Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Gang Culture's History in Jamaica and it's link to Black American Culture

The world today is like a monstrous machine, grinding everything into a homogeneous paste, leaving no room for diversity, for culture, for individuality. This is especially true for small, struggling countries like Jamaica, where the relentless tide of globalization has washed away our cultural identity, leaving us adrift in a sea of Americanized popular culture.

For decades, Black American culture has been spreading like wildfire across the world, and Jamaica is no exception. With the advent of cable television, the internet, and other modern technologies, the global village has come into being, drawing the black diaspora closer and closer together. As a result, Jamaican culture has been supplanted and usurped by Black American music, movies, and media.

In "Globalization, Media, and the Culture Wars in Jamaica" by Brian Moeran, the author examines the ways in which the globalization of media has influenced the culture and politics of Jamaica, particularly through the spread of cable television and the influence of American media. The article explores how American media has shaped cultural attitudes and behaviors in Jamaica and contributed to the spread of consumer culture.

Similarly, in "The Impact of Television on the Culture of Jamaica" by Gladstone Taylor, the author examines the influence of television on Jamaican culture, particularly in the 1990s when the country experienced a rapid increase in cable television access. The article discusses how American media has shaped Jamaican cultural norms and values, including attitudes towards gender roles and consumerism.

The globalization of media, including the spread of cable television and American media, has had a significant impact on Jamaican culture and society, particularly in the 1990s. It has been a devastating impact on Jamaica's productivity and cultural output. Our once-vibrant culture, with its rich traditions and unique heritage, has been replaced by a cookie-cutter, homogenized version of Black American culture, with all its bling and bravado, but little of the substance that made our culture great.

There should be more concerns in civil society and government about the negative consequences of the impact of cable and U.S. media on Jamaica, particularly in relation to the potential influence on gang culture. Some scholars have argued that the portrayal of gang violence and criminal behavior in American media, particularly in movies and television shows, may contribute to the glamorization of gang culture and influence the behavior of young people in Jamaica.

For example, in "Youth and Violence in Jamaica: The Influence of Socio-Economic Factors on Perceptions of Violence" by Wendell Wallace, the author notes that the portrayal of violence in American media, particularly in rap music and movies, has contributed to the normalization of violence and the glamorization of gang culture among young people in Jamaica.

Similarly, in "The Effects of American Culture on Jamaican Youth" by Monica Stewart, the author argues that the influence of American media on Jamaican youth has contributed to the spread of gang culture and the normalization of violent behavior.

But this struggle is not new. The relationship with cultural transfer is also made by academics in the United States. Thinkers like Thomas Sowell and Shelby Steele have long argued that cultural differences between Black Americans and Black West Indians are real and significant. They contend that Black West Indians in America were historically more productive than Black Americans, and that this was due to cultural differences rooted in their distinct histories and experiences. Thomas Sowell is an American economist and social theorist who has written extensively on race and culture. Some of his works include "Race and Culture: A World View" (1994) and "Black Rednecks and White Liberals" (2005). While Shelby Steele is an American author, columnist, and documentary filmmaker who has also written about race and culture. Some of his works include "The Content of Our Character: A New Vision of Race In America" (1990) and "White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era" (2006).

Sowell and Steele's theories hold true for Jamaica as well. Our unique cultural heritage, with its fusion of African, European, and Indigenous traditions, gave us a creative and vibrant culture that was the envy of the world. But now, with the relentless onslaught of American popular culture, we have lost much of what made us unique and special. In "Black Rednecks and White Liberals", Thomas Sowell argues that the persistence of cultural factors that hinder black progress can be traced back to the historical experience of African Americans. He contends that many of the negative cultural traits commonly associated with contemporary black Americans, such as a lack of education, high crime rates, and single-parent households, actually have their roots in the culture of the antebellum South.

According to Sowell, the antebellum South had a distinctive culture that was characterized by violence, honor-based values, and a lack of emphasis on education and literacy. These cultural traits were brought over to the United States by white settlers from the British Isles, including Scots-Irish immigrants, who settled in the Southern colonies in large numbers. Sowell argues that this culture was adopted by many African Americans after emancipation, as they sought to assimilate into the larger society.

However, Sowell contends that this culture was not well-suited to the challenges of modern society, and that it has contributed to the persistent poverty and social dysfunction that continues to afflict many black Americans today. He argues that the solution to this problem lies in recognizing the historical roots of these cultural factors, and working to replace them with more productive and adaptive cultural traits.

To compound these academic arguments, consider that the FBI's actions under COINTELPRO had a negative impact on Black culture in America. By targeting Black political organizations and activists, the FBI undermined the efforts of the Black community to fight for their rights and equality. This, in turn, contributed to a climate of fear and mistrust between the Black community and law enforcement, which has persisted to this day. Additionally, the FBI's actions helped to perpetuate negative stereotypes and stigmas about Black activists and organizations, which has had a lasting impact on how Black activism and culture are perceived in American society.

