Institutional Failure?

So here I am, sitting at Seacole listening to Judith talk to a group of young women about development and dependency and Caribbean Politics and Economics. I am reading ‘Becoming’ by Michelle Obama and Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime. I am hopeful the NIDS ruling just took place and I feel all warm and fuzzy about our democracy. I want to find it and hug it and reason with it because we have treated it with such scant regard. I needed to catch up with my democracy and chit chat.

But here I am also feeling vulnerable, UWI just sent me a letter congratulating me on spending fifteen years at the institution. I have been wondering why I stayed in this relationship with this institution for so long it has been my most abusive relationship to date. UWI is a patriarchal space hyped up on machismo and male privilege, I have seen and experienced discrimination and silencing and undermining and physical intimidation and emotional abuse and isolation. This moment of coming to terms with my own culpability, how I have allowed myself to stay in this space until they sent me a letter of congratulations for being abused for fifteen years. I am heartbroken.

I am trying to find hope however. I know its time to move on. So this morning I am forcing myself to re-examine and identify the things that are at my core. What did I value and still value? What are the life lessons, I can learn from this moment of intense disquiet? I know what I need to do is re-center and re-focus.

I am thinking about how institutions have failed us as a people, as a collective and as individuals. Two years ago I came face to face with the church and its commitment to perpetuating sexual abuse and the protection of pastors and church leaders who use the church as hunting ground and make victims of poor and vulnerable young women. I have met a university and its administration focused on all the wrong things. Preoccupied with their reputation, not caring how they damage people who further damage other people.

Another institution that I question are political parties, especially the ones in Jamaica that only function to win elections, I do understand that this is their primary focus but it is not their only purpose. Who awakens the political consciousness of the next generation? Who explains what citizens are suppose to do? Who teaches us how to strengthen our democracy? This is also what political parties do. I am dissappointed in our political parties and our politicians who fail us everytime.

Institutions are flawed worldwide. But in Jamaica our institutions are failing us, they have done very litle to challenge inequity and injustice most of the time perpetuating a flawed concept of who and what we should value. Institutions, like a university need to give their students frames of analysis that are relevant because it is the ability to unearth the truth and speak truth to power that will see us through as we navigate systems of inequality.

Some time ago I read, something from someone who I dont remember his name now, speaking of the UWI in the 1960s he wrote “The University has grown old without growing up” for nearly 18 years I have mulled over those words, what did he mean in the 1960s? UWI was barely a full degree granting institution then. Just about twenty years old, yet if I were to find a critique I think those words would be apt and perhaps the sentiment the same.

So, I am here, wondering how to find peace in relationship with institutions that fail us time and time again. Please dont tell me to go in and change them, it doesnt work. They suck you in and break your spirit.

How to remain hopeful?

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