Wed | Dec 7, 2016

Is flexi-noise coming?

Published:Monday | December 8, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Garth A. Rattray, Contributor

We have the flexi-week (flexi-work) legislation, and we may soon have a 'flexi-noise' legislation if the Noise Abatement Act is amended in favour of those who crave loud and disturbing entertainment at all hours of the day and night and also in favour of those who benefit financially from such events. Our legislators need to consider citizens who deserve and have the right to peace and quiet.

Patrons of loud events try to defend their all-night and, sometimes, all-day sessions as their way to relax and unwind. But most are not relaxing and unwinding from hard and productive work; they say that they need something to counteract the stresses, trials and tribulations of poverty.

If they can't find a way to drown their troubles with earth-moving 'music', alcohol, illicit drugs, and with lewdness displayed on several levels, it is implied that they might resort to anti-social behaviour simply out of boredom and frustration.

I am always confused by this poverty-driven urge to party their stress away. After all, so-called 'clothes', bling, elaborate hairstyles, wigs, hairpieces, weaves, makeup, admission fees, drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol cost a lot of money.

Blaring music

If anyone is within range of any all-night dancehall event, the unforgettable experience is often (but not always) the same. The 'music' is usually blaring. The booming bass threatens to dismantle motor vehicles as they drive by, shatter windows and crack walls.

The guttural, primal and frequently depraved screeches from deejays assault your auditory apparatus and foul your sensibilities. Even for those living far away from one of those sessions, the fierce intrusion into the peace and quiet of homes unnerves adults, contaminates the minds of sleep-deprived children, and is often facilitated by the night breeze as it gently wafts the cacophonous noises towards resting residents.

There is little chance that anyone can watch television or enjoy any home entertainment during this ferocious onslaught. Even if you can afford to turn on the air-conditioning, lock up all windows and doors and batten down as if a Category 5 hurricane is upon you, conversation is only possible with short, to-the-point shouts, carefully timed somewhere between the chest-thumping bass and the ear-piercing treble.

Sleep is impossible, except for the severely hearing impaired. Unless you crave that sort of thing, no one should be subjected to that abuse at anytime, anywhere.

In its current state, it seems to me that the Noise Abatement Act is in dire need of more stringency, not leniency. It assumes that everyone who is gainfully employed only works during the daylight hours, from Monday to Friday.

The 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. noise curfew applies to Saturday and Sunday mornings only. The midnight noise curfew applies to Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights. But many people work any day of the week and some work at nights. They require rest during the daylight hours. This is more pertinent since the flexi-workweek has been passed in Parliament.

Additionally, the Noise Abatement Act should specifically make reference to motor vehicles that pump out thousands of watts and become moving violations.

Hospital disturbance

And, although the act addresses the forbidding of intrusive noise at specified times near to places like hospitals, nursing homes, hotels, guest houses, and so on, whether citizens complain or not, this needs much more active policing. The University Hospital of the West Indies, for instance, is often assailed by loud, all-night dancehall music coming from premises near to the front gate.

People can make all the noise and even, perhaps, indulge in vulgar language and/or lewd dancing to their hearts' content, but they must do it at a place and time that does not disturb/affect the citizens who need peace, quiet and rest.

Jamaica's Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms assures us the "right to enjoy a healthy and productive environment free from the threat of injury or damage from environmental abuse ...".

Intrusively loud and disruptive noise is pollution and, therefore, constitutes environmental abuse.

Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.