On my return in 1971 from five years exile in England my friends seemed to think I needed to be re-introduced to Jamaica.
They were right. My first shock was downtown Kingston, which resembled parts of Berlin as it was then. In 1966, when I went to Berlin, there were huge gaps in the cityscape caused by Allied military action – by aircraft or tanks during the Second World War.
Kingston's wounds were caused by friendly fire, the work of the misnamed Ministry of Development and Welfare and the equally oxymoronic Urban Development Corporation.
Between them, forty years ago, they were going to turn Kingston into a tropical Miami with all mod cons. Instead of proceeding one building or one block at a time, Mr Edward Seaga and Mr Moses Matalon were going to transform the city, overnight. Boom! Another one gone!
As we drove through the silent ruins of Port Royal Street, ~Harbour Street, Rumbo Lane, Little Port Royal Street and South Street, something strange began to happen. Whenever we stopped the car by some derelict building so that I could try to envisage what had been, suddenly into the headlights erupted hordes of little boys, scuttling like rats or cockroaches in every direction, running as fast as their meagre legs would carry them.
"Why are they running?" I asked.
"They think we're the police, come to catch them and beat them up."
This was new to me. I had written a great deal about police brutality before being forced to take my talents elsewhere, but I hadn't heard, till then, of the police hunting children.
About three years later, when Mr Eli Matalon was Minister of National Security, I embarrassed him and Michael Manley's government by asking the Minister on television, what he planned to do with the dozens of children then being brutalised in police lock-ups. He said he wasn't aware of that situation. When I provided him with some facts about the police lockup a couple of hundred yards from the JBC studios – "the Black Hole of Halfway Tree" – he promised to get the children out of the lock-ups. A few years later, again on TV, I asked the then Minister of Youth and Community Development, Douglas Manley the question I'd asked Matalon. He actually had been moving children out of lockups and into places of safety. The problem was that the system had not been designed to deal with 'trickle-down' development.
The police fish-pots kept trapping the small fry.
Two weeks ago, the Miami Herald carried one of the saddest stories I've ever read.
" At age 7, Gabriel Myers was already well on his way to becoming a sexual predator.
'He had exposed himself to classmates. He had kissed another boy. And his uncle warned child-welfare administrators Gabriel had described what he wanted to do with several little girls at his Christian private school.
'Gabriel, who may himself have been sexually molested by another boy in Ohio before moving to South Florida, had been on several strong psychiatric drugs before he hanged himself last week at a Margate foster home. "
One of the Herald's readers posted a comment that expressed much of what I felt when I read the story –
"Shame on The Miami Herald for allowing this defamatory piece of trash to post. This poor child who was utterly failed by most if not all in his life is now being further victimized in his death. This disgusts me and I will cancel my subscription. We treat animals more humanely than you have this child. I hope you will write more to uncover what travesty lead to this untimely death which I would hardly term a suicide. A child who has barely been on this earth a few years and was in the care of the state for less than a year is tragically gone due to circumstances that were not at all within his control. You have left me angered and disappointed ."
"Wow. So, a seven year old child "kills himself" after behaving in a manner strongly suggestive of severe abuse ... and the Miami Herald devotes an entire article to the most salacious details of the kid's sexual misbehavior? A molested seven year old's 'suicide' is mentioned once -- as a small-print caption, no less -- though there's somehow enough article space to reference his "list of touchable classmates" twice?
"This is sensationalistic journalism at its absolute sickest. You are preying on a dead child to drum up web traffic. "
The Los Angeles Times in June last year reported
"Police said the women routinely beat the boy, [the child of one of them] forced him to put his hands on a hot stove, burned his body and genitals with cigarettes and often would not let him eat or drink.
'At a news conference Friday, LAPD Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell said that because of the burns from the stove, the boy no longer can open his hands.
Lt. Vincent Neglia of the LAPD's Abused Child Unit said in a statement Saturday that the abuse was "akin to a level of torture we hope our military personnel would never encounter."
Three weeks ago the Times of London reported
"An 11-year-old boy was left fighting for his life and his 9-year-old friend was found bleeding from head to toe after being attacked and tortured by other children. The boys' attackers demanded mobile phones, money and trainers. When they refused they were said to have been burnt with cigarettes, cut with a knife and beaten with bricks. Two boys aged 10 and 11 have been arrested."
The Infinite evil of Infants
Fifty years ago, after completing her masterwork, "My Mother Who Fathered Me", Edith Clarke began research into social conditions in the slums of Kingston. She hadn't been able to complete the research for lack of funds, but she was uncovering a toxic stew of sexual and other physical abuse of girls and boys, mainly by itinerant 'stepfathers'.
It is of course almost impossible to get any reliable estimates of violence against children and young people especially since the victimisation of boys is concealed by homophobia and other fundamentalist lunacies. It is suggestive however, that one survey carried out in relation to campaigns against HIV, found that in the parish of St Ann 16 percent, more than one in six teenage boys had contemplated or attempted suicide. In the case of girls one Caribbean victimization survey revealed that 48 percent of adolescent girls' sexual initiation was "forced" or "somewhat forced" in nine Caribbean countries (Halcon et al., 2003).
People like those who drafted our latest sexual offences act appear to believe, like their cohorts all over the Christian world, that children are born evil and are simply awaiting the opportunity to demonstrate their satanic proclivities.
In Britain a few months ago, the case of "Baby P" – horrifically mistreated to death –created a huge stink, eventually resolved by finding a convenient scapegoat, the head of children's services in the London borough of Haringey.
She was named, shamed and fired, but the real author of the scandal is even now being honored – Margaret Thatcher who, with Ronald Reagan, led the western world into its terminal heresy – "there is no such thing as society" and the idea that government is the problem, never the solution. The social workers have never been given the resources they need and in places like Miami, the state transfers its responsibilities to private, so called non-profit enterprises whose humanity is expressed in religious education and prescription psychotropic drugs
To these bozos and their acolytes like Tony Blair and Bill Clinton, the real problem is the sturdy beggars who won't work and expect the world to take care of them.
Their principals, salting away their ill gotten gains in Cayman, Bermuda and similar criminal laundromats, , refuse to pay even the derisory flat taxes imposed by people like Mr Patterson, considering it outrageous that they be asked to contribute to the common good in some proportion to the profits they have gained from exploiting cheap labour and turning human beings into units of human resources'.
The medieval poor laws were in some ways in advance of modern capitalist behaviour. Although "sturdy beggars" could be jailed, whipped and even hanged, the society recognised that there was a case to be made to help those who could not help themselves.
In our societies. it is simpler to warehouse in prison, half a million black, poor, handicapped or otherwise 'sub-normal' people and to dose their women and children with psychotropic drugs to keep them from breaching the peace.
At the age of seven, little Gabriel Myers opted out.
Copyright©2009 John Maxwell