Collette J.A. Smith, Guest Columnist
If you are born a male in Jamaica, there is a great likelihood that you will be abused (verbally, mentally, physically and emotionally), ridiculed (for being 'soft'), used (by women, friends and family), relegated to a secondary or inferior place, and/or killed (by the security forces in your prime). You can move out of this space; or take a firm decision to become your best self!
The life of a young male in Jamaica may be quite difficult from birth, as he is often accorded second place to his sister(s), or girls in the home, particularly in obtaining a good education. This is more often the case if he is from a low-income family. It is also the boy who, generally, has to tend to the field and animals, in rural areas, before going off to school, if he ever goes.
How many times have we passed our boys at the traffic lights, in the markets and the streets trying to peddle wares as a means of survival, or upon the instruction of their 'caregivers'?
Jamaican boys are even abused at church. I know of a particular young man who has an aversion to anything relating to a particular (exclusivist) charismatic church as he was referred to as a john crow by his tongues-talking schoolteacher, and collared and verbally abused by another Sunday school teacher (of the same faith) for being outside during service. He had simply gone outside to relieve his bowels.
This boy has also been tortured by thoughts and memories of church folk, who had sought to destroy his character by embellishing stories they concocted when he lost interest in associating with them.
Not only has the Church served as an uncomfortable place for many young men, but allegations have also been made of men on the down-low who have sought to recruit young boys into a life that is contrary to the norms of society. The young man who decides to look around the Church for a role model may also be disappointed.
Some leaders who should be exemplars of good family life and discipline have demonstrated a penchant for polygamy, even in the Church, which some expect to be the bastion of monogamy and good morals.
Can our young men, then, look to society for a blueprint, or hope? Sadly, the answer may be - No! While we have seen some statesmen in Jamaican politics since the 1960s, some of our politicians and national leaders behave like infants, with scant regard for authority, image, protocol, or the norms expected in a civilised society. Our security forces are also overwhelmed with the challenges of crime, and the difficulties of maintaining law and order; while members of their cohort exacerbate the problem by treating our young men as a little less than the dog that was recently shot.
There is no place in this article to make a case for criminals. However, it would serve us well to remember that we will reap what we sow; and RESPECT begets respect! If we want to acculturate our young men into creating what former PM Patterson and others have called a kinder, gentler nation, we must start by showing our young boys and men respect.
Sense of worth
Give a man a sense of worth; massage his ego by affirming him. Meet his BELONGINGNESS needs, which, according to noted psychologist Abraham Maslow, is the desire to feel part of a community, family or group, through love, care and affection. Then, you will see the transformation that takes place in the individual, the community, the society and the world.
As a motivational speaker and life coach, I have been privileged to speak with hundreds of young boys and men in different settings; and I have the text messages, the life stories, the experiences to prove that affirmation, respect, and the opportunity to grow and thrive will change the mindset of the Jamaican youth and help us to build a better Jamaica - one person at a time. Try it and prove that it works.
The next time you get the chance, engage a disadvantaged youth (or any young man) in a conversation about his dream and ambitions. Follow up with him, even periodically, to see how he is progressing. Then share your own story through this medium - about the lives that have been transformed.
I have the greatest of respect for our women, but life has proven to me that it is our men who are most at risk, and they are the ones who will show the GREATEST level of gratitude when you help to transform their lives.
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