Talk is cheap, and we are good at it. When it comes to 'pretty talk', we are even better at it. God knows that if we could replace even half the talk with action, we would be a great country.
One of the 'pretty talk' we hear often is that the progress of a nation can be judged by the quality of care it provides for the youngest and oldest citizens. But on both counts our record is miserable, to put it mildly. When it comes to our children who are in need of care and protection, this country cannot claim, by any stretch of the imagination, that we are a progressive people.
The unending stories of abuse of children by adults, particularly of children in State-run institutions, ought ordinarily to be a shame on this country of ours. Yet, they remain a nine-day wonder, to be forgotten as soon as the next new headline emerges. And the people who are being paid to put an end to these abuses continue to ignore them, or worse, aid in the abuse.
Listening to the litany of abuses, especially sexual abuse of the vulnerable children in some places of safety — that name by the way is now an oxymoron — one can easily be forgiven for the inevitable cynicism.
The spokespersons from the Mustard Seed Communities, Jamaicans For Justice (JFJ) and the Griffin Trust who shared their stories with Jamaica Observer editors and reporters on Monday were clearly unable to mask their utter frustration.
If JFJ's Dr Carolyn Gomes is to be believed, and we believe her, it is no longer the amount of money provided by the State for the care of the wards, but the lack of service by the supervisors and employees that we should be concerned about.
There is a mentality by some employees of State institutions that most of these children are irredeemable and are really just small-size criminals, and that they are 'rude and out-of-order' and should therefore be treated just slightly better than animals.
Some of these employees supplement their wages by scavenging off the supplies of food and toiletries received by the institutions and have no care for the welfare of the children.
It can't be possible that so many incidents of children having sex with men from outside the fence could take place without the tacit support of staff members who, either benefit from it, or who see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil. What a despicable set of people!
Yet, it cannot be left at this. Because there are people who get paid to be in charge of these institutions at high government levels and who answer to senior government officials. They, too, are culpable and must be held to account. When was the last time any of them resigned in disgust?
There seems to be a conspiracy of silence among them all. But maybe it's worse than that. The conspiracy of silence could well be among us all.