Fri | Sep 21, 2018

State must determine what is acceptable conduct

Published:Monday | February 23, 2015 | 12:00 AM


I write in strong support of the letter of the day 'No shades of grey on sexual violence' (Saturday, February 21, 2015) by Phillipa Davies. By extension, I also identify with Astor Tate's letter a week earlier. They have expressed very well the need to address the strong socialising forces that contribute to a society, a large section of which now accept vulgarity in social interchange, implicit as well as explicit sexual exploitation, and partner abuse as entirely normative behaviour.

And the point has been made that these influences have been long recognised, some with traditional antecedents, but many of more recent vintage.

The challenge of how to effect meaningful change and to reorient our communities to an acceptance of more positive values and attitudes is one which has to be undertaken by all the principal institutions that constitute our nation - the family, the school, the youth clubs, the faith-based institutions, civic bodies, non-governmental organisations and the indigenous community-based institutions.

All these and the ever-present Fourth Estate as represented by the local print and electronic media will have specified, as well as interactive, roles to play. Alongside relevant government agencies, they must intensify efforts to communicate to our youth desirable standards of interpersonal interaction that are necessary for healthy communal living. And the challenge is heightened by the unacceptable living conditions of too many of our citizens which militate against 'healthy communal living'.

It lies with the State, however, to establish a framework of policies and guidelines that set the parameters for what may be determined as acceptable conduct. A country will be assessed and 'branded' according to the measures in place for ensuring these standards.

When, despite the efforts of all the above-listed institutions, much of the public space is left relatively unrestricted to the presentation of loud and intendedly seductive lyrical messages of those entertainers who thrive on promoting negative values and attitudes (e.g., sexually exploitative, homophobic, anti-law and order), and, to some extent, the endorsement of these performers by some unscrupulous members of the advertising fraternity, is it surprising that we should have a serious problem dealing with a powerful counter-culture?

We must act now

While acknowledging that the issue is not just a home-grown phenomenon, given some of the realities of globalisation and the impact of the unbounded electronic media, we must not be awed into a state of doing nothing.

Yes, it is the State which is the one macro-level institution that can go beyond efforts such as localised training/retraining programmes and the necessary demonstrations of protest that the various, mainly micro-level institutions and the mass media must be encouraged to continue.

The functions of monitoring and censoring (responsibly undertaken) have their place in any well-regulated society. Therefore, to begin with, there is the universally accepted role of a police force as a general monitoring and constraining agency applying the laws of the land, and how this mandate is carried out is of critical importance. It is also the roles undertaken in Jamaica primarily by the Broadcasting Commission that need to be expanded and the Commission, as well as any other agencies that may have responsibility for any complementary initiatives, be given the authority to take more meaningful 'corrective' steps.

What will be the determining factor in whether the State can measure up to its responsibility is the political will of its principal actors.

John Maxwell