Wed | Aug 4, 2021

Ronald Thwaites | One hand cannot clap

Published:Monday | June 21, 2021 | 12:05 AM

Did you see the television clip last week of beautiful Afreen’s mother, herself very unwell, who brushed off her own pain and poverty to devote her whole being to coping with her daughter’s talent and sickness? That’s real heroism and real holiness, too. Afreen is hugely talented, sickly and poverty-stricken. Sounds common?

Dedicated single parents who give their lives for their children are the under-recognised strength of family and this nation.

But one hand was never meant to clap – not as a norm – not as far as parenting is concerned anyway. Where are the fathers?

Last Saturday’s newspaper told the story of a teenage dad who has had sole care of his daughter since she was a baby. There was also the inspiring tale of a father making huge effort to raise his Marcus “to be a gentleman”. These guys are ordinary Jamaican patriots, most likely featured because they are unusual. But where are the mothers of those children? And the fathers of most of those sexually abused girls who, from all the grizzly reports, appear to all be the product of immaculate conceptions?

SINGLE PARENTING FEATURE

On the BBC recently, there was a feature about single parenting in Baltimore. “It’s a black thing” the presenter explained. Really? Single motherhood being idealized as an exercise of feminine liberation?

“I wanted a child, not a husband. Most men only keep you back,” That came from a highly upwardly mobile friend. “Mi nah married,” the grade-11 girl at a rural high school insisted. “Why mi mus tie miself down? Pickney, yes; but one man, no!”

Several years have passed since successive governments have promised to amend the laws necessary to mandate the identification of fathers on the birth paper of every Jamaican child. It is clearly not a priority because, implicitly and silently, many of us elevate personal freedoms over self-restraint and responsibility for our actions. This, even in the supremely important arena of ‘ life giving’ and ‘life nurturing’. Where is the public outcry at such anti- feminism and child abuse?

But invariably, the children suffer and the social dislocation becomes intergenerational. Those of us who wield public authority have not dared ourselves to figure out and then promote a social and familial initiative which is most conducive to robust national development. Without that, all the economic manoeuvring cannot succeed.

Society has moved from the normalised oppression of slavery, with its brutality against committed relationships and family, to the modern poisons of crushing inequality overlaid with hedonism.

So a belated Happy Father’s Day to all dads. But let’s set out some principles for us men to live by. The first is that premature or casual sex is the thief of true love. Next is the legal and moral truth that if you have unprotected relations with a woman, you are opening yourself to a lifelong responsibility for the product of that union. Also, the tasks of parenting are not for either father or mother alone, but equally and jointly.

Once, a prime minister told us to “bat but don’t score”. That sounds like catchy, sound advice. But it isn’t really. While it purports to address the problem of unwanted pregnancies, it skirts a deep resistance to commitment and faithfulness. These are not just spiritual values. They make for the social stability which the post-modern polity needs desperately if we dare to look beyond short-term consumerist fizz.

Come with me to the public hospital ‘social’ wards where mostly men – fathers – are abandoned by children they never really checked for; the homes of the Missionaries of the Poor and the infirmaries, to see the sad end to many of us sperm donors.

There are very few mothers ever in that position. What does that tell us? So hail up all the sacrificial single mothers and fathers and, particularly, let us back up those for whom circumstances have conspired to leave no choice. But let us teach the children differently. One hand is not supposed to clap.

TWO POSTSCRIPTS

The issue of acceptable hairstyles for students is being misconstrued. The matter is not foremost about hair but about obedience to school rules and standards to which you have agreed to subscribe. Schools set standards of grooming and deportment, with which pupils and parents agree to comply. While they should be administered with prudence and compassion, except with very good reason, religious belief or poverty, for example, they must be followed. Anything less is a contribution to the elevation of disorder over discipline. When you agreed to the rules, you ceded your right to dissent, though not your opportunity to advocate for their change.

Last, there is a very simple way for the unfortunately befuddled Speaker Marisa Dalrymple-Philibert to solve MP George Wright’s seating in Gordon House. Just ask him to bring his stool (we know you have one, George) and put it in a corner on the government side, which is really where he and you want him to be.

Rev Ronald G. Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.