Wed | Dec 12, 2018

Mark Wignall | Mother should face justice

Published:Thursday | October 5, 2017 | 12:00 AM

I do not always watch the videos that are sent to me on WhatsApp and Facebook messenger. Many are social fluff, while others are simply too brutal. The 35-second video of a semi-nude mother of substantial size brutally beating her slender 12-year-old daughter with, of all implements, a machete was forced upon me by the number of people who transmitted it.

The setting is of a house side, in an atmosphere that reeks of poverty and despair. The mother uses one hand to grip the child at a section of her upper garment while wielding a vicious-looking, broad machete and using it to slap the child on all sections of her body.

With the child crying out and flailing her arms, it was only sheer luck, or, the practised use of the machete in such brutal fashion, that one of the child's arms was not cut off or another part of her body opened up in a deep gash.

One of my friends, a university professor with a doctorate, surprised me with, 'I agree with how that poor uneducated mother handled that girl. You have no clue how some children stress out their parents. One of my childhood friends did and he went on to kill 33 people. I would make a contribution to the mother's legal defence.'

My professor friend grew up in the real ghetto and ought to know about life from both sides, up and down, but I disagree with him as I do with Damion Crawford, the popular PNP spokesperson on youth and culture who believes the mother is as much a victim as is the child.

I do agree that corporal punishment is meted out daily across Jamaica in the most brutal of ways, and the vast majority of us believe it is none of our business. I also agree that the mother grew up learning and living the pain that must have defined how she was raised by her mother or father.

Where I draw the line is in the full acceptance that an adult is not a child and is therefore fully accountable for their actions, no matter how torturous a journey one's childhood and adolescence was. At which stage does a judge in a court of law declare that a parent has done just about all the relearning possible and must face justice, unimpeded by considerations of the psycho-logical jitters of the past?




I can understand what could be a part of Damion Crawford's motivations. One, he is a politician and he would like to be on both sides of every issue, with the respective caveats thrown in for good measure. Second, he is a thinker who is unafraid to say what is on his mind, even if the issue at hand is not fully thought through.

Many middle-class intellectuals do not, at this time, wish to join the crowd heaping scorn on those who are on the wrong side of the social and economic divide, at a time when many in the society have many issues to rage about. So, the mother wielding the machete, and luckily not harming her daughter beyond the odd psychological scar for life, is to be pitied on the same terms as her daughter.

For the record, I was subject to corporal punishment as a child. It was usually my father with a leather belt and a psychologically taxing pre-flogging lecture. I hated both the lectures and the floggings and did not employ beatings on my children.

Said my professor friend, 'I have a rich, old, female friend who thanks her mom for beating her worse than what this child got. She said it changed her life for the better.'

Well, life is tough and it is all about the choices we make, even in the most harrowing of environments. Anyone from any social station in life who uses a machete in the way that that mother did may need serious social intervention, but the brutal assault must also attract a solution in the courts of the land.

When are we allowed to call out brutality for what it is, especially in a country that is already so brutal and murderous?

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