Sun | Feb 25, 2018

Mark Wignall | Espeut, here I come again!

Published:Sunday | January 29, 2017 | 12:00 AM

At the urgings of a few of my loyal readers and my lovely lady of the last 20 years, I have decided to respond to Peter Espeut, regular Gleaner columnist, a sociologist and deacon of the Catholic Church who found flaws, he said, in my column of January 12, 'The Church and its sex problems'.

As a defender of the faith, Espeut cannot be accused of inconsistency because way back in the early 1990s when I wrote for the Sunday Herald and dared to criticise the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Jamaica for some anti-abortion statements he had made, it was the reliable Peter Espeut to the rescue to conclude that that column was "the most amoral" he had ever read.

At the heart of the matter is our 180-degree distance on religious matters. Espeut is a deacon in the church and I am an atheist. Behind Espeut's reasoning, all morals reside in the Church, and goodness in a human can only come from religious instruction.

His piece of January 13 ('Wignall's world: Libertarianism must rule') begins by labelling my column "shallow and ill-informed", a criticism expected from one who can only see through the dogmas he has long embraced. I have no problem with that.

After that, it goes horribly downhill in faulty reasoning and extrapolations designed to meet his narrow, preconceived conclusions.

"Right at the beginning, Mark admits: 'Beginning with deflection in response to my simple questions on the Bible while just a teen, and my rational examination of life, science, and natural phenomena since, let me state at the outset to clear up any misunderstanding, for the last 50 years I have not shared a belief in any religion or divinity, myth to me, but reality of God to many.'

"Rebuffed in Sunday school as a teenager, Mark's 'rational examination of life, science, and natural phenomena' since then has led him into atheism. But a really rational person asking serious biblical questions, if rebuffed, would seek the answers elsewhere.'"

First, a clarification. I did not ask those questions in Sunday School, a place I found supremely boring and utterly meaningless. They were asked in high school to teachers of Bible knowledge, BK as it was then known at KC, an Anglican school; and men of the cloth.

Many of the answers were along the lines of, "Wignall, I am late for my next class," or "Young man, I can see from your face that you have already formulated an answer in your head, so it would be a waste of time to furnish you with one."

And they were right. In my mind, from ages 12 to 15, I had long concluded that religion was a trip into fantasy land, and many of its leaders simply shut down those with an enquiring mind.




In Peter Espeut's narrow religious world, ' ... a really rational person asking serious biblical questions, if rebuffed, would seek the answers elsewhere.'

Say what! In his world, I had a duty to continue to chase down rainbows and ask questions such as, 'If there was a real Garden of Eden and Adam and Eve had, say, 1,000 children, what happened after that? An incestuous orgy?'

Sorry, Peter, that boat had long sailed and I was far along on seeing my fellow human beings as much more important than wondering when the rapture would take place and at which spot pigs were about to fly.

Espeut refers to me: " ... his religiously deprived childhood, the scars of which he has carried for the last 50 years". Peter, a religiously deprived childhood is a good one where children need not be driven to fear by the nightmarish genocide in the Old Testament and the scary tales of dragons and other beasts in Revelation.




I knew that the moment I had fashioned the title for the column, it would attract attention from some of those in the religious community who have never been able to accept the sexual reality of the human body as fun and function.

Deep down, as they resist scientific enquiry and convince themselves that they were born in sin, sexual matters become taboo. Many of them retreat underground and are eventually unearthed in shame.

Espeut makes the stretch that I am the type of person that "if you feel to do something, then it is OK to do it because your feelings are natural and therefore normal". That, of course, resides only in his mind, but I know it was triggered by me writing that "sex is my fun side set to normal".

My lady had a good laugh at that. If anything, the moment I made myself free from religion and its investment in divine fantasy, it allowed me to see the world and its people in all their beauty.


Herbert Gayle's stark revelations


The Gleaner has published some excellent research material from leading anthropologist Dr Herbert Gayle, which highlights many of the problems facing this nation and its culture of violence and crime.

One of the sizzling hot buttons hit by Gayle is the fact of anger in many of our young males who have been deprived of all sense of normality in their childhood. Single mothers forced to fend on their own eventually turn in on their own, and some of them who are unable to deal with the enormous pressure in time devour their own, figuratively.

When a single mother with five hungry mouths to feed stares at one of her sons and says, "Yuh a di dead stamp a yuh wutliss father", in reference to the missing father, what usually follows is a loud, shattering box across the face. The anger grows.

This creates a pressing problem for those in our security agencies. Hard policing will not disappear overnight, even as social intervention is needed in many of our schools throughout the island. How is it to be balanced?

If the schools are specially selected for intervention in an attempt to rescue many of our at-risk young boys, what do we do with those who have long bolted through the gate? Many of them will not respond to reason.

Minister Montague has been speaking of 'dutty criminals', but these are the same types that Omar Davies once referred to as irredeemable. They exist. How should they be dealt with?

Last week, I was in conversation with a 34-year-old dreadlocked man who was mostly sometimes employed. He was showing me items on his smartphone. Every picture was that of a gun. And he was able to name them all and speak of their capability - from high-powered sniper rifles to ornately designed collector's items.

"Mi give up my piece three year now. Nuh money nuh inna it. Only death and destruction." I was pleased with him.

"So, weh yu do wid di gun?"

"Mi sell it to a yout."

I thought about it for a while. "How much yu get fi it?"

"Ten piece," he said. 'Mi did want rent it, but because mi nuh inna di badness no more, him could a just tek it and mi couldn't do nutten bout it."

It's complex, folks. Just ask Dr Gayle.

- Mark Wignall is a public affairs commentator. Email feedback to columns@