JAMAICA and other member states of our Caribbean Community (Caricom) have long been sharing the applause of nations of the world for the richness of their cultural traditions, including the creative and performing arts.
But a mix of spreading mindless criminality and declining moral virtues have combined to seriously undermine long cherished ethical and spiritual norms in our region.
It now seems locked in a losing battle to a degrading 'wuk-up' culture, largely being sustained, ironically, by some of the best known names among our performing artistes and entertainers.
Countries like Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago with high-profile cultural contributions are increasingly challenged by an invasion of immoral behaviour during carnivals and other national entertainment events.
They would also be aware that Barbados — once frequently referenced as a quiet, pastoral Caribbean society with endearing social behaviour and encouraging moral rectitude — is currently on the offensive against lewdness in public life involving adults and children as they do their 'wuk-up' thing at the Crop Over festival — Bajans' annual mid-year carnival season.
Some have become so irritated and demoralised by the constant flaunting of rude and crude sexual behaviour, not only during Crop Over, that they have even resorted to extending blame to their most internationally famous entertainer, Rihanna, for sending "wrong messages" to the youth with her songs and performances.
Revoking Rihanna's envoy status
A week ago, in the Sunday Sun of the Nation Publishing company, a letter writer (Pamela Cumberbatch), called for the revocation of the honour bestowed upon the superstar Rihanna as Barbados' ambassador for youth and culture because her lifestyle was hardly an example to the youth.
More precisely, argued Cumberbatch, Rihanna was "abusing the leverage given her to promote this country". I do not know Cumberbatch, whose letter to the editor was published as a guest column. But the sentiments she expressed clearly reflect the hurt she feels about deteriorating moral values in Barbados, with the 'Rihanna influence' being a significant factor.
So far, there has been no response from Rihanna, and it is doubtful that the Barbados Government is so inclined. Nor does one have to be a prude to concur that in her incredible rise to international stardom, Rihanna's own confessional lyrics of Good Girl Gone Bad suggest an attitude, a concept of moral rectitude that can hardly endear her to Barbadians who are now increasingly revealing a mix of sadness and anger over declining moral values and a penchant for lewdness and conflicts among the youth.
Objectively, the print and electronic media in Barbados — and elsewhere in the Caribbean — cannot be exempted from criticisms for contributing to what some cynically view as "the new face of Barbados" where raw lewdness, involving even gyrations of adults and children during the just-concluded Crop Over season, can find coverage in both the print and electronic media that have raised questions about appreciation of decency and good taste.
Acts of 'child abuse'
For president of the National Organisation of Women (NOW), Marilyn Rice-Bowen, some of these lewd acts captured during Kadooment Day and forwarded for the attention of the police and Child Care Board constitute "child abuse". And she has appealed to women "to respect themselves and embrace their roles as shapers of the society".
Long before sections of the local media were being castigated over claimed abuse of press freedom in encouraging lewdness and general decline in moral behaviour by their photographic coverage of Crop Over events, the media in Trinidad and Tobago had to cope with the wrath shown by the people of that Caricom state in their complaints against what's better known in Barbados as sheer 'wuk-up' culture.
Leading media enterprises in T&T therefore started paying more critical attention in the editing of television footage and use of photographs in newspapers, with the understanding that those who pride their freedom to engage in lewd behaviour during carnival should not expect the media to be a party to such acts by devoting coverage to them.
Within recent weeks, there have been repeated denunciations from various pulpits against the extent of media coverage provided to instances of quite disgusting behaviour in unmistakable sexual gestures.
I am aware that leading media enterprises in this and other Caricom states have professional code of ethics, or at least basic guidelines, to adhere to when dealing with coverage of vulgarities that so often masquerade as "just having fun" or "spreading body joy".
More attention should therefore be paid to what representative voices are currently condemning with the hope of arresting the spreading patterns of immoral behaviour. But do not expect a response from Rihanna to the call for revocation by the Government of her status as ambassador for youth and culture.
For now, let Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart have the last comment, as earlier expressed in his address to the Caribbean International Youth Convention on July 28:
"There are many inducements out there in the world to sidetrack and to ensnare our young people to divert them from the path of right and from the path of good into unwholesome, dangerous and soul-destroying activities.
"A heavy responsibility devolves, therefore on the shoulders of our adults to ensure that we take proper care of our young people and be the examples for them which they can proudly and confidently follow."
I have reasons to believe that Stuart's sentiment would find endorsement among all of his Caricom Heads of Government colleagues. The question of interest is what related initiatives they intend to pursue to arrest the general decline in social behaviour and moral rectitude.