By Bernie Bell
A couple of evenings ago, we watched a programme we’d recorded, called ’Roots, Reggae, Rebellion’. We both like Reggae/Ska music. It was a good programme, but….the presenter was a young lad, who grew up in London, and went back to his ‘roots’, in Jamaica. He talked of the music, and it’s part in the fight for independence etc. I’ve always been on the side of the freedom fighters in Jamaica (I always am on the side of freedom fighters), including the groovy Mr Marley. Then, I thought, hang on a minute, there must have been people there, when the Europeans arrived, and then brought the slaves from Africa, to work on their plantations. Who were the people, who were there, before them? What we think of now, as Jamaican people, is black people, descended from the African slaves. They were taken there against their will, and now outnumber those who took them there. I see some kind of justice in that! And also, what we think of as Jamaican music, is the music of those people, and their style of dress, including the Rasta colours, and, of course, the Rasta religion. They have their own culture, which they brought with them from home, and adapted. That’s what we think of, when we think of ‘Jamaican’. But……..who was there, when the Europeans arrived? Apparently, the Carib Indians. How much is left of them, and their culture, in the islands of the Caribbean? They will have had a certain physical appearance, though I had no idea what that would have been – more ’Indian‘ looking, maybe? And, their own belief system, and language etc. etc. Where are they now, the descendants of those people, and all the aspects of their culture? So, I tried looking them up…..
There’s quite a lot about them, but….not much about where they are, now. And even less about who was there, before them.
I was getting indignant about how the people that we think of as ‘Jamaican’, have kind-of appropriated the islands of the West Indies, (through not initial fault of their own) leaving the original inhabitants, in a bit of a fog as far as history is concerned.
I then realised – what do we think of as an ‘American’? The people who moved to, and through, America in waves, over centuries, displacing native Americans, but – who was there, before the native Americans? It wasn’t an ‘empty continent’, however much the settlers liked to kid themselves that it was. That’s what was said of Australia, when the Europeans arrived – that it was ‘empty’ – it wasn’t! And, were there other folk there, before what we now see as the Australian Aborigines? Or are they, genuinely, the oldest people still living? I don’t know – it’s a huge subject.
And, the English – before the Celts – The Celts – Saxons – Normans – ‘Romans’, etc. etc. etc.
This got me thinking about Nationalism, and people ‘claiming‘ places as their own, when, in reality – who are they? Where are their ancestors from, originally, and how much are they of that land, anyway?
It looks like it’s just what people do – they move about… whether amicably – or not. A human characteristic.
Could be said – what has that to do with Orkney? Well, Orcadians are, as George McKay Brown said, a mixter-maxter race, and continue to be so, more elements being added to the mix, all the time.
And then I read in the ‘Orcadian’, of a man of with some South American ancestry, visiting Orkney, working in the Health Service, being called names, by someone who called himself a ‘Viking’. He’s not a Viking, he’s a Twallock which is a mixed ‘race’ too – think about it.