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Rest well, Ian, rest well

Raulston
Nembhard

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

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Last Sunday the nation gave a commendable farewell to one of its most outstanding sons, the veteran journalist and broadcaster, Ian Anthony Boyne. He would have been pleased with the fine style in which the service was held. He would have smiled at the tributes, knowing that they were all genuine, but at the same time humbled that he was able to render such service to the nation.

He was appropriately lauded as a man who made a great contribution to his homeland through his work as a journalist. He was also acclaimed for his fidelity to the craft that made his name a household one in Jamaica. Over his long career he blazed an incorruptible trail as he sought to approach the issues of the day with equanimity and fairness. This was clearly exemplified in the equal admiration he enjoyed from both aisles of the political divide whose administrations he served at different times.

The corruption of conscience weighed heavily in his work. Ian wrote constantly about the moral relativism of the times and the danger this kind of thinking posed to Jamaica. He did not see the possession of a good conscience before God and man as something that was abstract or esoteric. Indeed, he was not unmindful that evil thoughts and the actions they spawn are deeply rooted in a conscience that bears the calluses of a life that has been corrupted over time. Moral relativism that has no time for absolute values or no reference point in accountability to a higher power, often results in actions that negatively impinge on the lives of others.

Thus, one of Boyne's enduring legacies was his insistence on a functioning values and attitudes paradigm to govern behaviour in the society. This he constantly wrote or spoke about with great passion. He understood the direct correlation between economic growth and the building of a strong society with the development of sound moral values that influence behaviour. In this he was spot on, as was former Prime Minister Patterson whose Administration gave official recognition to a national values and attitudes campaign.

Boyne recognised that you cannot grow a healthy society without strong ethical underpinnings deeply rooted in the moral values people cultivate. In this he was almost singular among journalists in insisting that you cannot have effective economic growth without the moral attributes that should help to define it. This is why he often decried what he described as the neoliberal Washington consensus that insists on growth at all cost without an appreciation of what this means to the lives of people, especially the poor that should be served by these economic imperatives.

Boyne understood quite well that contentment cannot only be about the indulgence of hedonistic pleasures such as permissive sexuality or even the dangerous, life-defeating lyrics from the dancehall culture, but the values and ethics that motivate people in their thinking and actions. The accumulation of material things and wealth may be good and necessary, but this cannot be at the expense of other people's pain and suffering. The lines of that immortal poem The Deserted Village by Oliver Goldsmith ring loudly here: “...ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey, where wealth accumulates and men decay.”

As a church man himself, he argued for the importance of God in the public square. Even the more hardened atheist will admit that religion can be and has been a force for good in society. Boyne often pointed this out, but he was not unmindful of the depredations of religion and resisted any suggestion of the theocratic state that some would argue for. It is not far-fetched to suggest that the more God is pushed out of the consciences of people the more corrupt societies are likely to become, and I would suggest the more violent. An ethic of the survival of the fittest lays the groundwork for violence as a tool of respectability and status in any given society. Even Charles Darwin, the father of evolution, understood this quite well.

Boyne knew that the Church, and by extension God, is no longer respected by many. They do not seek to live their lives according to the morality that the church preaches. And, if they do, they do so only in a superficial, and not life transforming way. They do so within the context of their fealty or loyalty to a denomination, not because it places any great demand on them to be the examples or change they seek in others. Instead of change agents, they become supporters of the status quo and so become indifferent to the evil around them. This deeply disturbed Boyne who insisted on an ethic of love in practice.

Alas, it deeply concentrated his mind that we have broken down moral fences in Jamaica and we have not carefully considered what we should replace them with. We scurry up one alley and the next seeking solutions, but these become increasingly distant as the boundaries of decency are being destroyed. Yet, we do not have to look too far to find the solutions for they reside in each one of us in our own personal space recognising our own personal responsibility for the decay we see around us. And this again speaks to the cultivation of a sound conscience. For conscience as an organising principle of self-regulation demands fidelity to the notion that what is done in the dark cannot be divorced from that when the lights are fully turned on. This is what integrity is about. It is this ethic of personal responsibility that Ian stridently fought for. And this should be so, for personal responsibility engages a functioning conscience, from that of my two-year-old granddaughter who says “Sorry, Mommy,” for defying her mom's wish to the prime minister apologising to the residents of west Kingston for the State's assault on their civil liberties.

Ian, you have left a lot for us to chew on. I am sure you had your many faults — as we all do — but you have left the world and certainly Jamaica better than how you found it and have gone on to a well-deserved rest. May God's peace be with you and your family.

Dr Raulston Nembhard is a priest and social commentator. Send comments to the Observer or stead6655@aol.com.

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