Thu | Oct 21, 2021

Orville Taylor | It takes a village to raise a child

Published:Sunday | July 25, 2021 | 12:09 AM

This child is not known to me, but despite closing my tear-filled eyes, I see him and he looks like my sons and all the children I raised at his age. He is dead, and this resulted from a beating by his mother’s consort, loosely called a stepfather...

This child is not known to me, but despite closing my tear-filled eyes, I see him and he looks like my sons and all the children I raised at his age. He is dead, and this resulted from a beating by his mother’s consort, loosely called a stepfather. He qualifies by the ‘step him tek’ but certainly not to be called father. True, he is an anomaly, because we as a society cherish fatherhood and decry cruelty to children.

However, while we are totally outraged and repulsed by extreme acts of violence, such as scarring, torture, and sexual abuse of infants, we are a bit more tolerant where it is a ‘force ripe’ girl or a pickney with no manners.

Beyond that, we are steeped in the ‘spare the rod and spoil the child culture’ and defend beating of children by parents and caregivers because it is a God-given right.

Yes, many Bible quoters and praise and worship sinners, in their blind ignorance, use the ‘Word of God’ and sin. Yes, you read it right.

There is a famous passage, Proverbs 13:24: “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them,” which is the benchmark and cornerstone of those who are firm believers in beating children. Another verse, Proverbs 23:13, teaches, “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish them with the rod, they will not die.” Finally, Proverbs 22:6 makes the profound psycho-sociological statement about the importance of primary socialisation, including discipline, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”

Add to these, the Mosaic Law in Deuteronomy 21:18-22, which prescribes capital punishment for the disobedient child, albeit after due process, and we have a confused set of church members who have absolutely no idea of what Jesus was teaching them.

DENYING PUNISHMENT

The naïve and dishonest among us equate the withholding of the strap and cane as being the same as denying punishment. No one doubts the importance of negative sanctions in curbing behaviour. We ‘ologists live from such beliefs and research. Indeed, it would be hypocritical for us no-beating advocates to equate a one slap on the wrist, a ruler stroke in the opened palm, or a small conk on the head with a single finger with telling a child to go cut a piece of wisp and then beat her savagely while spitting out myriad expletives and descriptions of her father as the Jamaican turkey vulture. An awful description because having been an erstwhile viand of this creature, she is actually self-denigrating.

Back to the Bible. Proverbs are attributed to King Solomon, who is said to have been the wisest man. Of course, that is utter rubbish because a ‘gyalliss’ with 700 wives and 300 concubines cannot possible have enough blood to serve both his genitalia and his brain. Seriously! Which sensible man doesn’t understand that a ‘mistress is mi stesss’? Furthermore, he ultimately was misled by women. So why would I be convinced if this ‘woman fool’ tells me that beating my child wouldn’t kill him when I am strong enough to beat another adult to death with my bare hands?

Putting oneself in the place of the other, as Jesus told Christians to do, it is easy to avoid ‘murderation’ to our children, especially when we remember how awful it was when we got it. Research shows ultra-strong correlations between parental abuse and abusive behaviour later on. Be scared that large numbers of multiple murderers have histories of maternal torture.

What I want to make clear is that inasmuch as minor corporeal punishment is normal in Jamaica, people who deliberately hurt children, whether by occasioning bodily harm or sexual misconduct, are not normal-minded people. They are somewhat mentally ill.

LOOK OUT FOR THE VULNERABLE

Therefore, because we know that there are crazy people who have access to and responsibility for children, we have to look out for the vulnerable who are too small and weak to protect themselves. True, many mothers are not directly complicit but are afraid of their spouses, or they themselves often are severely hurt in standing up for their children against the evil stepfather (or stepmother as the case might be).

However, too many neighbours pretend to be cockroaches who avoid fowl fights. Our Child Care and Protection Act (CCPA) does not give a legal option for any adult with bystander apathy. Indeed they can and should be charged for seeing and being blind.

Nonetheless, I believe that the CCPA needs a bit more teeth. Inasmuch as it turns the average citizen into a policeman and removes the common law indemnification of ‘no duty to care’, it does not force the onlooker to act if she or he can.

The truth is, many times, the 119 call comes after the fact, when the neighbour could have stepped over the fence and girthed the abusive adult and saved the child’s life.

‘Fasniss kill Miss Matty puss’, but don’t stand by while she kills her kids.

- Dr Orville Taylor is head of the Department of Sociology at The University of the West Indies, a radio talk-show host, and author of ‘Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets’. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and tayloronblackline@hotmail.com.