the non-Jamaican and the un-Jamaican – a difference, perhaps, between legal citizenship and cultural citizenship. Well Damion, it took you long enough, but I’m really glad you finally got there. This indeed is exactly the difference I was highlighting. The opening of my first open letter to you tried to suggest that my legal citizenship (which I’m in no fear of you revoking) might not convince you of my cultural citizenship. Indeed, that I am legally Jamaican does not prevent me – in your eyes – from being un-Jamaican.
But here is where you squander much of your academic integrity by invoking McCarthy and the Un-American Commission. I can only assume you committed this kind of intellectual suicide because you didn’t actually know much about the thing you were invoking – so I’ll leave it there and gently suggest you might want to read a little bit more around this topic.
Suffice it to say, the casual accusation of people being ‘un-American’ has always been problematic. Almost always it is used to shut people up – to squash dissent – to censor good and proper debate – to silence critics who often dare to hold America to a higher, moral standard. The idea of the ‘un-American’ is often racist, xenophobic, and affirms a close-minded imperialism.
The concept of the un-American is not a worthy model for us or any country to emulate. The concept of the un-American is no beacon of light that we should stumble towards. Instead, it is a sign that flashes, Danger! Do not approach! Danger! The Doctrine of National Exceptionalism Lies Ahead! Danger! Cultural Imperialism Lies Ahead! Danger! Fascism Lies Ahead! Danger! Turn Back now!
It is sadly illuminating that you should have ended your open reply showing so much unnecessary contempt – contempt for the mere 40 people who challenged you on Twitter; contempt even for the smallness of their voice, relegated to a mere 140 characters. And this contempt seems to me a metaphor for our whole conversation right now. Over and over again you show contempt for people whose numbers are not worth considering, people far outside the majority; you show contempt for people with small voices.
From this point on all tweets about being atheist or whatever will be ignored. I see your 1,000 and raise you 2.5 million.
You began this whole thing noting a surprising trend towards atheism and agnosticism, but your latest tweet acknowledges they are only a tiny, tiny minority – a mere 1000 people not worth your attention, that can be easily crushed by the 2.5 million majority around them. In all of this you hint that you might be a strange kind of leader – one who doesn’t use his voice to amplify the sound of the voiceless, but who cowardly adds his voice to the overwhelming volume of the deafening crowd.
Damion, I do not wish you anything so sarcastic as a long nap or to find a life. No. I genuinely wish you all good things.