Mon | Sep 25, 2017

His name is Legion

Published:Monday | April 24, 2017 | 4:00 AM

This is about Nicholas. He is about 24, good looking and eloquent in the use of his limited vocabulary.

But he will never read this because even after 10 years in school, his literacy skills are very weak and have regressed considerably in the six years of unemployment and idleness since he posed for the fabulous graduation picture he wistfully shows.

He has two Grade Three passes at CSEC, though. One in something to do with office procedures and the other related to health science. He can point out who his father is/was, but he has not seen or heard of him for years.

His mother still gives him a 'cotch' on the enclosed veranda of her one-room house and some dinner when she has it, but more and more, she is telling him that it is time for him to go and look life and bring back something for her since she is jobless and sickly.

Besides, she feels that the girl who will soon become her son's twin-baby mother is facety and licky-licky.

Recently, Nicholas came to his member of parliament seeking work. He seemed desperate because his girlfriend told him that if he could do anything for her, she would have to look elsewhere, twin belly and all.

"So what are your skills"? is the irrelevant question I ask him, knowing the answer full well already. The night job that Mrs Hinchliffe's janitorial company might have is not ready yet. But he has no time to wait.

I find out that there is a side-man job on a garbage truck that he could probably get and begin to feel relieved. But Nicholas will have none of it.

He snaps. "You a disrespec mi ... !" He riles. "That is dutty, alms-house work yuh want mi do ... ." I have hurt his feelings seriously. "Start there until you get something better. At least it is an honest money," I reason to no avail.

He wants a money to save face at home and, no doubt, to get something to eat, too. Given his attitude, the politician refuses. Expletives abound. "You responsible fi me go an bruk house now," is his parting shot.

Down the street, amid the cascade of "claats", he declaims to all passersby how many gunshots politician must tek.

Most MPs and councillors face some variant of this true story often.

The police picked up Nicholas for pick-pocketing at one of the carnival events this past weekend. His mother phoned to ask for help with the bailor-man's fee.

Look at the progression. This youth has potential. But from a weak family, he is an under-achiever, spat out with thousands of others from the school system, indisciplined, idle, dependent, desperate, and now criminal.




What can prevent him and his kind from becoming a greater menace to himself, his unborn children, and the society?

Some would have the court lock him up at the cost to us of a million dollars a year or else kill him as a social menace.

Morals aside, the trouble is that Nicholas is not alone, not unique. There are tens of thousands very like him. Check Luke's Gospel, Chapter 8 verse 30; the demons without and within him are named Legion.

The so-called unattached youth need work, reordered mindsets towards life and work, discipline, and hope. The plans this year and yes, in past years, too, for re-socialisation do not approach the gravity of the need.

Although Jamaica's political economy will continue to exclude sustainable progress for large numbers of our people for the forseeable future, there are things we can do now.

Nicholas and his kind all need to be directed or constrained towards a period of attitudinal re-orientation and skill acquisition under military supervision.

We should be discussing this in Parliament and working out the modalities of getting the effort started. Instead, the discourse on national security is mostly about repression. It is about to start again in the same vein this week with the Special Measures Bill.

The prospect of radical transformation is muted by cynicism, born of manufactured distrust. And the Chamber, instead of being the stage on which real progress is at least glimpsed, becomes the morgue of our best hopes.

And Desmond and Delroy screech "Prassperty".

- Ronald Thwaites is member of parliament for Central Kingston and opposition spokesman on education and training. Email feedback to