If you listen carefully, there is a conversation taking place across the land. The voices are loud, but the subtext soft — what are our values? They are not catalogued, some vague some deadly. Much depends on our early years and so "informa fi dead" is a common value of the lumpen. But, as "topanaris" think otherwise, many comply to survive. The result? Mass schizophrenia.
Values are embedded drivers of behaviour. Violate mine and I may be aggressive if you are sub-peer; if I like you I may empathise or patronise. If you have power, I demur, delay, dissimulate; you may not know my thoughts as "man haffi eat a food!" — a core value of the masses. Woe unto the leader who is surrounded by "eat a food men".
People debate values in major news items. They see pros and cons, affirm some practices and disavow others. They make choices that reinforce or denature values. Who moderates the discourse? Who bears the standard? Do the loud or sinister win? The feckless work-shy Dad whose mantra is "a jus suh it goh?" or the serial incestor "a me bring har, an a me mus break har in" influence many. There is no vacuum in nature, and while we await the workshop on true values our youth are imbibing other values.
Church is our usual source, but some are so corporate a list of assets is their grail; others so spiritual they decant your assets to ease your entry to the sky. The academy should raise our quotient of know-how and tease out our values without dogma. Sadly, many are self-absorbed; long on professors short on scholarship. Politicians once added strength to our values, but of the 63 most merely represent, few lead. We are up a values creek with no paddle. Who opens the tomes of Plato, the Bible, personal faith to give principled guidance or proclaim: "Thus saith the Lord!" the debates on values are intertwined with events which wrack our nation. Let's explore a few, my friend.
The Azan debacle is one theatre of values. This is not about a man and a few shoddy shops. Jesus might have drawn a fine parable: 'This man went to Spalding and saw people exposed to the elements, so he had compassion and built shelter on Council lands. Builders bought form ply, zinc and nails, and plyed, nailed, zinced, rented and collected; then rains came. God is God; but the OCG railed against this vanity; who, then, did the work of the Lord?'
We hone our values daily. What do Azan's action, Portia's inaction, and the OCG's reaction teach us? Can a man do the right thing the wrong way? Law has never defined our values; our values inform the law. Life happens intuitively but we make law for a purpose.
Dr Thompson is very brave or very foolhardy. Lightning may not strike twice, but clearly three times is possible. This ECJ issue is nuanced; Whiteman's clerical error, Thompson's egregious oversight, and the embattled Holness exacts the extreme sanction of a church brother. What would Jesus say? Beats me! This tale illustrates many values — the diligence we must give to routine; experience pays a higher penalty; expect no mercy from a man who needs to prove he is not weak; don't make awards above your pay grade; every boss has a boss; and check the offer before accepting it. All minor values, but imbibe them.
The JLP leadership race is as natural as each of us is Bolt. Our values teach ambition, "reach for the stars", but crap happens when you try in the JLP. Holness OK'd a race, Shaw believed him, and then the fight started. The "frenemies" are on campaign, but Shaw's folly may yet democratise the JLP. Holness's campaign is analogue as is Shaw's, we do not see the digital values of the young leader, just ragga ragga!
Goat Islands -- an icon of conservation values. The "Goat" was put off-limits by us for noble reasons, and we may undo it with equally noble motives. Great conservationists were once rapacious polluters; they got rich then changed the rules to keep us out. As long as we are poor and underserved our country must be available to us. We are more valued than our possessions. The marooned family ate their dog to survive, would you?
Our needs give our possessions value, not vice versa. Interestingly, China has not asked for the Goat and Cabinet has not offered it. There are technical and financial reasons and now political ones why the Goat may not interest China. Portia is right, investment does not court controversy. Declaring a protected area is not revealed wisdom. There is nothing sacred but the sacred. We must love and value nature but love our fellow men more. Compromise is critical. They say Mars once had life, so advocacy cuts no ice with the multiverse. The values which fuel progress are universal. There are no Jamaican values, just local exemplars. What made Europe made Axum and America great, too. P J Patterson's "values and attitudes campaign" was not a call to new values, but a call to renew values. We, too, can be great.
An incomplete portrait of a complete man
A few nights ago at the Carib cinema we saw a politically correct documentary on Professor Rex Nettleford. He was a raconteur, bon vivant and polymath; an extraordinary talent; unconventional, but used convention with fluency. Was this redacted collage as ground control wished him to be seen? Rex was not Establishment. He thumbed his nose at the suits and they were happy to get a piece of him. Never an ingénue, his wily smile played at the margins of cuneiform lips which might curl into a superior sneer.
Rex was lion rampant; he dared to be what society did not permit other men. He was metaphor; all body, brain and a soul to boot. In full flight before an awed 6th form he intoned, "I am a bastard." The timpani of Michael replied decades later, "no bastard nuh deh again!" Gloriously tongue-in-cheek he out-Englished the English. Like a cobra this whirling dervish entranced his audience. Dance his love, speech second or equal first?
The album had the visuals not the spirit. Rex was physical; his body not a peg on which to hang ensembles, but for show. Bushy hair, sensuous, yea, sensual impish smile, witty, salacious, drop-dead gorgeous! Why this airbrushed profile? They excised intimacy from Act 1, and it missed the denouement. Warmth, love in this rusted photo album was but a winter-clad shadow-respect! Was Rex merely public property? There was no hypocrisy in him but he lived among us; he knew our values, what our souls could bear and eased our pain so we could enjoy him. Oh, for a courageous, full-truth masterwork; maybe a soulful photo montage with intimacy in the interstices? Rex regnant will rise!
Stay conscious, my friend.
Dr Franklin Johnston is a strategist, project manager and advises the minister of education. email@example.com