Sun | Feb 28, 2021

Christopher Serju | Mental enslavement and ghetto yout

Published:Thursday | January 23, 2020 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju/Guest Columnist

A striking portrayal of the entrenched thinking that has retarded any hope of the much-needed civic-mindedness to lift our society out of the marshland of loutish behaviour in which we have been mired since Independence especially was published in our sister paper The Star on Wednesday, January 15.

It detailed the problems of a roadside mechanic in Havana, Arnett Gardens, Kingston, who was being persecuted by the municipal authorities for operating in open defiance of the law without any regard to city rules and regulations.

The issue as outlined by ‘Grease Man’, who was moved to tears at the sight of municipal employees impounding vehicles which he was contracted to repair, was that the authorities were unreasonable and he was being targeted in the ongoing fight against ‘ghetto yout’.

According to The Star report, Grease Man admitted that he had received written notices from last year to remove the vehicles or risk having them impounded.

“Dem did notify me … me get one a di notice dem. Di minister did come and talk to we in December and seh by January we nuh fi lef no vehicle pon the road,” he said.

Despite this, the mechanic declared that he was still anticipating a ‘heads up’ from the Ministry of Transport before they took the kind of action they did, and which he insisted was simply because he was a trying youth from the inner city.

“Dem nuh come Monday come sey, ‘We a give you two day ... we a come Tuesday or Wednesday’. Dem just come in suh? Tru we a ghetto youth?”

In absence of any information detailing his history of intellectual disability, readers like myself are left to believe that Grease Man was a capable businessman with the capacity to get rational people to entrust their valuable motor vehicles into his care for extended periods. I am therefore left to wonder what kind of aliens could have invaded his mind and supplanted his brain with the warped mentality that after giving written notices, and following up with a personal visit from the transport minister, that the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation had an obligation, again, to apprise him of its intention to clean up the streets.

Sadly, Grease Man is not alone in his deluded thinking, but rather representative of Jamaicans, such as the vendors in downtown Kingston who recently clashed with the authorities who tried to remove them from areas they had been allowed to vend in for the duration of Yuletide season – which had long ended.


It is the same kind of thinking that facilitates the accumulation of large swathes of garbage in communities which become breeding grounds for rodents and mosquitoes, as well as havens for John crows; where children and the elderly, especially, are at risk, but where activities in the entire community continue with residents unbothered by the everyday obvious hazards to health, sanity and peace of mind.

Jamaicans have become accustomed to this kind of existence that even when they move into upgraded or regularised communities – with more spacious housing units with light, water, electricity, proper sewerage system and regular garbage collection – the area soon deteriorates into a ghetto, despite all its upscale trappings.

Their inability to make the transition to an improve living standard, despite the better facilities, is in my humble opinion because they remain shackled to a perception that to do otherwise would be a betrayal to their roots. I happen to know though, and thousands of Jamaicans demonstrate every day, that roots germinated in poverty and pollinated by decency, manners and education can bear good fruits. However, if watered and fertilised by the kind of thinking “a thru we a ghetto” articulated by Grease Man, then sadly, Marley’s lyrics from the seminal song, Concrete Jungle, will continue to be true and relevant for a very long time.

No chains around my feet

But I’m not free

I know I am bounded in captivity”.

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