Sun | Sep 22, 2019

Editorial | Anything in the name of culture

Published:Saturday | August 10, 2019 | 12:15 AM

Daily, we are reminded of the changing face of society and the great challenge of achieving some semblance of order in this 57-year-old experiment called Jamaica.

Things may become even more difficult. We embrace our cultural heritage because it sets us apart from the mundane and the predictable. Passed down through the ages, Jamaica’s music, dance, food, and general way of life is continually being reshaped. In the process, changes are introduced that will become part of the heritage of succeeding generations.

Does it matter if an artiste decides to remove her undergarments, thereby making the performing stage her bedroom? Does it matter if an artiste uses expletives to his audience? In the name of culture, anything goes in this 21st century, or so it seems.

The challenge for artistes and other performers like comedians is how to make their act stand out, and so many of them use shock value to full measure. Their delivery, laced with expletives, their dress bordering on the nude, are some of the ways in which they express themselves. The repertoire, particularly of modern dancehall performers, is enhanced by various swear words, which they use to ‘connect’ with their audiences.

FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

The most recent appointee to the Senate, Dr André Haughton, is reportedly going to bat for dancehall entertainers’ right to use expletives in their stage presentations. We sense that Dr Haughton’s arguments in the Senate may be couched in the language of beating back censorship and allowing freedom of expression.

Public soundings suggest that some Jamaicans crave a society free of all laws and rules governing how people behave. They argue that people ought to be free to be as reckless as they wish in operating motor vehicles, as risqué as they dare in how they dress, and say whatever comes to mind about anyone at any time. It boils down to expressing one’s self. At the risk of sounding like the moral police, we think all could spell anarchy.

So why would we be outraged at the suggestion that dancehall artistes be given free rein to use profanity in their acts? One good reason is that dancehall concerts often happen in neighbourhoods, amplifying sound to reach the ears of persons, including young children, who may live many miles away from the staging area. It is hard enough for them to deal with the noise nuisance. Now if the senator has his way, they will have to listen to expletives and lewd expressions as well.

If you ruffle the feathers of a typical Jamaican, he or she may respond with a home-grown expletive because some will argue that that’s the Jamaican persona – we have even developed our own vocabulary of profanity. However, this is usually done in private, perhaps among one’s peers, and is generally disapproved of in public settings, especially in the presence of children.

But in Senator Haughton’s world, if one attends a dancehall concert, one must expect to be assailed with profanity, for it is part of our culture.

We would like to have seen Senator Haughton, as an educated Jamaican, encouraging artistes to use their creativity and influence to convey positive messages to the youth who look to them for wisdom. Many at-risk youth are in crisis today because of a deficit in guidance.