Mon | Jul 16, 2018

Ronald Mason | Moral bankruptcy

Published:Sunday | November 20, 2016 | 12:00 AM

The success of a country is grounded in relationships and dealings that give rise to a set of shared cultural, social and economic norms. The persons inhabiting that space defined as the country share things in common, even if they do so involuntarily.

Jamaica has fast become a self-protecting mechanism that causes citizens to shut off all non-family interactions. We take pride in boasting of this behaviour. We do not watch news from traditional media. We do not go anywhere near the inner-city communities. And we do not feel kinship with those outside well-defined groupings.

We speak glibly about 'them' and 'us', and this, in and of itself, is troubling. Troubling, when we acknowledge that 95 per cent of us spring from the same stock. This has been happening for a long time, and it is a tragic reflection of divisions we have established in society. We start with the two tribes in Parliament. Very rarely does one hear the application of logic, reason. People vote because they claim they were born PNP or JLP, or they live in a garrison dominated by one of the tribes or where they perceive they will be able to get some personal benefit. Or they do not bother to vote at all.




This is glaringly obvious in this period of electioneering for local government. The so-called debates proved to be a complete waste of airtime, as all we got were graphic illustrations of cross-party recrimination about how much worse the other side was. They even sought to recruit mosquitoes. What an utter waste! What a charade! The turnout on November 28 may well be the lowest it has ever been for any national election.

The society has broken down so much. Everybody steals. Politicians steal disaster supplies and one does not know whether they sell these items or distribute as inducements to vote.

We have mastered the art of stealing. Employees steal from their bosses, and bosses steal from employees. Co-workers steal from co-workers. Students steal from fellow students. Tenants steal from landlords. Workers steal from the workplace. Shoppers steal from businesses and businesses steal from shoppers.

Banks steal from customers and customers steal from financial institutions. Government steals from citizens and citizens steal from the Government. Praedial larceny is a $6-billion-a year business. I heard a prominent Jamaican giving reference to the fact that parents praise the children's enterprise in bringing home a new school bag or books. Some of the educated among us steal from clients' funds, but fortunately some of them end up in prison.

Look at what happened at the accident scene on Spur Tree Hill. The citizens who happened on the scene immediately became scavengers and took all they could. Not for one moment did it cross anybody's mind that the merchandise had legitimate owners, who were entitled to salvage what could be had of their property.

The residents saw this as a windfall and set out to steal as much as they could, as barefaced and as openly as they could, and not one police officer would investigate.

Reflect for a moment on where the country is heading. We urgently need economic development to provide jobs, but what do we have as assurance that even when people have jobs, the morals of the society would be acceptable for a civilised country?

Education, as currently structured, still produces large numbers of persons who are very poorly socialised, have no documentation to prove success in examinations, and who are being deluded daily that they need to be taught in their native tongue and not English. Even this does not, to my mind, portend a less crude, crass, thieving, morally debased society.




Dancehall music should be accepted because it is a reflection of their daily existence. Misogyny and vulgarity are standard fare. Young children and their mothers and grandmothers go to these dances, at the same time and with the same intent, where this music is played.

We throw garbage anywhere, everywhere, every-day, and we live with the filth and then holler that somebody must come and clean it up. Uptown, downtown and midtown are all guilty.

The Jamaican society needs to do a lot of introspection. The society cannot be healed unless and until we all make a deliberate, concerted effort to provide reward and punishment incentives to induce behavioural change. Changing the name of the police force will not change the behaviour of its personnel.

Politicians, young and old, cannot lead the transformation because they are the very ones who brought us here. We need to go back to the time parent-child relationships were valued, and parents could impose the dictum: "If you nuh hear, you will feel", and "hard eze pickney nyam rock stone". The biblical admonition is still most apt: "Spare the rod and spoil the child."

- Ronald Mason is an attorney-at-law and Supreme Court mediator. Email feedback to and