Cry justice!

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Peter Tosh said, “I don’t want no peace; I want equal rights and justice.” The American Civil Rights Movement adopted a similar position with its rallying cry of, “NO JUSTICE! NO PEACE!” Seems, the word ‘justice’ is now being affixed to every cause du jour.  For example, there is ‘social justice,’ ‘racial justice,’ ‘political justice,’ ‘climate justice,’ ‘animal justice’ (see the killing of Harambe the gorilla at the Cincinnati zoo in 2016, and the killing of Cecil the lion at the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe in 2015), ‘environmental justice’ and ‘economic justice.’ 

Ah, ‘economic justice!’ That is the focus of our offering for today, because it is so critically important. You see, whether it be the rape of the world’s resources for the benefit of a few, or the resistance of multi-billion dollar companies, like McDonald’s, to pay their workers a few measly dollars more, or the continued exploitation of factory workers by multi-national corporations in places like Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka, the reality is that the world’s economic system is unjust. From Wall Street to Main Street to Back Street and Market Street; in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Guyana, millions of people feel disenfranchised and untethered to a decent standard of living. Bernie Sanders refers to these down-and-out folks as ‘the 99 percent.’               

Too many people in our countries live one paycheck away from destitution – can’t save a dime! Every blessed cent that they earn goes to keeping the lights on and putting food on the table. They see no way out! Actually, many choose to migrate to other countries, like Antigua, to work as maids, garbage collectors, yard workers, waitresses and prostitutes. Many turn to a life of crime. Yes, the reality here in our fair state is that some of our crime is now being committed by dead-ender expatriates. In their effort to escape grinding poverty, little or no education, (perhaps the result of the poverty) and drug-dealing and indiscriminate violence, they have migrated to our shores and the shores of other countries – bringing with them a host of ills.  Many countries around the world are now seeking ways to limit or control these insidious influxes that take an enormous toll on the resources of the host countries. (See Sir Ron Sanders’ guest editorial in yesterday’s paper).

In light of the much-ballyhooed ECLAC (Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean) report about a projected 5.9% GDP growth for Antigua and Barbuda, there is much rejoicing in officialdom and renewed talk about Antigua as an ‘Economic Powerhouse.’ All well and good! Except that many people are not feeling that economic power. They are not feeling particularly empowered. We make no apologies for the criminal element, but the recent spate of home burglaries, car break-ins, a car-jacking and some muggings, are as sure a sign as any that the economic boom, to the extent that there is one, is not producing the desired results.

So rather than smugly ‘high-fiving’ ourselves, we ought to be taking a second look at how we can have a ‘bottom-up’ type of growth rather than a ‘trickle-down’ sort, because it is manifest that not much is trickling down to the bottom 99%. Beneath the seemingly prosperous surface, there are thousands of people living from hand to mouth. Many folks have to hustle at two or three jobs to keep their heads above water. It is not a pretty picture! Seems, Short Shirt’s song, UNITY, is still as relevant today as when he first sang it some 40-plus years ago: “In our struggle against poverty and strife, oppression and our fight for human rights / We’ve got to create a new synthesis, a new order and guide / The whole enterprise system has failed, the poor of this country catching their tail / It’s only de elites who control Market Street will tell you, ‘Life is sweet!’” Let’s not lull ourselves into a false complacency simply because a few privileged folks can afford to make their “Pussy cats nyam salad,” as one ranking member of officialdom purportedly bragged about how good things were in his constituency. (Only for his party loyalists, of course).

 We have submitted in the past, and we still do now, that the voices for ‘economic justice’ must never be silent!  King Short Shirt agrees with us when he says, “Gird up your loins, ever vigilant be, to curb injustice, graft and vagrancy.” In ANTIGUA IS FOR ALL ANTIGUANS, he continues the call with these pointed words, “The investors are welcome here to stay with us / Just as long as they know who is boss . . . / They should never think that their money give them the right to control we / They are benefitting from the profits that they make / Why should they want to take de whole cake?”   The biblical prophet, Amos, provides the answer to that last question when he says, “Let judgment (justice) run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream!” We find for the poor and the dispossessed! Let justice be served against poverty!

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