Mark Wignall | Former flames, deadly burn
"Di love an tend-erness ting you talk bout, dat can't work wid di girl dem we deal wid. A pure terrorist we haffi deal wid. If wi nuh beat dem dem mash wi dung,"said a 48-year-old man to me seven years ago.
We were gathered outside of a shop talking about many things. About five of us. The question about violence against women came up as Brickman, 37, said, more out of an expression of his realities and with little remorse, "Every now and den mi haffi gi har a spanking. Sometimes har mouth too loud and as yu quint, she wan fling box inna mi face," he said.
It was totally futile of me to make the case to the men that if the relationship they had with women involved regular bouts of violence, they should leave and seek one where there was more tranquillity.
During the recent Christmas holidays, there were too many incidents involving men murdering their lovers either because the woman wanted to move on or the relationships had too many flaws to begin with. Or the emotions of the times were heightened by the season.
It is an inescapable fact that the male of the human species places competition for female companionship at as high a level as he values sexual congress and companionship with the female whom he desires. In the Jamaican parlance, men are deathly afraid of 'bun' because it strikes at the heart of his primal competitive DNA and, worse, he believes that it makes him less than a man.
Add to the mix socio-economic realities such as the financial unviability of the man, his inability to handle and divest himself of whatever power he thought he had over the woman, increasing numbers of Jamaican women striving for and attaining economic independence, poor education of too many of our males, and the cocktail is an explosive one.
The syndrome 'if I can't have you, no one else will' is a quite prevalent one among many Jamaican men and taken to its extremity, the consequences can lead to tragedy. Plus, Jamaican women are refusing to fall prey to the old 'treat me like a dog as long as you give me money' situation.
A good woman will stick with a good man for long, even if that man is going through a negative financial phase. Nine out of 10 times, she prefers to seek out additional economic survival mechanisms which would not necessarily involve another relationship.
At some stage, however, even the good man may have reason to wonder how his oxtail dinner is still being prepared for him when his own pocket cannot even meet the standards of a tinned mackerel 'repast'. Suspicions crop up because women tend not to divulge too easily their other sources of income, while a man will just lay it out on the line.
Quite apart from those factors, many of our men in Jamaica still believe that cohabiting with a woman, either as common-law sexual partner, wife or a visiting relationship, empowers him to claim ownership of the woman, her friendships, movements and her sexual favours. Many relationships begin with that tacit 'understanding' and they are doomed to fail or end up in violent encounters.
"What scares the Jamaican male more than anything else is the whittling away of what he sees as his masculinity, his ability to use economic power as a controlling influence over the woman," said a well-known Jamaican psychologist, who asked for anonymity in the matter. "The Jamaican woman at the bottom of the economic ladder is not prepared to wait on her male partner until he catches up. She is moving and he is stalling."
In a Jamaica where endemic violence has become the norm, violence used to 'solve' relationship problems is the beginning of a death spiral. Many of our men folk are better off in 'scattershot' relationships because they still have far to go in handling long-term ones committed to only one person.
But as in all transactions, whether it is politics or business, it requires basic cash to care and deep understanding to make a relationship viable. Many of our men lack both.