Comments, if not shouting matches, quarrels online and on air framed as discussion misguidedly have ensued on social media especially since as to how to address this disturbing trend of women being killed for the slightest thing but what is supposed to be a solutions seeking activity seems to have morphed into angry men who call talk shows blasting women’s’ groups and feminists for being too sensitive and that all lives should matter whether they are men or women, some also suggest that some of the women deserve what they get as they should be submissive and are too emboldened and they cause men to supposedly lose it. This is a slight take off from the American ‘all lives matter’ campaign which was to designed to neutralize the ‘black lives matter’ campaign after the series of murders of black men by police and the unfair harassment of African American men more so than other races. But there is something else that has come to the fore which forced me to prepare this post.
A disturbing narrative laced with deep mistrust that has made itself front and center by talk show hosts, public commentators, and print media in letters to the editor and on social media. Some women’s groups and their supporters in particular are the target of the criticisms if not castigation but other human rights groups are also targeted and named as well, this feelings in some circles have always been around which is one of the reasons not much has been achieved on the ‘gay rights’ front in terms of public advocacy and the all important crisis communications; the latter requires so much work and healing it is not funny as if the public or sections of it do not believe that the loudest voices are telling the truth then one can scream from now to the next millennia you won’t change their minds and advocacy will be seen as an imposition on others and that homophobia is justified. Antigay religious fanatics have been the loudest voices leading that charge of hidden hand in the dark seeking to impose some nastiness on the nation and these misguided groups still do have influence on a large group of Jamaicans who seem more servile to the narrative than anything else without analysing what they are being asked to subscribe to or believe.
Social media has its place and can make reaching larger audiences way easier bearing in mind where we have come from in the days when traditional media refused such as the now ‘friendly’ Gleaner and indeed tabloids as the Star (owned by the new conglomerate of TVJ et al) to publish press releases or carry tolerant and or balanced items on homosexuality but the seeming over reliance on the new media platforms in the present reality often with some appearance of arrogance and barring any real world follow up only further complicates matters; real world action usually via the proverbial ‘workshop’ are done in comfortable settings such as hotels of university campuses well away from the location of the problems or in privilege which feeds the very mistrust that is the obstacle to change and not in the spaces that may require those interventions. As the women’s groups and indeed LGBT ones as well as one new outfit in particular is the main dartboard for the ‘fire’ the subtext says that these newer groups online cannot be trusted as they coin the latest buzzwords, launch hashtags, run online campaigns but have no impact on the ground in the real world.
They put themselves in line for grant aid funding as they have the foreign grantors in their pockets and attach themselves to causes real or imagined, small or embellished so as to embarrass Jamaica and force us to change our ways and impose foreign values. The latest voice to join the throng in that department was Dennis Broox of Nationwide 90FM as he sat in for Cliff Hughes who was ill on his “Cliff Hughes Online Show” Mr Broox was not so terse as the other commentators such as a certain opposition MP and a man of the cloth who recently returned to radio show hosting on Power 106FM but Mr Broox said that he did not like how some groups are using the whole gender based or intimate partner violence buzzwords to simply get access to grant aid funding which struck me, he never named the groups in question but the usual suspects come to mind such as the 51% Coalition, WE-Change and Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) to name a few as they have developed a bad reputation in the minds of many while launching all kinds of online campaigns they seem not to have any real effect on the ground so the cynicism comes out every time they do. Problem is that these groups are so busy often time on social media that they miss the mistrust formed about them and one wonders sometimes where they find time for real work with real people.
This business of trust or the lack thereof is something that has concerned me from my very entry into rights work and volunteerism especially in the early days of LGBT work since 1996; the hue and cry has and continue to be that gay groups are lying about homophobia to gain foreign support and that so called homophobic murders or violence are simply crimes of passion or lovers’ quarrels gone bad for the most part.
