Fri | Apr 16, 2021

What about shame trees?

Published:Wednesday | October 23, 2019 | 12:26 AM


I would like to commend the government on its tree-planting initiative. It is believed that this is one of the best ways of combating climate change. It could also contribute in many other ways to the island’s and the world’s ecological well-being.

A writer to your paper suggested that it should be linked to the island’s folk tradition of planting birth-trees when children are born. As one who had this experience while growing up, I can attest to the effect that this practice had on me.

But what about shame trees? It is also part of the island’s folk belief that some persons have shame trees growing in their moral consciousness that guide their conduct, and that it is persons who do not have such a tree who are most inclined to harm others.

Some ethicists believe that moral changes occur in society only when large numbers of citizens feel ashamed and dishonoured by some practice or state of affairs in their country. They then rise up and change it. This thesis has been used to explain moral changes such as the abolition of slavery and the binding of the feet of women. They point to events in the contemporary world and say that this is also happening now.

I wonder to what extent Jamaicans feel ashamed and dishonoured by events that reflect the state of affairs in their country. If this is not the case, and the ethicists are correct, it is unlikely that there will be any movement towards making Jamaica a kinder and more humane society anytime soon.