Ronald Thwaites | A crisis of values
The 12-year-old boy was standing on the shop piazza in Westmoreland on Friday last asking for 'change' to buy something to eat.
"Why yu mother don't give yu dinner?" I asked.
"She cook and never leave none for me," was the reply.
"Why?" I pressed.
"She say my fadda never bring nuttin, and the food is for who fadda did send ... ."
"Do you go to school?"
"Sometimes ... ."
What is to save that youth from the gang and scamming culture? And please don't deceive yourself in thinking that this is an isolated instance. There are multiple thousands, and the numbers are increasing daily as poverty spirals and social capital is ravaged by our ambivalence about unstructured family ties.
Reread Herbert Gayle's undeniable conclusion from last Thursday's Gleaner:
"The immediate crisis is our family. There are too many crisis families. The most urgent are single-mother households with no extended family attached and/or stable visiting father ... . No such family should be allowed to carry on ... without intervention. This is the core site of our violence nightmare."
Most of us read this and pass on. It will not make the headlines like anal sex did. It will be politically unpopular to get even a discussion about the relationship between ordered personal relationships and sustainable economic development in Parliament. The intervention of which Gayle speaks is too expensive for the entitlement-encrusted Estimates of Expenditure.
Can Bounty and Ninja help us on this one? Who else is willing to state clearly that you do an innocent child a great and probably irremediable wrong, and you bleed society if you parent a child without the commitment to offer presence, mentorship and sacrificial support, even when, hardest of all, there is no money?
Can the Government be brought to understand that to further tax the poor to give more to those relatively few who already have something is not only immoral, but counter-productive to relieving the 'core site of our violence nightmare'?
Can the still number-powerful churches, with our supposedly radical views of the sublime nature of human life, guide the nation towards a new appreciation of the value of sexual union, of family life and national commitment?
There is a lively and necessary worldwide movement to uplift the interests of women. We even have a ministry to advance this cause. But isn't the main cramp to a Jamaican woman's self-actualisation, the likelihood that she will not have a faithful male partner who will share the most important and fulfilling task in anyone's life - that of creating and raising human life?
Some years ago, as a prelude to a Father's Day feature, a newspaper reporter pressed me as to the best gift my own father, long dead, had given me. At first, I demurred. "Was it the education, maybe a car, some money?" she prodded.
She seemed surprised when I told her that the most valuable thing my father had done for me was to stay with my mother and provide strength for me to grow and, hopefully, be an example for me to follow.
- Ronald Thwaites is member of parliament for Central Kingston and opposition spokesman on education and training. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.