Wed | Nov 14, 2018

Letter of the Day | Exorcise brutality of slavery’s legacy

Published:Wednesday | October 4, 2017 | 12:07 AM


I grew up in York District, about two and a half miles west of Morant Bay. Corporal punishment was a central feature in education and general socialisation in my village. The teacher used the strap from basic to primary school. In our home, the role of the strap was central in the moulding of the character of the child, but there were times when brutal application of the whip struck a memory chord of an ugly legacy of the past.

When I observed carefully that video of Doreen Dyer wielding a cutlass in disciplining her daughter and the pet dog with very deep anger and vexation, I pondered the social and economic burden she is bearing.

As a person from rural Jamaica, this brutal beating is not new; it is not strange. This one was captured by a cell phone and went viral.

Yesterday's lead Gleaner story, 'Mother a victim, too' (October 3, 2017), is most welcome. It was complemented by an interesting Letter of the Day, 'Cutlass beating video shows society's ugliness'. Many of our social problems will not be solved by the rule of law. It is important to examine the context of that kind of behaviour.

History offers important lessons that can guide change. We fail to solve these complex social problems when we resort to punishment. This behaviour is not a scourge to be rid from one person; it is one of the painful legacies of slavery. Was there any deliberate effort to debrief the masses from the experience of slavery? The laws of social control were constructed to coerce rather than educate people for change.

After watching the video of the beating, I reflected on my boyhood experience in my village. I recalled two very serious brutal beatings. The first one that came to mind was the beating of a friend who ran away from the harsh treatment of his uncle. He did not get far, or perhaps he did not have anywhere to go. He was caught. When the catchers returned to his uncle, he was tied to a tree and was whipped like he was a slave. We all gathered and watched the spectacle.




There was a lesson in it for us watching. We learnt, without even getting instructions, the message and the moral of the story.

The second story is about a young man who attempted to hang himself on a tree. It appeared that the branch selected may have been too weak. It broke with him, making his venture unsuccessful. Like the previous victim, he was caught and marched through the village to his home, where he was thoroughly thrashed. The latter became a successful businessman.

These brutal acts still happen in various forms. One would imagine that as a people, we would be eager to divorce the brutal past, but it is clear that our efforts to do so have been weak or non-existent.