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Garth Rattray | You can be heroic, too

Published:Monday | October 17, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Today, we celebrate our National Heroes Day and enjoy the pageantry of the ceremony at King's House. Today, our country bestows national honours and awards on select, deserving citizens to acknowledge their good works, sacrifices and to hold them up as examples for us to emulate.

On National Heroes Day, we are reminded that a hero or heroine is defined as, "a person who is admired for his or her courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities". Our official list of National Heroes was started in 1969 with Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Paul Bogle, George William Gordon, Norman Washington Manley and Sir Alexander Bustamante. In 1982, Nanny of the Maroons and Samuel Sharpe joined their ranks.

The Order of National Hero is the most senior order. The honour of the Order of National Hero may be conferred upon any person who was born in Jamaica or is, or at the time of his or her death was, a citizen of Jamaica and rendered to Jamaica service of a most distinguished nature. National heroes are entitled to be styled 'The Right Excellent' and the motto of the Order is 'He built a city which hath foundations'.

There have been no new official national heroes since 1982, but there have been innumerable acts of heroism. Some have earned public accolades, citations and awards for gallantry, but we have among us many silent heroes that go without acclaim or fanfare but whose actions quietly shape the future that we want for this country and, perhaps, even save lives. They consist of the simple folk from the neighbourhood and sometimes the hard-working public servant/official that makes certain to do his or her part in building nationhood.

However, we need more heroes; our country needs more people to do the right thing in order to reduce crime and violence and safeguard our future. I'm not referring to huge public display of heroism or the outright risking of life and limb as seen in the movies. I'm referring to the quiet commitment of decent and concerned citizens to reshape our troubled and besieged society into one of discipline, peace and eventually prosperity.




It is heroic for inner-city fathers to go against the grain and see to the proper upbringing of their children. In many poor communities, the traditional socialisation of our young men teaches them that a 'big man' has as many women as possible and if pregnancies ensue, that's woman's work. To do otherwise makes young men of that ilk seem soft and weak in the eyes of their peers.

This sort of (poor parenting) behaviour is perpetrated because it suits the deadbeat dads to have as many fathers behave as badly as they do in order to avoid any spotlight being shone on them. But, we need young men to stand up as fathers and be counted, because it is a well-known fact that the absence of a father or of a strong father figure is the number one cause of criminal behaviour in young men.

If our fathers exhibit courage, outstanding and noble qualities (the hallmarks of heroism) by involving themselves in the lives of their children, several things will happen. The demands of proper parenting will automatically lead to young men fathering far less children. Children (especially boys) will be more balanced and the crime rate will fall. We will have more responsible citizens and a more productive society.

We need citizens to be heroic in taking back communities from the criminals. Every single criminal has to have domestic support from somebody or some people. There are family members who are fully cognisant of the behaviour of their children or spouses. However, fealty, misplaced 'love', sometimes fear, and perhaps even greed, prevent them from intervening and/or reporting their activities.

The scamming, thievery, rapes and murders are not going to stop by themselves. The police can't do it alone. Our free and democratic society doesn't allow for the imposition of martial law. Unless people do the right thing, do the brave thing, become heroes in their own right and do their part to stop this scourge of criminality with responsible parenting and responsible citizenship, we will never achieve peace and prosperity.

• Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to and