So even when there are attempts at redeeming and repairing the negative aspects of black culture it is befuddle by outside cultures. But the FBI isn't the only agency to muddle in black cultural affairs. There is also the CIA, but where as in the FBI tends to be domestically oriented and focus on the USA, the CIA has been the arm of USA's interference overseas and the police of it's foreign policy.

It would be hard to argue that there aren't certainly some similarities between the actions of the FBI and the CIA in terms of their impact on Black communities and activism. Like the FBI, the CIA has a history of involvement in domestic surveillance and intelligence gathering, often with a focus on political dissidents and civil rights organizations. For example, the CIA's Operation CHAOS was a secret domestic surveillance program that monitored anti-war activists and other political dissidents in the 1960s and 1970s.

However, the CIA's operations are primarily focused on foreign intelligence and covert actions, and as such, their impact on domestic Black activism may not be as direct as that of the FBI. That being said, the CIA's involvement in various foreign conflicts and interventions has certainly had an impact on Black communities both in the US and abroad. For example, the CIA's support for anti-communist forces in Africa during the Cold War led to the destabilization of many African nations, which in turn had a negative impact on Black communities in those countries.

Gang violence has been a persistent problem in Black American communities since the early 20th century, with the emergence of notorious street gangs such as the Bloods and the Crips in the 1960s and 1970s. These gangs primarily originated in Los Angeles, California, and their activities and influence have since spread throughout the United States.

On the other hand, gang violence in Jamaica gained prominence in the 1970s, with the emergence of politically affiliated gangs such as the Shower Posse and the Spanglers. While gang activity in Jamaica may have begun earlier, it was not until the 1970s that it became a widespread and visible problem.

"Gang Violence in the Caribbean: Understanding the Current State of Affairs" by Randy Seepersad and Ryan Lee discusses the prevalence of gang violence in the Caribbean region and its impact on social and economic development. The article highlights the transnational nature of gang activity and notes that many gangs in the Caribbean have links to gangs in the United States.

Similarly, "Transnational Gangs in the Caribbean: Assessing the Threat to the United States" by Robert Bunker and John Sullivan examines the connections between gangs in the Caribbean and the United States, including the role of drug trafficking and the impact of gang violence on local communities.

Music has played a significant role in gang culture, particularly in terms of identity formation and expression. Gang members often use music as a means of expressing their experiences and perspectives, and to assert their identity as members of a particular gang or community. In this sense, music can be seen as a way for gang members to communicate their values, beliefs, and experiences to others.

Hip hop and rap music have roots in Jamaica's reggae and dancehall music, which played a significant role in their development. During the 1970s, Jamaican sound systems and DJs popularized the practice of "toasting," a style of rhythmic chanting or talking over a beat, which became a precursor to rap music.  So you see, music has also been an important part of cultural exchange between different communities, including those associated with gang culture. For example, the influence of Jamaican music on hip hop and rap has been a significant aspect of the cultural exchange between Black American and Jamaican communities. This exchange has not only impacted the development of music, but has also influenced fashion, language, and other aspects of popular culture.

At the same time, music has also been used as a tool for promoting violence and aggression within gang culture. Some gangs use music to promote their violent activities, to intimidate rivals, or to assert their dominance over certain neighborhoods. This can have a negative impact on the broader community, contributing to a culture of fear and violence.

The links between Black American and Jamaican gang violence, particularly in terms of the drug trade have only gotten more intricate with time. Some Jamaican gangs have established drug trafficking networks in the United States, which have resulted in violent conflicts with Black American gangs over control of drug territory. Additionally, there have been instances of Black American gangs collaborating with Jamaican gangs in drug trafficking operations.

The impact of this cultural shift is evident in the decline of our cultural output and productivity. According to a report by the Jamaica Observer, the country's music industry has been in decline for years, with fewer and fewer Jamaican artists achieving international success. This is in stark contrast to the 1970s and 80s, when Jamaican music was a global phenomenon, with artists like Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Jimmy Cliff taking the world by storm.

But it's not just our music industry that is suffering. Jamaica's film industry, once a vibrant and creative force, has also been in decline in recent years. As the American film industry continues to dominate global box office, Jamaican filmmakers struggle to find an audience for their work.

This decline in productivity and cultural output is not inevitable, nor is it irreversible. But it will require a concerted effort by the Jamaican people to reclaim our cultural heritage, to embrace what makes us unique and special, and to resist the homogenizing forces of globalization.

As Arundhati Roy famously said, "Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." It's time for Jamaica to join that world, to reclaim our cultural identity, and to breathe new life into our creative and vibrant culture.


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