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Damion Crawford's 'dutty' truths

Published:Sunday | June 1, 2014 | 12:00 AM
State minister for tourism and entertainment and member of parliament for St Andrew East Rural, Damion Crawford, is shown something of interest in the book of Harbour View Primary School student, Shaquan Angus, by his mother, Viviene Facey, on March 22. Crawford recently charged PNP devotees to spend more time ensuring their children are educated instead of attending political party meetings. - JIS
Minister of State Damion Crawford (right)
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Ian Boyne, Columnist

Damion Crawford messed up a riveting and penetrating party platform speech last Sunday by his reference to "dutty Labourite", but we should not let that overshadow the inconvenient, "dutty" truths he uttered. Thankfully, he has apologised for that most deplorable reference.

Crawford took to the masses some critical, overarching issues usually neglected in that setting and he highlighted them in a most gripping way, using the dialect powerfully to drive home his points. And Nationwide News, with its impeccable eye for the newsworthy, treated us to long excerpts. Crawford told his party faithful that many of them were just "plyboard and zinc PNP", seeing the party as a means of getting benefits. He told them that if they did not wear the orange, no one would know they were People's National Party (PNP) supporters because they stood for nothing and believed in nothing.

Hitting home more personally, he chastised the "gallis" men who have "a hundred pickney", saying some of their children don't even know their names, "calling them, 'hey, man'". The young politician also hit out at young women who like to trick men to get money. He made it clear to them that as PNP members, they must hold to certain values. This is not commonplace PNP talk these days, as the PNP has adopted the language of capitalist pragmatism and seems embarrassed about ideology.

NOT ABOUT CLASS

The PNP is certainly not talking about class anymore, and I am sure a number of leading PNP members are wary of Damion Crawford's reference to this being classist society. But by later in the week, Crawford was joined by no less an elder statesman than former PNP leader and Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, who himself delivered a most important speech on the necessity of a values and attitudes campaign. Patterson joined Crawford in articulating the view that this is a primary deficit in the country and that we should be having a national conversation about it.

A society in which more than 200,000 people
are stealing electricity and where there is a culture of theft with up
to 90 per cent of certain sections of communities stealing power is a
society in rot. A society in which two men are just gunned down brazenly
in their taxis because they refuse to pay protection money is a
frightening country to live in. A society where businesses have to pay
extortion and where construction sites must have a payroll for 'shottas'
is a society in moral crisis.

This is a society where
there is a high level of child sexual abuse and incest (I have been
absolutely stunned to discover personally how many women report some
form of sexual abuse as children).

CULTURAL
CRISIS

Just two Saturday nights ago, I was the keynote
speaker at the banquet of the Association of General Surgeons at The
Jamaica Pegasus hotel. My theme was 'Jamaica's cultural crisis - Our low
social capital'. I put forward the thesis that our primary problem is
not economic, constitutional or even narrowly political. It is, more
broadly, cultural. Our norms and values are inimical to development and
are hostile to sustainable economic growth.

A society
where a large percentage of its children grows up in father-absent
households cannot be a healthy society. The lack of love by so many of
our girls drives them into the treacherous and lecherous arms of vile,
evil men whose only intention is to exploit them. But they had no
fathers to give them love, and their family structure is one that
perpetuates poverty. Our boys become vicious killers and gang members
lacking love, identity and a sense of appropriate
belonging.

Our men are lionised if dem have "gal inna
bungle", and sexual promiscuity is worn as a badge of honour among our
men and celebrated in our dancehall. And the girls who can get men to
"send on" are cheered for their wits. Damion Crawford used his political
platform to tell the people that those ways drag down a
people.

We are in a moral crisis, as Patterson told
the Spanish Town Rotary Club. We have to declare a state of moral
emergency. We are not talking about church or religion. We are talking
about values to enhance social and economic development. We are talking
about breaking certain cultural habits that hold us back, like this
see-and-blind, hear-and-deaf culture which facilitates many crimes going
unsolved and which hides much of the child sexual exploitation that
takes place.

Last month, Children's Advocate Diahann
Gordon Harrison told The Gleaner that more adults
need to report grown men who are impregnating underage girls. Between
2010 and 2013, a total of 1,360 children were born to children from
11-15 years. 'Open your mouths!' was the screaming headline The
Gleaner
gave to its story on May 1 at the start of Child
Month. 'Public urged to take stand against older men who impregnate teen
girls', the headline continued.

Gordon Harrison said
often the children are seen with the carnal abusers in the communities
but, "the residents join in the conspiracy of silence. This
see-and-blind, hear-and-deaf culture that we have in Jamaica needs to
stop. " But what do you do in a culture where mothers pimp their own
daughters and tell big men that they can have their little, "cute"
girls? Other mothers pretend not to know what's going on because the man
is providing money for the house.

Yes, poverty is a
factor, but there are many countries that are poorer than Jamaica and
where this type of cultural tolerance for sexual exploitation does not
exist. We have cultural problems. We are in a values and attitudes
crisis, as Patterson said last week and Damion Crawford
explicated.

Just last week, too, the Women's Resource
and Outreach Centre (WROC) and the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition
issued a report, based on a study, titled Gender and
Corruption: Making the Connections to Promote Good Governance
.
The report says, "The matter of sexual exploitation is seen as
one way in which women are victimised by corruption compared with men.
The informants' voices highlight the ways in which women are either
compelled to, or strategically, use their bodies to avail themselves of
services, benefits and opportunities within a socio-economic system that
marginalises them."

The study goes on to
say: "The limited structures of opportunity and access have
resulted in sex becoming a central currency of transaction/exchange of
goods and services."

INTELLECTUAL
NAïVETY

And what made Crawford's speech last week so
important was that it did not simply highlight the moral issues outside
of the context of economic marginalisation. He talked about class, which
we are very uncomfortable with. Our refusal to face issues of class
reflects, in part, our intellectual naïvety. This is, indeed, a classist
society, as Crawford charged. Our fear of "creating divisions and
hatred" makes us hide from certain inconvenient, "dutty" truths. But our
failure to acknowledge them won't make them vanish. As the WROC study
says, "Informants see a connection between corruption and
class-based injustices. This is evidenced in their stories navigating
law enforcement, the judiciary, and accessing goods through
state-subsidised programmes within
schools."

Crawford and Patterson have put
back on the table the central issue of our debilitating values and
norms. We can't build a quality society on this shaky foundation. It was
especially heartening for me to hear Crawford, from a political
platform, encouraging working-class people to read and not just to use
technology for Facebook, Twitter and entertainment. How will we compete
with the world with substandard people and a decadent
culture?

Ian Boyne is a veteran journalist working
with the Jamaica Information Service. Email feedback to
columns@gleanerjm.com and
ianboyne1@yahoo.com.