Mon | Mar 30, 2020

Lennie Little-White | Who will save our youth?

Published:Sunday | March 22, 2020 | 12:28 AM
Opposition Leader, Dr Peter Phillips
Opposition Leader, Dr Peter Phillips

“You teach the youth about Christopher Columbus,

And you say he was a very great man.

You teach the youth about the pirate Morgan,

And you say he was a very great man.

All these great men were doing was ­robbing, raping and killing.

So, you can’t blame the youth

You can’t fool the youth”

– Peter Tosh

Decades ago, the lyrical troubadour – the late Peter Tosh – wrote lyrics that came way before today’s generation. Today’s society is concerned about the non-conformist behaviour of some of our young men who can be dubbed “urban terrorists”.

Any cursory examination of those caught up in criminal gun activity indicates that the majority are males aged below 30 years. Without complete sociological data and analysis, this situation begs the question as to why this current situation is escalating.

The kneejerk reaction is to blame it on poor parenting, but the reality is that a lot of these “urban terrorists” are either the product of single-parent homes or are barrel kids with parents domiciled in colder climates. At the best of times, the fathers are missing-in-action even for those young males still living in Jamaica.

Sometimes, the school teachers are not much older than their students. So here, too, is another vacuum of positive leadership. My contention is that there is a dearth of leaders-cum-heroes that our young men can emulate. Some will remind me of Tina Turner’s song in the soundtrack of the movie Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome:

“We are the children,

The last generation,

We are the ones they left behind,

And I wonder when we are ever going to change it,

Living under fear until nothing else remains.

We don’t need another hero,

We don’t need to know the way home.”

To many of the youth, male teachers are not exactly on the hit parade, politicians and parsons are seen as corrupt charlatans of the same ilk, and the police are seen as “state terrorists”. So who are the heroes for our young males? Again, Tina Turner reminds us that

“We don’t need another hero.

We don’t need to know the way home.”

Therein lies the dilemma – where is “home” for most of these “terrorists” waiting to be hatched and become full-time gang members? And when they do reason among themselves, who is their most celebrated role model? Certainly not Andrew Holness – the “Bro Gad” – or Peter Phillips. By far, the most popular folk hero is the World Boss – Vybz Kartel – and what is he best known for?

FILLING A VOICE

The Internet easily brings international personalities from Snoop Dog to 50 Cent into the worldview of our young men, creating images that once were anathema to our more traditional Jamaican lifestyle and family values. So how do we fill the void?

Our superstars like Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell are like flashes of lightning that excite our young men when they race internationally. Chris Gayle’s prowess is hardly seen in Jamaica anymore. Other than Vybyz Kartel, there is no one entertainer who excites the young folk like Bob Marley did some 40 years ago. Who can the young men mirror?

There is no one among us with the stature of a Bustamante or Norman Manley – two mythical figures who commanded hero worship among young males. Today, most politicians are viewed as corrupt and self-serving.

A corner chat with any inner-city posse will tell you that the influx of guns can be linked directly to politicians on both sides whose primary ambition was geographic hegemony to guarantee a plurality of votes on election day. Today, the genie is out of the bottle with no Redeemer to show the young men an ­alternative – and better – lifestyle. Tina Turner sings:

“Looking for something we can rely on.

There’s got to be better out there.

Love and compassion, their day is coming.

All else are castles built in the air.

And, I wonder when we are ever going to digest it.

Living under the fear until nothing else remains.”

In the late ‘70s, there was a cloud hanging over Jamaica that made some catch one of the “five flights a day” or stay cowering in their homes with burglar bars standing like silent sentinels. We are not yet back to that state of mind, but the fear factor is rising slowly, caused from everything from Wild West taxi men to the urban terrorists who kidnap and ­plunder without respect for ongoing SOEs and ZOSOs.

Our political leaders on both sides are shackled by conditionalities to meet international financial benchmarks so we can continue to get easy loan money. Our businessmen and investors are singing sankeys about the sky-high returns available on the stock market. Most of our church leaders seemed to have lost their moral and spiritual compass, so the young men no longer look to their church for guidance to the Promised Land.

Tina Turner asks again for the young males:

“So what do we do with our lives?

We leave only a mark.

Will our story shine like a life,

Or end in the dark?

Give it all or nothing.

We don’t need another hero,

We don’t need to know the way home.”

My position is on the other side of Tina Turner’s lyrics. I believe that we need another hero or heroes that our young males can admire and emulate to be law-abiding Jamaicans who want their country to be the place to live, raise families, and find good-paying jobs that can afford them a decent lifestyle for themselves, their partners, and their sons and daughters.

Is there such a person on the ­horizon? If this Messiah does not emerge soon, Peter Tosh’s words will become immortal:

“You can’t blame the youth.”

- Lennie Little-White, CD, MA, is a Jamaican film-maker and writer. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and lennielittle.white@gmail.com.