In 1983, through a visitor’s grant, I had the opportunity of travelling across the United States, from the East to the West coast and from North to South. Although previously I had been to the States numerous times and even studied there, this tour taught me how complex and diverse a country and society is the United States of America. Since then I have been careful not to lump all Americans or all levels of government into one and then label them. Also, I was impressed by the layers of democracy that existed from the Federal, down through the State and to the county and municipal levels. In discussing recent developments in U.S. relations with the Caribbean in general and Jamaica in particular I have borne in mind the lessons of 1983.
Over the last five years, the Federal Government in the United States has been cutting back its aid budget to the so-called developing world. If the aid can be referred to as carrots then there is definitely fewer carrots. However, the Federal Government is not about to diminish its influence and dominance in the world. To preserve its influence and dominance the White House, the Congress and several arms of the Federal administration have designed several sticks. At the moment, there is the Helms-Burton stick, the Decertification stick, the Federal Aviation Administration classification stick, the Human Rights stick, the Environmental stick, the Travel Advisory stick, the Free Trade stick, the Anti-Terrorism stick, the Deportation stick and of course the Immigration stick. These sticks are among the several means by which the Federal Government is maintaining U.S. influence and dominance in the world. Not only are some of the sticks linked to disqualifying countries from receiving U.S. aid but several carry their own unique punishment independent of assistance. No doubt there will be other sticks that will be cut and used in the future.
The FAA stick has been applied to us over the last year Air Jamaica is feeling the blows. We are now threatened with the Decertification stick. The Free Trade stick has our banana industry holding its breath as its preferential treatment in European market is challenged. The Helms-Burton stick hangs over those of our businessmen who have invested or are thinking of investing in Cuba. The immigration stick has kept many Jamaicans living in the U.S. from coming home on a visit. The Deportation stick has off-loaded on our shores hundreds of angry young men schooled in crime. The Environmental stick hangs over our manufacturers and farmers like the sword of Damocles. The Travel Advisory stick is a constant menace to the tourist industry. The Human Rights and Anti-Terrorism sticks have not yet to be applied to us but who can speak of the future with certainty.
These sticks were not specifically or specially designed for us. The numerous stick designers in the Congress and White House were not thinking primarily of Jamaica or Jamaicans in fashioning these instruments of punishment. These are global or hemisphere sticks. Although they were not designed specifically for us that will make no difference when the licks land. Anybody who believes that we will be able to dodge the licks from all of these sticks is living in a dream world. The challenge for us as a people and society is to determine how we are doing to deal with the licks when they come.
The critical fact to recognise is that these sticks serves U.S. interests and can be applied because of its military might and economic power. Several of these sticks have little or no moral content. For example, if it were airline safety that was the principal factor in the FAA stick then the 113 flaws detected in our Civil Aviation Department would mean that U.S. owned and based carriers should not be flying into Jamaica. However, there is no suggestion that U.S. carriers are not able to fly safely into Jamaican airports because of these defects. The logical relationship between the defects mainly in the paperwork of our Civil Aviation Department and Air Jamaica not being able to expand its routes or increase the number of its flights into the safe and well regulated airports of the United States, or fly through its airspace where its air traffic control meets all international standards, defies the most nimble reasoning of even the most skilled logicians. Indeed, acting in this manner the FAA is unilaterally usurping the role of the international body established to maintain aviation standards worldwide.
Likewise for the U.S. Government to blame external sources for America’s drug problem is ludicrous. The problem is primarily not a matter of supply, but principally that of habitual drug use by millions of its citizens and the demand that this creates. Further, there is no reason to believe that if external sources are cut off American drug users will not find their internal sources, as they have done in the case of ganja, by turning to some new chemicals that they can manufacture artificially. However, it is easier for the Federal Government to visit horrendous punishment on small defenseless island countries, that are very much the victims of the producers and the users, than it is to deal effectively with the problem on American soil. For then the impression is given to Americans that something is being done about the problem.
