Editorial

Imagine if the reverend or principal spoke thus: 'Big up unuh b...dc… self'

Thursday, November 21, 2019

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Every well-functioning society has social rules by which the vast majority of the citizens abide. Those who select not to abide by the rules are considered rebels and are oftentimes ostracised.

Indecent language, or 'bad wud' as expressed in the vernacular, were words used to curse, disrespect, intimidate, and hurt people. The Government back then had to move to discourage the use of those words because of their offensive use, hence their criminalisation.

Over time, Jamaicans have changed the meaning of curse words. For example, words such as “bad” and “wicked” are used to mean the exact opposite to their English meaning. Similarly, terms, such as “b…c…” are now used as an exclamation with no offensive intent.

That, however, does not change the societal rule that considers the use of such terms inappropriate. And it is still against the law to use indecent language in public. It gets even worse when that is applied to our expectations of some people, leaders, and pastors, for example, to behave in particular ways, under particular circumstances.

So the recent call by Senator Dr Andre Haughton to decriminalise 'bad wud' so that it can be used freely at stage shows where even little children are in attendance is unacceptable.

It is also wrong for Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts valedictorian, Mr Waldane Walker to declare at the end of his speech: “…Big up unuh b…dc... self!”

We reject his defence that the act was an “affirmation” of his culture and his heritage “befitting the great import and inflamed passions of the occasion”, or that it was meant “to be the instigating (force) of the graduating class of 2019…to accept their truth and stand resolute in the knowledge that they are uniquely poised to challenge and change the world through their heart”, as Mr Walker said.

This openness to the use of 'bad wud' wherever and whenever by a growing group of people, and particularly among the intelligentsia, is a worrying sign of the rejection of values that are held deep and dear in the society. It's anyone's guess as to where this decay will end up.

As society changes and the meaning of words change. And we might argue that while the use of indecent language could be discouraged by perhaps a fine, it should not be criminalised. But let us remember that all societies have rules that are not necessarily based on logic.

We have rules such as what dress is appropriate for a casual party as against a black tie affair. Schools will require students to wear black or brown leather shoes with matching socks, as against Clarks. We were taught how to place the utensils on the table and how we should eat with them. There is no logic to those rules, but those are rules of society that we grow to obey to inspire discipline and good order. Similarly, 'bad wud' were identified and prohibited.

The growing campaign against traditional values in the society provides us an opportunity to debate our values and attitudes. Hopefully we will seek to build on what we inherited, but for good rather than bad.

We hope disciplined people will stand up against the social decay that is taking place in the society and not to give it tacit support by our indifference to it.


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