Ronald Thwaites | Thinking it through
We all, including the hapless commissioner of Police, are wringing our hands at the spate of domestic violence over the past year. Both political parties think that more stringent laws and harsher penalties will deter the anger which spills blood and shatters feelings when man-and-woman business goes sour.
Truth is that we are weak when it comes to some areas of emotional intelligence and self-restraint. These things can't be learned if they are not taught.
Look at road indiscipline and the kind of rum and boom, hungry-belly induced brawl outside the KSAC last week. Compare that with the children I see, themselves famished, who watch others eat and throw away, but refrain from taking. Think, too, of the long-suffering majority, who with only sporadic exceptions, put up with a system of political economy which is so skewed as to probably never offer to all in their time the opportunities of decent subsistence.
Contrast Andrew Holness and Phillip Paulwell telling us about the almost unbroken silence of nearly a million Cubans during the hours of Fidel's funeral.
What are the ingredients of personal and public order required to actualise our national growth objectives? Who are the leaders setting the examples of truth, reliability, faithfulness, honesty and punctuality which, among other virtues, are the foundations of sustained, inclusive growth?
The only straight queues I see in Jamaica is the line in front of the betting shop and, of course, at the US Embassy. And have you noticed how many of us run towards a scene of violence instead of away from it?
Serviceable social norms
It is in the home and in the earliest years in school that we are likely to learn serviceable social norms. But there is no public emphasis of this fact; little discourse as to how to improve our standards. If children grow up in brittle domestic situations, it will be hard for them to deviate when the pressures hit.
If the high point of life is getting to do what I want and vindicating my feelings and hurts, self-restraint will not likely be my first impulse.
So let us acknowledge that the rash of domestic and gender-based oppression has very deep cultural origins which, although always sensitive and very personal, ought not to be avoided as we enter a season of family and hope during Christmas and the new year.
We should continue to take Richard Byles seriously. Last week, he called it a "steep climb" to raise the public revenue needed for 2017. Receipts are fortunately ahead of projections, but they cannot cover the $16 billion required to increase the PAYE threshold, let alone to replace the annual $11-billion draw from the Housing Trust.
Then, common decency demands that at least another $10 billion or more be added to the allocation for PATH, so depleted is the value of the current benefits and so many more thousands, especially the elderly and the hungry and absentee-prone school children, need to be on the programme.
And although the tax-ridden poor have yet to fully understand the deceit which was played on them earlier this year, the people of Jamaica are committed to maintaining in the new year, the seven per cent primary surplus and sharply increasing the foreign exchange reserves, not by garnishment or borrowing, but by purchase in an auction.
All this before the increased money promised for education, health and national security and all the other things we want government to do.
How are we going to pay for all this?
It is not to be a Scrooge to raise these issues at year end. The thrill and blessings of Christmas are to be celebrated even as we think, through all these things.
- Ronald Thwaites is member of parliament for Central Kingston and opposition spokesman on education and training. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org