Columns

That shameful behaviour at UTech

Chris Burns

Monday, November 05, 2012    

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There are no laws in Jamaica - at least that I am aware of - which require anyone to accept another person's sexual preference, religion, political orientation, or even to like another human being. However, not liking someone for whatever reason does not give anyone the right to inflict violence or harm upon that person. The truth is, we all have a right to exist peacefully, so long as our conduct does not impinge on the rights or safety of other individuals or destroy their property.

Convenient moralists and those who pander to the anti-homosexual or homophobic crowd may argue that they have a fundamental responsibility to preserve and promote the virtues of morality, which is their right. Nevertheless, their doctrine and actions should not be at variance with the preservation of the rule of law, social order, or decency and should not encourage violence, if even by a strand of hair. We cannot legislate morality or tolerance - tolerance is a function mostly of our social construct and mode of socialisation - but as a society, we can and should promote civility and respect for each other's constitutional right to exist.

This brings me to the disgraceful and barbaric behaviour by security guards stationed at the University of Technology (UTech) who took it upon themselves to set upon a student allegedly found in a compromising position. The ordeal was captured on video and has gone viral on YouTube. Yet, as scandalous and as unlawful as the security guards' conduct was, the bloodthirsty cries for the immediate release of the "subject" to the passionate and unruly crowd of mostly violent UTech students was horrifying, to say the least.

Undoubtedly, the YouTube video represents the worst of Jamaica, and it is despicable and unfortunate for us to glorify such cruelty and hypocritical practice. I say "hypocritical practice" because if "night should ever turn day", many of them, who so viciously and passionately demanded the release of the "little dutty %&#@ boy, suh wi can kill him..." would run away and hide. It makes no sense to promote intolerance and violence against people because they, for whatever reason, love differently from most of us.

Make no mistake about it, sexuality is a very private and personal matter, and the least we do to intrude and "get up into" people's private lives and personal business, the better off we could become because the time would be otherwise directed toward productive and uplifting endeavours. Furthermore, neither jungle justice nor jingoism should have any place in a modern society. Simply put, what was done to the young man by students and security personnel at UTech last week was representative of the very antithesis of what higher learning and education ought to be about.

Hmm! There was absolutely nothing funny about what took place at UTech, as captured on the now infamous video. Therefore, those in leadership, including the prime minister, opposition leader, ministers of youth and culture, education, tourism and sports, members of the clergy, UTech president, parents, human rights groups, as well as members of the private sector, must strongly repudiate this kind of behaviour if they are serious about repositioning Jamaica as a place to live, have a vacation and do business.

The state and those in positions of influence must do everything to reset the temperature and to cultivate a truly civil and orderly society. The urgency of this initiative cannot be overemphasised, given the current economic plight Jamaica now faces. The fact that a significant portion of the country's gross domestic product comes from tourism should impel us all to tone down the bad behaviour, aggression and violence towards people who do not share our sexual orientation.

Just recently, the prime minister was greeted with open arms and given a hero's welcome in Canada as she sought that country's assistance in driving domestic economic development and growth. Canada is home to many Jamaicans, and a number of them are there having been granted asylum because of their sexual orientation. The behaviour at UTech, as captured on the YouTube video, cannot be encouraging to the Canadians or others!

None of this is encouragement for us to sell our souls or to mortgage our social conscience on the altar of economics. None of this is to encourage a wholesale selling off of our culture or dilution of our mores, so expertly expressed in our motto, "Out of Many, one People". But, if we truly and honestly regard those we call our brothers and sisters, and if we truly and earnestly believe in the words and spirit of our motto, then we owe it to ourselves to take a second, and even a third look at how we treat one another.

For goodness sake, there are kids who are struggling with their sexuality. Yes, kids, adolescent boys and girls who are so frightened and afraid to go to their parents, let alone a close friend, to share their pain or to express their feelings, and as a consequence they suffer in silence and are terrified by the violence and intolerance in which they must not only live, but must also survive. Even though I do not have empirical evidence, and can only express an opinion, it is my considered view that some teenage suicides that have taken place in recent years may have been linked to the repressive environment in which some of these children were forced to live. Jamaica, we can, and must, do better for our children.

Burnscg@aol.com

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