In the afternoon of National Heroes Day, I was on my way home after partaking in some of the homage-paying. At the entranceway to a community which still bears the title of "Capture-land", although the residents have gone a long way towards making it more organised, I ran into as strange a scene as you could imagine.
A group of girls in their late teens, from the community, was staging a dance competition in the road. Bras and panties were the dress of the day. Competitors had to be able to disconnect and reconnect various parts of the body -- or so it seemed -- in a spirited contest of bump and grind. This earned the approval and admiration of the adults who stood by, cheering and urging on the contestants.
Suddenly, one girl leapt out of the group and flung herself onto the bonnet of a car which had come down the road. Her action forced the driver to hit the brakes and wait to see what was happening. The girl didn't miss a beat. Having landed, she proceeded to subject the bonnet to what can only be described as sexual assault. Nothing was left to the imagination.
The bonnet held up under the attack. The driver and the female passenger beside him appeared as stunned as I was. He stood on the brakes, recognising the consequences if he made the slightest wrong move. If he did, the dancer would have been flung to the ground, which certainly would have brought a hostile crowd reaction. So he held steady as the girl proceeded to "dagger" the car bonnet. It did not complain as the girl "worked her show". The audience went wild. Motorists who were trapped by the crowd could only watch and wait. Eventually, the girl descended to ground level to continue her gyrations.
The driver then eased off the brake and carefully took his exit. Other drivers edged just as carefully past the writhing bodies which, by then, were in control of the road. Up to then, not one adult had come forward to issue a word of disapproval or caution. If anyone had spoken, the word most likely would have been "Mek de young people dem enjoy demself".
The strange experience came to mind earlier this week with the current "oh, dear" story of students in a rural high school which has garnered global attention, via Facebook (what else?), for their graphic performances; once called "slackness" until academe proclaimed it "a nuh nutten".
That the video of the event involving some Maggotty Hill School studnets has been shown on YouTube is no surprise. It is hard to resist exhibiting yourself to millions of fellow idlers, who have nothing to do each day but to seek attention, no matter how grotesque. It has been reported that YouTube has over 540 million active monthly users. It is certain that many Jamaicans are among them. More of us have taken to living by this new creed to go from being an unknown product of a backwoods community, to being one of millions seeking notoriety through global exposure, even if you have to "do slackness" to get attention.
I am sorry for the teachers and parents of some students and children who let them down with leggo-beast behaviour. School is supposed to represent high hopes for the future. Our "yute" are getting more affirmation and encouragement than at any other time in our history, and yet far too many continue to exercise poor judgement in some of the things they do. The activities and achievements of young people are given pre-eminence in every branch of the news media. So how do we reach the ones who seem to believe that it doesn't matter what you do, even if ultimately you will be ashamed when you come to your senses?
For the parents who sacrifice daily in the hopes of their children getting a brighter future, it must be confusing and heartbreaking. Not all parents are guilty, but some refuse to accept the truth that their little darlings are no angels and in need of guidance. Some parents -- younger ones -- also worship at the shrine of YouTube every day. They can hardly point the finger of blame as their offspring stumble on without guidance.
We should be cautious, of course, about generalising. Not all students are sex-obsessed time wasters. Not all parents are lacking in honouring their responsibilities. Not everyone in communities aids and abets young persons in degrading behaviour. Unfortunately, there are the exceptions. What we need is balance. This calls for persons brave enough to speak and act to create a positive U-turn for tomorrow's citizens, to bring the much-needed changes that we moan about every day.
Who is more aggressive when it comes to initiating sexual activity in the teen years -- girls or boys? When I asked the question of a group at a certain boys' high school, the answer was "Girls!". According to the boys, girls can be very aggressive with their demands for "action". The boy who declines an offer must be prepared for the news to be passed around that he is gay. No guy wants to risk that. "So, when a girl decides that you're the one, you'd better know what you're doing", one boy said.
To hear now that some of our young males, not yet fully grown, are seeking out performance-enhanceing drugs sold by dishonest dispensers of pharmaceuticals, is to face an ugly reality. We're stranded in an over-sexed age. Next question: Have any of our young students paid attention to the warnings about the lethal side effects -- even death -- which misuse of sex-enhancement drugs can bring?
Federal laws in America force the makers and advertisers of such drugs to tell the public what dire situations could result. Do not expect our dishonest dispensers to enlighten their clients, of whatever age, so who will do the education? When our young men play sex roulette with their lives it shouldn't be treated with the stupid response that "boys will be boys". Boys can die for stupid reasons. This is one for public health consideration and parental concern.
WORD TO THE WISE: I thought that we had pretty much controlled the HIV/AIDS epidemic to the point where we didn't have as much to worry about it as in the past. Wrong! One day last week I met a representative of a non-governmental group, Eve for life, which works across the island with teenage mothers who have HIV/AIDS. The news wasn't good. The numbers of such cases are climbing up once again. Perhaps our youths have stopped listening to life-saving advice because they think they know everything?