Jamaica needs to come out of bunker culture


Throughout Jamaica’s political independence, citizens have been shooting each other, no pun intended, with the bullets of discrimination, social inequity, economic mismanagement, religious denominational turf war, and political polarisation. The consequence is a psychologically and socially wounded nation with groups of citizens naturally isolating themselves in bunkers both for protection and attack. We have constructed bunkers such as garrison communities, middle-class gated communities, religious denominations, domestic/family bunkers, and partisan politics, while aggressively recruiting independent supporters to attack our perceived enemies. This bunker culture is the consequence of decades of unhealed national and family traumas and unresolved conflicts.

The gang warfare accompanied by the high murder rate is a microcosm of a society at war with itself. Failure to address the traumas and the conflicts create a fertile soil for escalation fear and mistrust. As fear hardens, it expands and becomes less of a protective barrier and more of a solidifying division. It forces its way down in the gaps and tears apart our social foundation … (Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness). The social fabric of the society reflects a war zone. We are a nation which “divided against itself shall not stand” (Matthew 12:25).

Major General Anderson hints at a suitable solution when he calls for greater investment in dispute resolution in families. Because Anderson fails to realise the entrenched nature of the Bunker Culture and Mentality of the nation, he limits dispute resolutions only to families. But it has to be a national and strategic agenda to engage in honest, frank and tough conversations on unresolved and complex issues towards consensus. As dispute resolution occurs at the grassroots level, it needs to also happen at the national level, and be promoted to spark a national buy-in similar to the Free Education or the Breast Is Best campaigns in the 1970s. International ‘tough conversation’ such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions of South Africa and Canada dealing with apartheid and the legacy of Indian Residential Schools respectively are models to imitate.

As the nation avoids tough conversations there is a concomitant increase in social, religious and political polarisation and violence. Our two political parties, for example, have had the opportunity to face each other in tough conversations on crime and corruption. I argue that their failure, among others, has resulted in the persistent increase in violent crimes and other social malaise. As long as we feed this bunker culture, we will continue on the slippery slope towards a failed state as is evident in our neighbour, Haiti.

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