A friend insists The Godfather is the best movie ever made.
I’d seen this movie long ago and wasn’t convinced. For me, it was a simple story chronicling the life of a poor Sicilian Immigrant Don Vito Corleone – whose only available option was to use favours to protect his fellow immigrants and, incidentally, to build an Empire of vast wealth. Eventually, people in established positions of power owed him so many favours that he controlled them. Anyone reluctant to bend to his will would receive “an offer he can’t refuse”.
You watch the Godfather once in a lifetime I exclaimed. But my friend practically forced me to watch it again. So I did. This time I saw a completely different movie. All of a sudden I realized I’m living in a Godfather sequel. Jamaica has become a country of power brokers leveraging connections to church leaders, police high command, Cabinet Ministers, politicians, businessmen and criminal Dons and not only to obtain illegal light. Citizens quickly learn to latch onto people with status content to be mere foot soldiers while their “leaders” are “generals”.
Members of Parliament become mother, father, boss lady and, yes, in some instances, Godfather. In today’s Jamaica the power to control the mindset of people with low self-esteem and economic potential is the currency that has tipped the scales of justice unfairly by bludgeoning many of our people into acquiescence, vulgarity and vengeance as a way of life. For many of our people “lucrative opportunities” are unattainable unless somehow connection to the power brokers can be arranged. Those who can’t exercise that power, or find a Godfather who can, often fall through society’s cracks. They are called “unattached” and treated as miscreants; misfits; deviants or lumpen. They are statistics to be rounded up, segregated, preventatively detained or socially crucified.
It started me thinking of the Vybz Kartel issue all over again and the predicament into which my country’s decency has been plunged. VybzKartel has built an Empire out of the same type of currency as did Don Vito. He is the Godfather to the Gaza Empire one built on musical talent, fear, violence and vulgarity. Gaza loyalists threaten death to anyone who dares contradict their Godfather’s authenticity, relevance or authority. This is not a new culture. It’s developed over generations.
Many years ago when asked what I was going to do after Miss World I told a dear friend in South Africa that I wanted to be a politician. His response was swift and harsh “Lisa, always remember it’s easier to buy a politician than to become one” Decades later, Kabaka Pyramid reminds me “Inna yuh face dem a smile up, behind you back a money dem a pile up…well done Mr. Politician.”
People like me are considered thieves, bribe-takers, rule-makers and breakers and abusers of power for self interest. Jamaican politics is considered nasty, brutish, corrupt and sinister by most, at a time when 53% of our population are under 30 years old. They have demoted established positions of authority and elevated their own alternate system of governance.
When I listened to the media reports of his trial, which included weaknesses in the police investigation; and the possibility of jury tampering, Vybz might very well succeed in overturning his conviction on appeal. This doesn’t alter my previously expressed opinions regarding how his most recent releases may have indicated a glorification of criminality by way of corruption of the prison system. I stand by these views. Equally, this does not affect the reality reviewed above. The truth is, the Politician and the Godfather is seen as a part of the same culture of hypocrisy and self promotion. Therefore, in the minds of the 53%, I don’t have the credibility to speak about issues relating to a self made Godfather like Adijah Palmer and for the rest, Mr. Palmer doesn’t have any moral authority to criticize me.
He sings that I’m the “Boss Lady” and for Gaza he is their “World Boss.” We are members of the same generation but leaders of disparate factions in a dysfunctional society. We have an obligation to Jamaica’s future to stop talking at each other and see what we can do together to bring parity and opportunity to all our supporters while returning national discourse to standards of decency and morality. For my part, I’m perfectly willing to meet with Adijah Palmer wherever he may be residing at the time. If I did, I would make him an “offer he can’t refuse.”
I would say to Mr. Palmer “I believe Jamaica needs both of us to use our parallel influence for good. Whether or not you’re acquitted on appeal, I urge you to use your epic talent and absolute control over your vast Empire to create and encourage progressive minds devoid of anti-social behaviour and vengeance. Please ensure your efforts from today forward are geared towards building self-esteem which leads to bridges of unity and national purpose.” In return, my commitment to you will be to reach across the social cracks through which many of our people now disappear and ensure that I honour my obligation to be an agent of change so that none of our people will ever again feel the need to serve Godfathers of any kind. The urgent purpose of my generation must be to repair the social decay and divide caused by decades of neglect by some people in my position. It’ll require a shift in focus to education, discipline, persistence and patriotism. It’s time to press the reset button; overhaul the Jamaican psyche; and rebuild the nation until where action to benefit all Jamaica’s human capital, rather than high profile positions, is the fuel that defines real power.
This is why, after my first ten years in politics, I’m proud that I can say to my good friend twenty-odd years after who warned me in South Africa about politics “We all can’t be bought.” My approach to politics has always been and will always be based on patriotism bolstered by research, analysis, clear thought and a stubborn refusal to obfuscate. I have always spoken the plain truth. I always will. I have never been nor will I ever be a cheerleader for gamesmanship or a groupie for anyone or anything. My support must be earned on the basis of merit not personality. Yes, there are things in Jamaican politics that disturb me. The patronage; the petty tribalism; the narcissism; the greed, the Godfather mentality I’d change them if I could and I’ll continue to work towards a system of Jamaican politics that either eliminates these evils or punishes them swiftly and surely whenever they rear their ugly head.
In the movie, the Godfather’s speaks finally to his son Michael extolling his virtues and laments his disappointment in failing him: “I never wanted this for you, I worked my whole life. I never apologize for taking care of my family and I refused to be a fool dancing on a string held by all those Big Shots. I don’t apologize. That’s my life, but I thought that, when it was your time, you would be the one to hold the strings [as] Senator Corleone, Governor Corleone. Something.”
No matter where we come from or what we do, all of us want the same thing- the best for our children. But the time is running out. We must take the tough decisions. As a Leader I want to use my position to negotiate the best opportunities for our nation’s people. I am prepared to sit with, listen to, and understand the differences between us and the gaps in opportunity that are holding us back.
“Mr. Palmer if we all commit to that ideal and get it right, it’s possible that your son could become Prime Minister of Jamaica one day and mine an international dancehall artist.”
A friend insists The Godfather is the best movie ever made.