October 1, 2006

John Maxwell: Jamaica at Another Crossroad

John MaxwellWhen I was in sixth form at Jamaica College, nearly all of my friends idolized the journalist, John Maxwell. He was brilliant, feisty, and didn’t suffer fools lightly. Whenever we would get into heated discussions about Michael Manley or socialism, one of my friends, Herbert Nelson, would imitate Maxwell’s mannerisms from the television show, “Firing Line.” Herbert would hold his pen the way Maxwell held his cigar in his right hand, and brush back his hair with his left hand, with the same air of frustration that Maxwell had when an interviewee tried to evade his questions.

Mr. Maxwell has written a very interesting article in the Jamaica Observer about bauxite mining in Jamaica which begins: “There are some places which should be left untouched, some wild places, some serene and tranquil places, some mountains, some forests, some lakes, woods, some ruins.”

As usual, the balance is between economic progress and a healthy ecology. God knows we need both. I fear we may bow to the economic pressure and destroy a precious part of Jamaica’s history and landscape because many (even my former classmates) don’t feel any connection to the land in Jamaica I know, I used to feel that way. But before I left Jamaica and before my mother sold her car, I went on a tour every weekend to at least two parishes until I covered the entire island. I wanted to know all I could about Jamaica before I left. When I told some of my friends about my trek, they looked at me as if I was crazy while others offered advice, “Geoff, you haffi go to St. Thomas. With your brown skin, if you cough, the women will say yes [to sex].”

An unfortunate legacy of colonialism in Jamaica is that some view the land through the eyes of the colonialists: a natural resource that should be exploited for maximum value. And because of the history of slavery in Jamaica, some of us see the land as cursed. Every time we see it, all we can feel is pain. It’s like seeing an old lover who has changed, but every time you see her all you can think about is the person who broke your heart. Jamaica’s that way. And she’s gotten even more beautiful over the years.



FSJL said...

Maxwell has fought, often almost alone, for decades to protect Jamaica's environment. That environment is a lot more fragile than most people realise. He and Vivian Blake managed to save Hope Gardens from being turned into upper-class housing, but PJ gave the developers a chunk of Long Mountain -- damaging a lot of precious green space and destroying pre-Columbian settlement sites. John gets positively sulphurous about that, as he should.

Geoffrey Philp said...

I think Maxwell has become the conscience of the nation and perhaps the Caribbean.
What a fighter! True Xango.