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Friday, 1 June 2012

Freedom and Bondage

What is freedom? What is bondage? Interesting questions that can be tackled from a number of perspectives. When thinking of 'freedom' are we speaking specifically about physical freedom, the ability for unrestrained physical movement? Is it about the choice to travel, or to visit where we would like? Is it more about unbounded possibility rather than the actual act of doing? Or are we speaking more of 'legalistic' sense of the word - the state of existing as a 'free' man or woman in the eyes of society? Mercifully, days of 'legal' ownership of slaves has passed. That is not to say that there are not still forms of slavery being practiced in parts of the world. And what about war between nations - how does that aspect of the question play out?

Is freedom more than simple 'physical' freedom? What about freedom of thought? Or, freedom of religion? There are still states in this world where 'freedom of thought' is a rare and precious commodity. There are still dictatorships and communist countries which proport to know better than individuals what ideals and goals people should strive toward. There are daily examples of religious persecution around the world, and sometimes even in our own 'backyards'. They can take an active physical form - attacks on churches, synagogues and mosques - or followers of these religions, or they can be more subtle forms of attack, through government enforced regulations or by proponents of secular or humanistic 'quasi religions'.

And what about bondage? Is bondage necessarily tied to physical restraint? Can there be a bondage of mind? Are we made dependant upon others for decision making? Are we brainwashed by advertisers into believing that we 'need' certain products in order for our lives to be 'better'? Does 'hope' seem nonexistant in our lives? Are we being forced to 'conform' to the 'norms' of society, or to the current prevalent values and practices of the majority?

In February of 2011 members of the Writer's Circle took up the challenge of writing about 'Freedom and Bondage'. Efforts followed divergent aspects of thought paths and produced some interesting results.

Image Link: Google Images


I have always known freedom. I can only imagine what it must be like to be in bondage. Without any hope of becoming free. However, is my imagination worth much at all?

I imagined for many years what it would be like to be hit by a major hurricane. I know some people who said they would like to experience it. Now they have, would they like to go through it again?

When hurricane Ivan hit Grand Cayman in September 2004, I was there.

I imagined a hurricane would be horrendous. I actually picture it in my mind, the devastation, see trees falling, hear the winds, even the torrential rains and the angry seas. But did it come near to my imagination? Not even close. It was so much worse.

How much worse? Well, the noise was five times as loud, the sea did more damage, came in so fast and I felt panic, even despair. The aftermath I didn’t imagine because I didn’t even think of it.

I lived for only two months like half the impoverished world live their whole life. But it was much worse for me. I had always been free. I could get what I wanted, when I wanted and no one to say ‘No, you can’t.’ I had money in the bank. It belonged to me. I was in charge of my life. No bonds to hold me back. Now it was different. I was imprisoned on an island without all the niceties I knew and had grown up in. What a shock. How could I possibly cope? How could I adapt? When would this misery and suffering end?

After the hurricane had passed the banks didn’t open at all. Some very few shops that did open would only accept cash. My plastic money was worthless. It was some weeks before the banks did open and when they did it was not for long. I queued in long lines, in hot sun, and if it was past the one and then two hours of opening time and I was still outside, I was turned away. I went home empty. And even if I did get inside the bank they told me how much they would let me have – of my own money! No electricity at home. No car. No gas and no running water. Food – I had to queue up for that too, and the amount again was limited. Water – a jug in hand and queue up again in the hot sun with others fighting – yes fighting to get a full jug of water!

There were curfews every night. Strangers in uniforms and carrying guns were everywhere.

 I had watched on television, thousands of people, living under tyrannical governments being beaten by uniformed police and soldiers, lying on the ground. “You never hit a man lying on the ground.” Does anyone ever hear that saying now, or remember it? The victims are hit by batons, kicked, pistol whipped. They queue for a handout and most times have to fight for it, too.

My suffering lasted only for a few weeks and got better by the months. I had hope. There was light at the end of my tunnel. I would be free, again. And, I was and I am now. My life is back to normal. Peace.

So how can I imagine being in bondage? Can I imagine the despair, the hopelessness, the beatings, the hunger? If I was in bondage and born into it. Not knowing any other life. Could I actually imagine freedom?

By: C.G. Wilson

Memories of 1939

The month was August, a few weeks into summer vacation. I was 11 years old that month, and the best part of the holiday was time at my Great Uncle Sterling Fisher’s property ‘Mount Pleasant’, a few miles above Runaway Bay on Jamaica’s beautiful North Coast. I was a lover of all animals from as far back as I could remember. At Mt. Pleasant I was surrounded by cats, dogs, chickens, but best of all – because it was a cattle breeding place, with dozens of beautiful cows, the bulls were safely kept away. I loved the smell of the cows, they were tame and gentle, and there was one that I could ride. My cousin Jim kept Polo ponies, and a thrill for me was being allowed to ride one, on a lead rope, which I thought unnecessary.

The house was an old one, large with huge rooms – our bedroom, shared by Mum, sister Jac. And myself, had an enormous 4 poster, so high it required 4 small steps to climb up. The windows, also large, looked over the grounds, to the sea at Runaway Bay, and beyond. At night, when the moon was up, I joined a bunch of local kids, kicking a football around, with much laughter. My Great Aunt Sis adopted numerous children, of all ages, from poor families, gave them a home and love, and taught them to read and write.

I have many memories of Mt. Pleasant. On the back verandah, hanging within reach, was a clay water jar, the water cooled by a ‘Thunder Bolt’, a smooth, silky stone, originally made by the Arawak Indians. It was one of their tools, and very treasured, found somewhere in an Arawak midden, perhaps on the property. The Arawaks, a peaceful people, long gone unfortunately.

I would be awoken in the morning by the voices of the cattlemen, calling the cows in to be milked. Happy carefree days – smells of Pimento berries drying in the barbecue, smell of cows and horses – swimming at Dry Harbour (Discovery Bay

Myself, a child with little understanding of what was on the horizon, the horrors of war. As August went by – the adults discussing their dread – radio constantly on BBC until late at night – Neville Chamberlain the Prime Minister “Peace in our Time” not to be; Poland invaded, September 3rd war declared between Great Britain and Germany – it had begun, with the heartbreak of families. So many young Jamaicans volunteered at once, some who had been ‘big brothers’ to me, gone, many not to return. The day the world changed, to never be the same again.

By: Brenda Quin

Bondage and Freedom

Behind iron bars
of my mind’s making
I lie barely awake, passively
tied to this earth
through two bony legs
and the passions of the body.
enduring endless trials
answering the knocks
until at last angelic voices
beckon and arouse me
and I slip effortlessly,
from these chains.
Free of restraint,
rising on soaring spirit
entering into
the nearer presence,
to see clearly
in the blinding light.

By: H.M. Peter Westin