It is really said that mistrust is still so high when trust is the glue or supposed to be the key ingredient but with a social media which aids but also poisons the goals and objectives then there are those who get carried away by mirroring, complacency and comfort in social media often unfettered and improperly managed with hashtag campaign that some think can make a universal difference; we must remember that the vast majority of Jamaicans are still not on social media and are locked into deeply comforting and justified old feelings driven by phobia and indeed hatred; real work with real people is still the most effective means of making change, face to face is still the best way especially in a world of permitted if not accepted deceit, falsehoods, bettered or altered versions of oneself on social media it is going to be difficult to penetrate some of that with just plain truth and honesty, so some resort to partaking in the farce to gain acceptance and a following. Besides despite social media’s impact on Jamaica figures show us that it is not the panacea as some want us to believe, yes more and more younger cohort of Jamaicans are using the platforms but the vast numbers of us are not even online with a basic Facebook profile let alone the others. Therefore we can conclude a lot of the campaigns really may only target and reach the converted while the campaigns fly over the heads of who are to be the intended targets.
I have said it before and I’ll say it again hashtags/tweets only last as they are allowed to and are mostly forgotten the moment another one replaces them and become short lived often not revisited as the latest hype takes over and a desire to conform drives the said short lived interest, therefore no learning and retention of what has been dispensed can be of any lasting value in order to effect contemplation and real behaviour change; hashtagging also appears to be becoming monotonous so many persons either un-follow some groups, effectively disconnecting or do not value or have long attention spans to the efforts, a point made by a media manager recently at a forum I attended. The campaign can be major turns off so, persons literally turn off on groups by discontinuing notifications to emails or their phones just to avoid the perceived annoyance. Then there is an appearance of arrogance that comes with the persons behind some of the groups due to the frequency of the posts and tweets, the choice of buzzwords & phrases plus the comments thereafter and again the mirroring phenomenon where the proverbial patting on the back ‘good job’ sentiments. Then there is the feeling by audience members of a prescriptive imperative which may be needed in some respects to force thinking towards change but it may sting of the said arrogance so it is resisted and not seen as an invitation to consider suggestions when they are made.
The very launch of that so called peace initiative in western Jamaica in a so called bid to address crimes lotto scam related was laughable in a sense. The actual launch complete with celebrities who lend their names was not done in the actual communities where it really matters where the killings and fear exist but at a five star hotel where the very residents might not be even able to pay for a night let alone a cupcake if they desired it; yet we expect to make change on the outside or in comfortable zones while expecting results. At least the church groups in March Pen alongside the Peace Management Initiatives PMI folks after those awful killings earlier this year they launched an initiative right there in the heart of the conflict in the geography where it matters most as gangs jostle for power and not at some fancy hotel as one has to be in it to win it not outside and then expect penetration afterwards to solve issues. The hotel launch was heavily criticized which also helps to feed into the mistrust that bedevils advocacy of any sort on social media as well and basically dismissed the moment as a grand show and media hype and that not much will emerge after to begin to adequately address the root causes, it made news as some suggest and I agree that location is everything including how the launch is done; that however is one part, the follow up work is next and how much money is left after salaries and administrative costs are tallied and paid out which usually end up ending and starving the efforts/initiatives in the final analysis sometimes well before the priority or scheduled dates.
The church groups in Montego Bay and other parts in western Jamaica also made sure that the marches and initiatives were done in the very geography where it matters albeit they are seen as hypocrites by some including Christians as they reactionary than proactive and while the marches and outdoor services have a psychological effect some are skeptical that as before we have these cycles, there are marches and then the thrust whittles away as the crime drops and persons find themselves in a false sense of security.
It is going to be difficult to shake off some of this belief that some NGOs and outfits are only there to use issues to enrich themselves via grant aid and with little tangible results to show in the eyes of many that only cements the mistrust in the national psyche. The reality in NGO work is that funding is always a challenge and qualifying for same can be challenging as grantors do not just dole out funds like that but how it is done and how the work appears to the public is not reassuring confidence on a larger scale; that lingering mistrust is often thrown most unfairly at others who do similar work. The very homeless MSM/transgender matter was not spared the castigation as persons like Mutabaruka have asked and are still asking why aren’t popular and powerful gay groups who get shed loads of funding seem not wanting to address their own or words to that effect. That PMI and others highly publicized press conference is another such example with the UK high commission in 2015 on MSM/transgender homelessness albeit the very homeless were absent (yet again) and not given voice with the very member of parliament in attendance yet no help can seem to come to the populations yet still after so many years of grief in New Kingston proper for the past twenty plus years of the problem. Perception is everything in the world of behaviour and legislative change; there is no way around it and truth is slowly dying or is in trouble if we believe change can come otherwise; even if it does it will be fleeting and not long lasting.
Think on these things
Peace & tolerance
Oh to change hearts and minds