Gordon Robinson | Judge not Bath's 'lass for a lass
I see child abuse is the latest nine-day wonder, especially among the chattering classes.
Why? A video has surfaced of a topless mother, seemingly living at or below the poverty line in an inner-city or country settlement in Bath, St Thomas, beating her girl child (looks about 13 years old) with the flat of a machete. The mother, in obvious stress and distress, is screaming at the child that she has talked repeatedly, but the child just won't hear.
In a show of almost exquisite expertise that suggests that this is not the first or even the 10th time this local Lady Godiva has wielded a machete for this purpose, the mother expertly gives the child a forehand, and, as slick as Martina Navritolova, switches to deliver a blow to an interfering dog ('Ruffcut', according to my sources), before delivering another forehand blow to the child ("Mi tiyad a oono!") in as perfect a rhythm as any member of the Temptations.
Uptown Jamaica is in a state of panic. We, whose children have been brought up in gated communities or homes varying between the rudimentary approach of Mona Heights to the palatial mansions of Beverly Hills or Norbrook, are appalled.
We, whose children have had every educational opportunity (which some have grasped; some not) I-pads, cell phones, and all types of reading material at their disposal from birth, have come down on Lady Godiva like a ton of bricks. We who have been Americanised by dish, cable TV, or Netflix, so we know about timeouts, removal of privileges, or (my personal favourite) grounding as alternative disciplinary tools and who have seen on TV that Child Services appears at any family's door whenever the subject of hitting a child is whispered into the ether, can't believe this awful thrashing could ever be necessary.
We, whose children either have a permanent father or father figure or family to help with their upbringing are aghast that a mother could ever resort to this sort of abuse as 'discipline'.
Don't you look at me so smug
and say I'm going bad.
Who are you to judge me
and the life that I live?
Well, la-de-da! Until we've all walked a mile in Godiva's shoes (or ridden one on her horse), I hope we'll recall and implement the scriptural advice on judging NOT. What follows is a true story told to me by a former Air Jamaica flight attendant:
My source was working a flight from New York many, many years ago. One of the passengers was a Jamerican lady (who had obviously spent most of her life in USA) and her two young children. My source insists that in all her years on that job, she has never encountered two ruder pickney. The children made the flight from New York a misery for every other person on board, and no matter what the mother tried, they would not behave. Eventually, the flight touched down in Kingston, and my source witnessed the following. The mother, by this time completely frustrated and stressed, came down the steps with the children in tow.
As the family touched the tarmac, the mother turned to the children, and at the top of her voice, said, "Watch 'ey, a Jamaica wi deh now. Ef any of yu tek ONE step wid mi, mi a go gi' oono two bitch lick. Den yu can call Child Services ef yu bad!" and, with that, she stormed off with two silent children following meekly behind.
Has any of our intrepid journalists tried to find out WHY Lady Godiva was so brutal with her daughter? What did this child do? What could she possibly have done? Is there any circumstance in which this sort of reaction could be justified? If not, can we at least empathise with the mother rather than unanimously condemn?
I know that I'm not perfect
and that I don't claim to be.
So before you point your fingers,
Be sure your hands are clean.
I don't know the facts, but I have some hypothetical facts to put to you. Suppose this is a single, undereducated mother without the help of a husband/father figure to instill discipline? I can tell you from experience that for some unfathomable reason, the father's voice alone tends to result in obedience when the mother's fails. Suppose this 13-year-old girl has a man? Suppose the mother has tried every possible way to let this girl know that the consequences of a sexual relationship can be devastating? Suppose the daughter only becomes more deeply involved? Suppose on that particular day, the daughter has taken food from the family pot and given it to her man?
NOT HALF AS BAD
Suppose, in frustration, the mother, absent the thinking skills of her uptown condemners, decides that THIS is not half as bad as what'll happen to her child if she doesn't learn to live without the man, and, in desperation, reaches for the machete? Watch the video. Listen to the anguished cries of the mother. Listen to the little brother advise his mother to deliver more lashes ("Mummy, she a gwaan wid t'ings!"). What would YOU advise? Give the child a timeout? Remove her non-existent iPad? Call the CDA? DWL at that last one!
What is this mother's REALITY? How does she stop her daughter from trodding a path to self-destruction that maybe she herself stupidly trod?
The boat of life is rocking
And you may stumble too
So while you talk about me
Someone else is judging you
It's been a dispute in local music circles forever whether Bob Marley recorded Judge Not or One Cup of Coffee first. They were his very first recordings and were done solo (no Wailers). My vote has always gone to Judge Not as his first. Both songs were recorded at Leslie Kong's legendary Beverley studios (released 1962) where other greats like Derrick Morgan, Toots, and Desmond Dekker made their names. Judge Not was released in the UK on Island Records in 1963.
For me, the highlight of both recordings is the awesome saxophone styling of the late, great 'Deadly' Headley Bennett. Headley told me one night at Casa Tout that he got his nickname during one of these recording sessions when he held a note so long, in his words, "I thought I was going to die." When it was over, everyone in the studio expressed amazement, and one said, "Bwoy, Headley, yu deadly, eeh?" and that was that.
before you judge yourself.
if you're not ready for judgement.
Woah oh oh!
Before I receive a torrent of abusive emails from uptown cognoscenti upon which I shall have to waste my limited supply of matches (needed for mosquito destroyer), let me make it clear: I do not support child abuse. I do not support what this lady did. However, I do empathise with her.
Judge not lest ye be judged!
Peace and love.
- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.