Fri | Jan 19, 2018

Garth Rattray | The children from our village

Published:Monday | November 7, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Like most Jamaicans, I am severely and continuously traumatised by the pervasive and perennial, extreme and horrific violence being perpetrated across our island home. Our society has produced a subclass of people that operate far outside our laws and accepted social norms.

This ever-increasing group exhibits a warped sense of morality. Survival and upward mobility are dictated and achieved by an evolving set of rules quite separate from our own.

The value of their lives has been diminished, so they place little or no value on our lives, save for the provision of things that they want and perhaps need. A cheap cellular telephone may fetch a few hundred dollars on the black market, but anyone resisting their demands to relinquish ownership of that phone and/or dissing them by remonstrating automatically earns a death sentence. Some will even kill for paltry sums, just to buy a few things that don't last very long.

And so, after the usual public hue, cry and condolences, we hear questions about the origins of these heartless people who kill men, women, babies, the very young and the very old with impunity. They didn't fall from the sky and they aren't all deportees; they are products of our own society - made by us, right here in Jamaica.




There's a proverb from the southern and southwestern region of Nigeria (from the Igbo and Yoruba people) that says, 'It takes a whole village to raise a child.' Essentially, it says that children are gifts from God and, as such, they are the most precious things that any society can possess. They are our future. The (proper) upbringing of children is, therefore, the responsibility of the immediate family, the extended family, the neighbours, the wider community and even the entire society.

Children not only represent the future of their parents and immediate family, they represent the future for us all. Therefore, we must never ignore any child or allow any child to be brought up under unfavourable or deleterious circumstances.

Children used to be under constant scrutiny and supervised by everyone in our communities. And, inexperienced parents sought advice and help from the older and respected members of the community. Children were the beneficiaries of generations of accumulated knowledge and shared experiences.

But today, in our so-called modern society, parents feel that they are above and beyond advice from 'outsiders'. They shield their children from 'interference' and never admit their wrongdoings. The new nuclear family has at its centre an immature and fragmented core. Absent fathers along with bitter, desperate, inexperienced, misguided and poorly socialised mothers provide a mucky brew for raising disorderly, undisciplined and felonious citizens. In fact, many families have no core at all and the children are raised by relatives, strangers or by their peers who are denizens of the streets.

Gangs provide a social structure with a leader and a purpose, albeit nefarious. Unlike the rites of passage into manhood carried out by our African ancestors and even some tribes of today, the cowardly acts of gangland wannabes, neophytes and 'soldiers' represent the ultimate antithesis of bravery and honour.




Devoid of any real love and proper socialisation, these victims of domestic violence and abuse, and witnesses to violent acts without consequences, form the growing subclass of our society evolving with very faulty moral compasses. When our society ignores them, they become filled with feelings of resentment and hatred for others. Our society's monstrous children have absolutely no compunction about shooting, stabbing, slashing, burning, maiming, raping, torturing, killing and dismembering people.

In their eyes, we enjoy the cream of society while they are forced to wallow in the dregs. We, through our inactions and sometimes actions, have created the monsters that now stalk and hunt us at will. They are the children from our (failed) village.

We must accept culpability, start from the basics, and institute detailed oversight of all our children. They all need love, care, protection and education. There must be social fairness, justice and equal opportunities. Until and unless we do those things, we will continue sowing the seeds of our own demise.

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