Annie Paul | The right way to rear children
"You see my daughter, Karen, who I went to the luncheon for? She might be a senior vice-president at JPMorgan Chase now, but don't think it did always look like she was going to turn out the right and proper way.
"At one time, it look like she was heading for the gutter fast, fast. But you know what save her? I, as mother, did what I had to do. Because, le' me tell you something, you know: Once they go past a certain point - these children - don't think it easy to bring them back. When certain kind o' rudeness come, you have to nip it in the bud. When they want to spring up like they fertilise themselves and act like they big, but you know for a fact that they small, don't wilt in front o' them.
"Stand up firm! Hold your ground! Push them back. Sink them down again below the grass, and stand up over them like you have a machete in your hand. If they push up they head again before they time, don't hesitate. Take one swing and chop it off."
It's highly unlikely that the infuriated mother seen in a video beating her daughter savagely with a cutlass had read How to Beat a Child the Right and Proper Way by Colin Channer. Naked except for a panty, the overweight mother swung her wriggling daughter around and around while skilfully applying the flat of a machete to her body. Over and over.
It must have been completely blunt, because if not, the young teen would have been sliced to pieces, along with the dog that tried to intervene. Yet remarkably there was no blood to be seen anywhere. "She handle the cutlass with some serious skills like she inna cane field a chop cane ..." observed one Facebook pundit.
"God almighty, you beating your child like is your enemy," noted another. Reactions to the video have been somewhat divergent, with sympathy being expressed for the mother, to the surprise of some.
As Channer suggests in his story, Jamaicans are deeply invested in physical punishment as a form of discipline in child-rearing. Only recently has the beating of children by schoolteachers been outlawed. Many seemed to think that the very state of the mother, who had run out practically naked to administer the thrashing, showed that the pickney must have provoked her beyond all reason, and, therefore, deserved the beating.
No doubt, such beatings are a common sight in impoverished communities, where resources and patience are stretched beyond all reason. The brutal footage underscores the distance between those of us leading a relatively comfortable middle-class existence and those eking out their lives in straitened circumstances.
When resources are stretched to the limit, so are tempers and patience, civility goes through the window, and the laws of violence come into their own. I'm bigger, stronger, older than you, therefore, I can and will hurt you if you don't do as I tell you to do.
Some have already broken the cycle. As Mark J. B. Bowen, whose parents are from the Eastern Caribbean, but who was born and brought up here, said:
"I must confess I am not a real Jamaican ... . My parents never beat me with a hose, never got caned at school. No beating in the shower or just as I woke up, no belt named exotically that I had to go for when charged with any indiscretion. I can count on one hand the beatings I got, and honestly, they seemed to hurt my parents more than they did me. I didn't like hurting my parents, so I rarely disobeyed them."
Responding to Bowen's update, Sandy Grey said: "It appears by this standard ... neither am I ... nor any of my friends ... . Seems like there might be a whole colony of non-real Jamaicans around."
The problem is that violence begets violence. Child-rearing in the 21st century demands more creative solutions to the disciplining of children. It's time for a national debate on the right and proper way to bring up children in Jamaica.
- Annie Paul is a writer and critic based at the University of the West Indies and author of the blog, Active Voice (anniepaul.net). Email feedback to email@example.com tweet @anniepaul.