Mon | Nov 29, 2021

Ronald Thwaites | Jokers, or serious people?

Published:Monday | October 18, 2021 | 12:06 AM
Fulsome congratulations to Chris Tufton and the Government for their belated but principled stand to refuse donations to the health sector from the merchants of alcohol and tobacco.
Fulsome congratulations to Chris Tufton and the Government for their belated but principled stand to refuse donations to the health sector from the merchants of alcohol and tobacco.

Today is National Heroes Day. Our heroes, with all their shortcomings, sacrificed comfort, wealth, self- preservation, and many their lives, in the service of human dignity, and the building of a nation. Principle, not market forces, self-care or hedonism, guided them. We are reminded of them, especially today, so that we may try to follow their example.

A few years ago, I lived near enough to have to hear the musical lyrics and DJ rantings at the almost-nightly bashments in Barbican Square. After detailed descriptions to men on how to rub up and then get behind the women’s panties, the triumphant instruction, to the roar of the crowd, was, “Now, Breed Har.”

Yeah, Man. The results of this mind-frame are here for all to see on this National Thanksgiving Day. See the children on the street during school hours. Check the yards and see what many are watching and playing with the devices that desperate people in the Ministry and Cabinet want us to believe are the antidote to school closure. Come to the same dance in the Square and look at the kids mimicking the DJ’s antics.

Where are we teaching them principles of happy, responsible sexual activity? The mass media? Cable and social media? We are serious jokers if we think that “use a condom everytime for a better life” really cuts it.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Jim Jones’ people thought the Kool-Aid was sweet...

Fulsome congratulations to Chris Tufton and the Government for their belated but principled stand to refuse donations to the health sector from the merchants of alcohol and tobacco. This policy will cost them some of the credits of people in Barbican Square and higher up the hill, but will benefit public well-being in the long run.

SETS AN ETHICAL STANDARD

Moreso, it sets an ethical standard that it’s not OK to market products proven to be addictive and sickening; hugely harmful to human well-being and State expense; and then absolve all that by offering to help clean up the inevitable nasty consequences of your product use. Stop joking around with serious matters. Left to themselves, neither the marketplace nor the State leads us to the good life.

All tobacco use is harmful. Moderate use of alcohol is not, but as many of us know, sadly, it can very easily lead to destructive alcoholism. Mumbling at the end of the advertisement about being over 18, or “drink responsibly”, are useless sops.

And please don’t bother with the argument about personal freedom to do as I please to poison my own body, when that brings untold distress to those I am accountable to, as well as to every taxpayer. Equally spurious is the crocodile-tear concern about the bartenders and cigarette vendors who would be displaced if Carreras and Wray & Nephew lock shop.

If we are serious about a flourishing life for all our people, there have to be standards of conduct beyond the narrow confines of the criminal law. They should leave as much room for personal choice as possible, follow the science and cleave, without deviation, to upholding the common good.

“And who is my neighbour?” the man asked Jesus. “A man was once on his way from Barbican Square to Half-Way Tree … .” (Check out Luke 10:15 for the rest of that story and the lesson it teaches.)

It used to be that rum and cigarette were considered habits of the good life. Now we know better, so we should do better. That is what Tufton’s standard-setting is trying to achieve. And as argued last week, the hug-up of the State and political parties with the casino and gambling sector is but another case of us joking around serious, practical and moral trends in our culture.

A sense of shame and regret when we have done wrong is essential to mature behaviour in both personal and national life.

BIG PROBLEM, MON!

The lack of concern about the peril of our sisters and brothers in Haiti is appalling. After all the waste and ‘teefing’, we may not have money to help relieve their hunger, which is even worse than ours. But why do we treat Haitian refugees so coarsely, and seem to care so little about the struggles of that great nation?

Shame, too, that the United States Embassy has forbidden their citizens to travel almost everywhere in Jamaica. Same time as we are spending billions to lure American tourists. Are we jokers, or serious? “No Problem, Mon”? Big Problem, Mon!

Recast the Budget, get the children back to school, put idle hands to work fixing community infrastructure, relieve the banality of Barbican Square antics with serious community uplift and take the shame out of our eyes. Some of us have got so accustomed to being debased, and to debasing ourselves, that we think it is normal, and even good.

Lastly, and unapologetically using religious terms: it is a sin to continue keeping children out of school, and it is wicked to keep jerking around the exchange rate, breeding uncertainty and causing food, energy and other prices to rise, while incomes remain debased.

Happy Heroes and Thanksgiving Day.

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