Ronald Thwaites | ‘A want a man…’
“A want a man to dismankle mi, cau my boyfrien cyan hangle mi … .” That was the first stanza of the item sung by beautiful, innocent, five-year-olds in the ‘graduation’ class at the basic school on one of the lanes some years ago. I had expected the item to be something like: “Jesus loves me, yes I know..”
Most of the audience, made up of near-teenage parents and very young grandmothers, reacted as their little ones gyrated to the lyrics. “Eh Eh, watch how dem ripe eeh!”
I remembered that event this week when two of our most senior prosecutors lamented the increase in horrible sex crimes appearing on their Circuit Court dockets. Most of those cases will take years to get to trial, if ever, while the damage done by the hyper-sexualising of our children; the deepening disrespect suffered by Jamaican women, increases – even as we the leaders and pundits feign outrage at sexual harassment.
Feign? Too harsh and unfair, you say? Not really, when the dominant promotions on the radio and most popular social media outlets are for bacchanal, gambling and liquor drinking. There is no amount of money that can encourage self-respect (very different from show-off and self-obsession), commitment to love and care for others (not to use and throw them away); to build an ethic of love for purposeful work, not for advantage-taking, like the banks and big boys; the largely ‘mouth-talk’ of some of us politicians and priests; nor the scamming and gunmanship of some ghetto youth.
The country needs an antidote to brogad culture. Boogie and party are fine as recreation, after hard and productive work. Often, because there is little else that is attractive, we, not counting the artistes, treat entertainment as a substitute for hard work. When the session finishes at 5 a.m., who feeds you and your family that day and the next? In which day job or class can you perform well? Do you think mumbling “Drink Responsibly” at the end of the promotion will have any effect?
LOOSENESS AND DEPRAVITY
Idleness, wrong stimulation and value-weak schooling all add up to the context of looseness and depravity, resulting in domestic violence, sexual abuse and murder, only the smallest fraction of which ends up on the Circuit Court list.
Jamaican women correctly insist that they should be free to live their lives as they wish. Believe me, men feel just the same. If all of us are not taught about the necessity of self-restraint and respect for others in the exercise of personal freedom, the chaos and gruesome disorder of our time will get inevitably worse, no matter what laws we pass or how many of ‘them’ we imprison or kill.
Last week, Dr Chang told us that he really gets it. Who among his colleagues who constructed the Budget understood what the minister of national security said about the imperative of proper socialisation for our boys? And the girls, too, Dr Chang! Where are young persons learning about wholesome sexual ethics, for example? Or how to manage this predatory, capitalist political economy?
Remember: “A want a man to dismankle mi … im seh im have feelings, mi a pause pon di screamings” … im a worry seh mi gi im bun. Mi a fret as yu quint it come..A want a man”... etc. Who taught them that and thought that this is appropriate for them?
The most seductive advertisement in the midst of a lockdown, no school, little food, lost jobs and pent-up brogad mood, is that you can get winnings every four minutes if only you keep on betting. It’s the clearest message of a dominant, decadent ethos. Guess who gave them the licence. Recall what you said about the systemic transfer of the resources of the poor to the rich!
The principal of one high school told me last week that he usually loses five or six grade 10 and 11 girls each year to pregnancy. So far this academic year, of the students he has been able to contact, the number is over 20.
We should no more be surprised at that, than we should at the statistics offered by the shocked prosecutors or at the lyrics of the pre-schoolers.
THERE IS HOPE
Thankfully, there is hope. Last week I was Terry’s ‘giveaway father’ at her simple and beautiful wedding. After a rugged life on the street, no job, difficult children, she and her man made the vow to deal with the ‘dutty-tough’ of life together. They are a testament against selfishness and despair. Love is a decision, not just a feeling.
The redemptive (an appropriate adjective at Eastertide, Passover and springtime!) approach to the social ‘pop-down’ starts with getting the basic- and infant-school children back at school next week, if possible. Vaccinate the teachers and caregivers and feed the children properly. Then offer them a Brain Builders curriculum (the Ministry of Education has it) full of stories, Bible verses, memory gems and habit-building games about simple good things in their environment; about manners, compassion and caring. Teach them to pray and to play; to love the colour of their skin, their hair, their history. Retrain the teachers and pay them what they are worth.
Forget about the summer holidays. Keep going or else there will continue to be irreparable loss of human capital (more sacred than the primary surplus), more sexual abuse and estranged-lover killings, not to mention the leeching of idle, hungry, bright boys into gangs.
And Andrew, Horace, Nigel and the others, please find the small money to make this start.
Rev Ronald G.Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.