Thu | Dec 7, 2023

Ronald Thwaites | Losing our soul?

Published:Monday | January 17, 2022 | 12:08 AM

Perhaps the title should be ‘Recovering our soul’. Because it really seems that we have lost that essence, the shared human spirit; the enduring sentiment which moves every person from brutish behaviour to compassion, or even basic respect, for others.

How else can we process the butchery in cutting the throat, Taliban-style, of a helpless, challenged child in St James last week? Yes, I know all of us have had to grow layers of emotional scar tissue over the years of soul destruction, so as to cope with the tsunami of murders.

But this one is wickedness akin to the imposter Herod’s massacre of the innocents in his raging fear of the helpless Jesus, the true king. It is that bad. And it is not singular. Listen to the medical officer from Westmoreland telling the nonplussed minister how crime is crippling the entire healthcare delivery in that parish. It’s the same everywhere else, too.

As it was in biblical times, the hurt and addled crowd and many of their leaders, bankrupt of thought, lost souls themselves, will bay for blood in revenge. The political and security hacks will hiss, “Seet deh! Ongle SOE can solve dis”. The crowd and their craven leaders preferred Barabas to Jesus. Pilate had to be seen to be doing something, anything, to show who’s in charge.

The numbers show that it’s not any longer just a few misguided youth on the rampage, predictably to be eliminated either at Green Bay or on the gibbet at Spanish Town. Even the Government apologists can’t hide the reality. Multiplying gangs, ‘bungle’ of guns, and shots like sand.

Add raging COVID, cruel poverty, unreasonable expectations, hungry-belly idleness, family fracture, and no moral compass. “Come back inna dancehall,” the DJ encourages Marion ‘Lady Saw’ Hall. “Christianity is foolishness.”

I hope the police do catch the murderers of that hapless child, and that they receive the maximum penalty provided by law. I hope the same for all convicted murderers; indeed, for all who disrespect life, either by action or default.

But before we lock up (or more likely kill) those men who ambushed a mother’s car, flung her out and proceeded to shed her son’s blood – and by association, kill a part of each Jamaican soul – for our own soul and bodily safety, and because the murderous spirit metastasises, find out how them come so. Not to excuse them but to begin to comprehend the causes of the cancer that no repression, no effort to murder murder, no SOE can cure.

What hatred, what drug, what money, what madness of soul could infest a human person to put a knife to a child’s throat? Not even dumb beasts treat their own kind like this.

Maybe we don’t want to know. We had better want to know! Because the billion dollars worth of motorcycles and improved police facilities, all needed, can’t curb the depths of this infection. If Jamaica does not know what has corrupted and distorted our national soul, how can we plot to recover?

So what can be done? (Lord have mercy. I am praying as I write).

Andrew and Mark, your differences and separate quests for power are obscenely irrelevant in the moment of that child’s death -- and all the others.

Stand together in Gordon House tomorrow and announce a national programme to train and resocialise all unattached youth. I would support a state of emergency where, if you are not working or in school, you must undergo a carefully structured year of paramilitary (no guns!!) attitudinal and skill training, including and incentivising hard work and strict discipline. Who refuse to participate, is dem the police must watch while they go after the real king-pins -- here and abroad, in jail and outta street, of whichever party, scammer and money launderer.

That would surely help, but much more will have to be done. Understand the limits of law and deterrence to reorient conscience. Use the same persuasiveness we employ to encourage prosperity through gambling and to define the good life by which liquor you drink or how you can flash, to promote responsible father and mother parenting as a high human and national virtue, with constructive penalties if you are irresponsible.

The economy of purposeful inequality, the value-deficient schools and media all have to wheel and come again if this beautiful nation is to heal its soul. More on those another time.

Out of the crucible of slavery, but while still under the yoke of imperial oppression, racist and class iniquity, many of our ancestors carved out a more fruitful existence than we experience now. They cleaved to land, family, community, church and school.

The stories of that history, plus unselfish leadership and a radical sense of, and commitment to, the common good could help us recover our souls. That’s the kind of hard, expensive life-changing avenging which alone can staunch the bloodshedding of innocents.

Rev Ronald G. Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Send feedback to