Pubdate: Sun, 22 May 2005
Source: Jamaica Gleaner, The (Jamaica)
Copyright: 2005 The Gleaner Company Limited
Author: Perry Henzell, Contributor


I'M NOT a Rasta any more than I'm into any religion, but I think
they're right about many things such as the importance of ital food,
free from chemical fertilizer and pesticides, and I think they're
right about ganja. Why does 'Babylon' hate and fear ganga so much?
Because it leads to violence? No, everybody knows ganga cools you out.
Because it's injurious to health? No, everybody knows it is not as
harmful as alcohol or cigarettes. Because it puts tax-free cash into
poor people's pockets? Maybe, but surely Omar, the lover of reggae
music and devotee of Tosh and Marley, to say nothing of being a member
of Parliament for an inner-city constituency, would let that one go.

No, what Babylon really has against ganga is that it induces

Anywhere Babylon reigns supreme, relaxation is a crime. Just try
laughing in church or in court or on the parade ground. Even in a
bank, customers tend to wait in hushed silence.

Fear of Relaxation

Babylon, more than it even knows, hates and fears relaxation, and from
it is point of view, it is right to do so, because relaxation frees
the mind. A free mind questions dogma, and it is dogma that Babylon
needs to survive as much as oil or armies or rules to govern the
governed. I am not talking about the rules demanded by commonsense
justice. I am talking about the rules demanded by a society based on
religion, tribe, class, color, inherited power, monarchy,
dictatorship, the oppression of women, or anything else that does not
make much sense when you light up a spliff and get high and start to
question official wisdom.

At the height of colonialism, when black men were told to bow to a
white king, Rastas lit up and realised that they had an African king
to bow to, who was descended from the line of Solomon, a line a
hundred times more ancient and awe-inspiring than the Windsors. That
is the kind of insight that smoking ganga may give you, the kind that
could lead to scorn and imprisonment and accusations of lunacy in a
Babylonian society. Sure enough, Rastas endured scorn and imprisonment
and accusations of lunacy, but they knew they were right all the same,
and they didn't stop smoking ganga.

There are people who are so addicted to being told what to think and
do that when the strictures on their mind are loosened and they start
to think freely they are so surprised by what they start thinking they
fear they are going mad, and such people should definitely not smoke
herb. But, they should not be allowed to impose the restrictions on
their minds that keep them 'sane' on the minds of other people.
Muslims should not be allowed to flog Christians for drinking a beer,
and the government of the United States should not be allowed to
encourage the threat of jail for Jamaicans who want to smoke a spliff.

No Lessons Needed

When David Murray of the government of the U.S. warns Jamaicans
against decriminalising ganga, he provides an opportunity for us to
make it plain to the government of the U.S. that it should mind its
own business.

We do not need lessons in how to behave from the U.S., which is a
deeply schizophrenic nation in that it was founded both by puritans on
the one hand and revolutionaries on the other, and the pendulum of its
national mood swings wildly from one extreme to the other. At this
time, the puritans are holding sway in D.C., and their opinion about
mood-altering substances in general, and ganga in particular, are as
irrelevant to the average Jamaican as the opinions of the mullahs in
Iran or the cardinals in Rome.

The criminalisation of ganga in a democratic Jamaica is pure
hypocrisy. The Minister of National Security once wore locks. I have
attended political meetings when waves of ganga smoke enveloped the
politicians on the platform like a mist. Bob Marley, the most popular
and revered Jamaican throughout the world by far, was a man who smoked
ganga and was proud of it. The only people who benefit from the
criminalisation of ganga are criminals, and it just so happens that
for many Jamaicans who depend on tourism for our strongest earner of
foreign exchange, relaxation is a national characteristic is our
strongest appeal.

But, financial considerations aside, the whole non-Babylonian world
would applaud us for our moral courage if we stood up for our right to
do what hundreds of thousands of Jamaicans do with a moral conviction
that they are breaking no natural law when they smoke ganga.

So, Mr Murray, and anybody else who thinks they can tell us what to do
when we are doing no wrong, put that in your pipe and smoke it!
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake