Finding Ourselves in the Dark

A floading river in St AndrewA few days ago Hurricane Sandy blew threw Jamaica pulling down trees, light posts and occasionally lives as she went. Having teamed up with other weather conditions to become a superstorm, she’s now wreaking havoc in the US, seemingly bent on imitating  the film The Day After Tomorrow. As far as damages go, Jamaica has certainly weathered worse, and our hearts go out to those in North America, especially in those states where they’re nor really used to this hurricane thing. And after the storm, after we’ve begun to pick up the pieces, is one of the hardest parts to deal with. And no, I’m not talking about picking up the windswept, water soaked pieces our dealing with the major loss, I’m talking about life without electricity.

After a hurricane it’s usual for the powers that be or their pretentious pals to tell us how much was lost. They calculate the loss of property and how much the repair will cost. But what they never measure is the impact of the loss of “light”. Today, being plugged in isn’t so metaphoric. Most of us are glued to at least one glowing screen for most of the day, sometimes two or three at a time switching from laptop, to phone, to tablet. So now the loss of power takes on a whole new light.

As ridiculous as I find the characters on that new drama Revolution, you can’t help but wonder what we would do if the power goes for too long. Even here in the Caribbean where the loss of electricity comes with the territory, these days, after a few hours of no electricity we get a little flustered trying to remember what we used to do when the power went. Heck some of us who turned to Kindle for our reading pleasure suddenly realize the value of a hardcopy book (assuming it didn’t get wet).

Faced with all the damage that comes in the wake of a storm, it’s hard to think of any positives.  But the truth is, storms strip us bare, giving us a chance to look at ourselves beyond the electric glare. They remind us that when the power goes and separates us from our thousands (or in my case tens) of twitter followers hanging on to our every retweet, all we are left with are the people in our real lives, not our virtual one.

It also gives us a chance to get back to the basics and allow a few of those ole time sinting to come back, if only for a little while. When you’re stuck with your family in the dark, you’ll either have to kill them or talk to them. Hopefully you’ll choose the talking (it’s a lot less messy). Technology has brought so much to modern life, that we kind of forget what it has also taken. The truth of the matter is, emoticons can’t replace emotions, and my following you on twitter or stalking you on Facebook is not quite the same as a check in to see how you’re really doing, because you’re status update might not capture everything. With the myriad of social media now available to us, we’re always so connected that we can’t see the disconnect.

So after Sandy has huffed and puffed, and especially if she hasn’t blown your house down, note that she might leave you standing in the dark, cold and internet-less, but hopefully you’re not alone. So take the time to find yourself and those around you. The morning after a storm is always beautiful. It’s as though nature is reminding us that we can rebuild, regroup and eventually retweet.

Ballad of Sixty Five

“We heard the boom boom boom of the drums and the high, thin voices of the fifes as Deacon Bogle marched down from the north on Morant Bay town. We heard it in the morning that had suddenly become still. The noise of the sea had fallen away from the oncoming drums as if the waves had not been roaring at all.” Vic Reid, Sixty Five

Interpretations of Paul Bogle

The faces of Paul Bogle

Today, October 11, 2012 marks the 145th anniversary of the Morant Bay Rebellion when Paul Bogle and the people of Stony Gut rose up against injustice. It is his spirit, as it is the spirit of Nanny, Tacky and Sam Sharpe, the willingness to rebel, to refuse to die in “an inglorious lot” that has made Jamaica the country that it is, and more importantly, the country that it can become.

In tribute, I invoke the words of Alma Norma’s ‘Sixty Five’

The roads are rocky and the hills are steep,
The macca stretches and the gully’s deep.
The town is far, news travels slow.
And the mountain men have far to go.

Bogle took his cutlass at Stony Gut
And looked at the small heap of food he’d got
And he shook his head, and his thoughts were sad,
‘You can wuk like a mule but de crop still bad.’

Bogle got his men and he led them down
Over the hills to Spanish Town,
They chopped their way and they made a track
To the Governor’s house. But he sent them back.

As they trudged back home to Stony Gut
Paul’s spirit sank with each bush he cut,
For the thought of the hungry St Thomas men
Who were waiting for the message he’d bring to them.

They couldn’t believe that he would fail
And their anger rose when they heard his tale.
Then they told Paul Bogle of Morant Bay
And the poor man fined there yesterday.

Then Bogle thundered, ‘This thing is wrong.
They think we weak, but we hill en strong.
Rouse up yourself. We’ll march all night
To the Vestry house, and we’ll claim our right.’

The Monday morning was tropic clear
As the men from Stony Gut drew near,
Clenching their sticks in their farmer’s hand
To claim their rights in their native land.

Oh many mourned and many were dead
That day when the vestry flames rose red.
There was chopping and shooting and when it done
Paul Bogle and the men knew they had to run.

They ran for the bush were they hoped to hide
But the soldiers poured in from Kingston side.
They took their prisoners to Morant Bay
Where they hanged them high in the early day.

Paul Bogle died but his spirit talks
Anywhere in Jamaica that freedom walks,
Where brave men gather and courage thrills
As it did in those days in St Thomas hills.