Columns

It's 'me, myself and I' in Jamaica these days

WAYNE CAMPBELL

Tuesday, April 08, 2014    

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HAVE you ever asked yourself what are the core values of the Jamaican society? Can you identify those principles which have guided us as a nation throughout the good and bad moments within our history? Those who are honest will admit it is rather challenging to identify such core values.

However, we first need to ask ourselves what are core values? Core values are those principles and ideals which help make up the identity and culture of a society. Since our political independence in 1962, our sense of identity as a people have been interrogated and deconstructed many times, which now put us a crossroads regarding our cultural identify as a people.

Indeed, many factors contribute to a society's core values. Our proximity to North America and the invasion of subscriber television, popularly known as cable TV, have greatly contributed to a new spectrum of core values which, in many instances, have not always been positive.

In a socialist society, for example, the core values surround equality for all, equality in terms of housing, health care and education. The value of equality means that no one in the society has any special benefits. However, in a capitalist market driven society, such as the Jamaican society, the core values are different. Capitalism is an economic system in which trade, industry and the means of production are controlled by private owners with the primary goal being profit-making.

Our problem might just be related to the economic model we have been pursuing over these years. As a society our traditional core values of hard work, honesty and fairness have been replaced with greed, corruption and individualism. Our core values now surround an "all you can grab" for "me, myself and I" attitude. The society no longer rewards its citizens based on the quality of their work. Instead, one's worth and progression in the society is intricately linked to who knows you. Disturbingly, this ethos of preferential treatment is also being replicated and reinforced by those who should know better. We continue to play politics with the future of the Jamaican society as if it's a board game. However, the game has now become the reality, and it is no longer humorous. The identity of the Jamaican society is now at risk and we must fight to pull her back from the abyss.

The Jamaican society faces a crisis of leadership in all domains, whether it is private of public spheres. Our families have become dysfunctional and the destructive and negative sub-culture fuelled by social media is seriously threatening to overcome the dominant culture in the society. Social media has now become the primary agent of socialisation in the society. The values being expounded by social media have crept in the society and are on the verge on becoming a part of this new age of core values. We now live in a world where everyone is connected 24 hours and engaging in "Facebooking", "sexting" and "WhatsApping".

Added to this, too many of our our homes are without fathers and/or father figures, and as a result we now have a society in which there are more female-headed single-parent households than any other time in our history. An entire of generation of males have been raised without fathers and the problem from all perspective seems to worsen. This splintered family arrangement has added significant burden and stress on our women and children, especially in light of Jamaica's poverty rating worsing. A recent study conducted by the American Counselling Association and the Association of Adventist Family Life found that some 1.1 million Jamaicans are living below the poverty line and this is fuelling an intergenerational crisis within the society.

While there have been some attempts to stem this negative tide, enough is not being done from the level of the Government and the community to rescue the society. Our children continue to be abused while we turn a blind eye. Mothers are pimping out their daughters to the highest bidders, even in the face of prosecution provided by under the Child Care and Protection Act (CCPA). While this phenomenon is not new, it appears that this despicable and abhorrent action is increasing, especially in rural areas and economically disadvantages urban enclaves of the society. While the terminology has changed over the years, pimping of young girls can be traced as far back as the 1960s when the US farm workers programme was an integral mainstay of the Jamaican society. In many instances many mothers would literally hand over their daughters to older adult males returning from farm work to satisfy the twisted sexual appetite of these men. It was indeed a "tabooed" subject then, however, it was and still is very much a part of the underbelly of the Jamaican cultural experience. Of course, in an enlighten period people are now beginning to talk about the issue, and rightly so. The issue of pimping is rooted in economics, as well as a socio-cultural ideology within the society. While this is not an excuse for this depraved action, the fact is the economic desperation some mothers face is as such that they would prefer to sanction their underaged daughters having sexual relations with adult males just to put food on the table. Concommitantly, a significant number of adult males have been brought up not to have any qualms about having sexual relations with under aged girls. At the same time the lewd lyrics of the dancehall music is also adding fuel to this sort of evil behavior. In the genre of dancehall music our women are portrayed as sex objects to be used and abused by men. The result, many artistes are now jostling for pole position as the heir apparent by appealing to the lewdness common denominator.

Gone are the days when communities would look out for the best interest of all children. The breakdown of the community as an enforcer of good values needs to be restored with a sense of urgency. We cannot continue along this path of self-centredness and individualism. We all need to engage in a bit of self-searching to identify how each one of us can do a bit more to help restore our core values to society. The Jamaican society needs a spiritual renaissance. We need to collectively repent of our sins and seek God's forgiveness in a new thrust to move the country forward by restoring our traditional core values.

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues. Comments: waykam@yahoo.com

www.wayaine.blogspot.com.

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