Again, it is ironic that the countries that have done the greatest damage to the global environment, the U.S.A chief among them, are the ones now seeking to inflict ‘punishment’ of the countries that have done the least damage. The chief offenders have become the judges while the innocents have become the criminals. Justice would seem to demand the opposite. However, it is might and not right that has the final say in the geopolitics of the present world.
Those who suggest that we should retaliate by designing our own sticks to punish the Federal Government need to seek counselling. Our the military capability and faltering economy could not inflict even a scratch on the U.S. Further, to stir up anti-American sentiments is to go down the morally depraved route of hate and prejudice by categorising an entire people and country on the basis of the actions of its Government.
Jamaica’s only effective response to fewer carrots and more sticks and licks is spiritual resistance and a direct appeal to the mass of ordinary citizens in the U.S. The answer is not in might nor in power but in spirit and communication. This means that in all cases in which sticks are applied to us we must do four things.
First, seize the moral high ground by resisting measures that would violate civil rights, human rights, natural justice, our identity as a people, sovereignty as a nation and dignity as human being. It this regard it will be critical to highlight the principles being violated by the wanton use of U.S. military might and economic power. The stick needs to be exposed for what it is a naked instrument of coercion devoid of moral content.
Second, we have to make sure that our hands are clean with respect to the particular situation in which the stick is applied. In this regard, our Government needs to open the books and accounts to the people so that nothing is being hidden or kept as confidential. This means that as a matter of principle and policy the oppositions parties and the people must be given full access to all the information surrounding the issues being contested. The immunity that Parliament enjoys must be used to inform the Jamaican people, without the muzzles of slander and libel being used to protect various vested interests or well-placed individuals.
Third, as a people, we must have the courage and be prepared to take the licks by these various sticks. If we do not have the courage or are not prepared for the blows for the sake of the moral principles then we will destroy ourselves as a people as we sell out for fleeting satisfaction from the mess of pottage of aid and other material benefits.
Fourth, design and implement innovative and effective strategies to inform the mass of Americans of what their Government is doing in their name and with the power that they have given it.
Spiritual resistance is the greatest power possessed by the weak. Throughout history, spiritual resistance has been the only means by which small, weak and virtually defenseless people have survived the reckless and wanton of power by those possessing great military might and enormous economic strength. Put another way, throughout history mighty kingdoms and empires have destroyed themselves by using their might and power to crush the weak who have employed spiritual resistance in their defence. There is no reason to believe that if the present office holders of the Federal Government of the U.S. goes down this path, as they seem to be intending to go, they will not suffer the same fate.
One of the great features of the United States is the influence and power of ordinary people and the layers of democracy that exists. It is unlikely that the immoral use of power by the Federal Government can be contained only to external use. Consequently, in time those officeholders will be removed and replaced. Our salvation will reside in their removal.
One of the great assets of the Jamaica and the Caribbean is there is sizeable population of its nationals and their descendants living in the U.S. In taking the path of spiritual resistance it will be imperative to mobilise Jamaicans and Caribbean people in the U.S. to both become more involved in U.S. politics as well as to become messengers to the wider American population with respect to the abuses of power being used against friendly and weak Caribbean nations. In addition, there are several others section of the U.S. citizenry with whom we will need to establish contact and common cause.
This is not a quick solution devoid of pain and suffering. Its a medium to long-term approach which involves taking the blows in the short term and using the wounds as principal means of defeating those who inflict them. Initially, one should expect that the propaganda of the Federal Government would prevail. However, in the face of courageous spiritual resistance and a well-sustained appeal to the American grassroots the tide should turn in the medium to long-term.
To those who would say this approach is airy-fairy, I wish to make three observations. First, it will be virtually impossible to comply with all that the Federal Government is going to require of us as it employs the numerous sticks. With the best will in the world, we are going to fall short on several requirements thus having to face the licks in several instances. Second, to attempt to do everything that is demanded will be to destroy any sense of being a people or of being sovereignty or of maintaining dignity or justice. What is at stake is being a distinct and self-respecting people. Third, while in the medium term the U.S. may cease to be a global power, it will certainly be a hemispheric power for the foreseeable future. It is imperative for us to develop a strategy for dealing with this assertive and supposedly friendly giant that resides just outside our doorsteps.