The hand that rocks the cradle

The hand that rocks the cradle

Al Miller

Sunday, May 19, 2019

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For the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world. — William Ross Wallace

The above words are part of a poem in tribute to women. Both the first and last stanza begin with the statement, “Blessings on the hand of women!” The third of four stanzas importantly reminds, “Woman, how divine your mission, Here upon our natal sod...”

Wallace's poem seems especially appropriate to our Jamaican experience in this time. For statistics, along with recent media reports, continue to show the impactful and very primary role our women play in the lives of our children and, by extension, shaping our society.

Let's take the time during Child Month to thank at least one woman who has played her role well! Especially if she did so without much spousal support.

It would seem to me, however, that we all, as individuals, pastors and political leaders, don't understand the importance of our women, and subsequently our families, in impacting or creating some of our socio-economic issues. Perhaps even our women in general don't understand their divine, nation-impacting mission in this time.

Building a nation

Building a great nation requires some fundamentals in its foundation. These are required for relaying when there is a breakdown that plunges the nation into socio-economic crisis. Some fundamentals of building great nations are: faith in God, vision, character, truth, trust, justice, production, discipline, quality leadership, and good governance in a right, facilitatory environment.

For instance, vision needs clear values, attitudes and standards to guide and drive it. I must emphasise that 95 per cent of the fundamentals are an internal disposition in the hearts and minds of citizens. They are not external forces.

May is celebrated as Child Month, and May 15 as International Day of Families. These are celebrations worthy of highlighting and should be given greater prominence, because the family structure is the practical base on which successful societies are built.

In Jamaica and across the world the evidence shows that stable, married families yield best results for boys and girls, men and women, and all of society. Given these facts, should this not inform and influence national policy and decision-making in the quest for progress and prosperity? Shouldn't our economic policies, initiatives and indicators of performance and growth be rooted in “family economics”? That is, impact on family and from a family perspective. Should a wise government not offer incentives and training to encourage, promote, and develop strong families rightly constructed? Let's dare to be different.

Home/mother in development

Very few counsellors, social workers and clinicians will dispute the fact that the evidence points to the home being the central place that produces a strong, positive internal disposition in a child, and the place that will eventually deliver to the nation a citizen who can contribute to making the nation great. If this is so, then the home and family life should be of primary importance in our economic planning and evaluation as we give attention to the building and restoring of our nation.

A large part of development activity, resources and evaluation methods should be directed at strengthening and empowering the family. If almost 50 per cent of our Jamaican homes are headed by women, then national restoration plans should bear that in mind as they keep family at the centre.

The mothers should be trained and empowered for success. Who ever taught them how to parent? How to be a mother? How to coach a life and character for good relationships with others and to be good citizens? Which book has our mothers read, or which class has the average mother ever attended for her most significant role in life?

If the hand that rocks the cradle — and thereafter rules the world — is not effectively prepared for the task, then the nation will forever continue to haemorrhage and never rise to its best potential.

A sick nation

A great nation must have holistic and balanced development as its goal in its developmental approach. It must give each area what it needs in the right order and time to produce the desired end product.

One area in which we can apply this principle with a high degree of success is in the education system. It develops students in stages, from kindergarten to university, to produce an able product for societal engagement. Its only weakness in recent times is that it highlights the academic, almost to the total exclusion of character development. Therefore, a lower-quality educational product is now being produced than in earlier times.

We cannot be content to have the private security sector being among the fastest-growing sectors in the nation. We cannot be content to have security as a major budget item for businesses, whether formal or informal security. We cannot afford to be happy because it provides employment. It speaks to a wounded society in rapid decline. We must, therefore, ask the questions: What has caused the wounds? Are they being treated?

It's time to admit that something is very wrong — the society is wounded and sick.

I believe that the signs have been clear — our high levels of corruption; low trust levels; sharp divisions (classism, race sensitivity, political, intellectual); the 'haves' and the 'have-nots'; disorder, indiscipline; anger; violence and injustice.

Economic growth in a sick society is not sustainable in a healthy way — the exception being the countries under dictatorship or similar oppressive regimes. In free, democratic societies a wounded society seems to breed increased crime, violence, social mistrust, despair, increased social unrest, impatience, gangs, criminality, etc. Sustained economic growth needs an environment of peace, moral strength for social stability, high literacy, high productivity, order, and a disciplined workforce with an entrepreneurial mindset and good governance. (It must quickly be noticed again that 95 per cent of the requisite ingredients are internal qualities or dispositions of the citizens. Few of them are taught as subjects in any of our schools or universities.)

So where does or should it come from? The home primarily. And, if the primary centre for this is the home, could there be a correlation between our broken homes and why economic growth has eluded us for decades?

We accept that bad politics and poor governance have contributed to our poor economic performance of the past, but could the greater factor be the quality, mindset, behaviour, and attitude of the type of citizens we have produced?

Heal those hands!

If we believe that there is truth in the statement “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world”, then we must look at the hands that are rocking the cradle to aid the solution to our national, social and economic dilemma. There is a preponderance of evidence to support this; hence we cannot ignore it.

Dr Herbert Gayle recently posited that a breakdown in the relationship between mothers and their sons is the main reasons that boys join gangs. He chided mothers:

“Women, I am charging you; you have to get up and begin to protect your sons, otherwise we are not coming out of this. The number one reason boys join gangs is because they have a problem with their mothers.” ( Jamaica Observer, Thursday, March 7, 2019)

His statements earned the wrath of many groups.

We may not like the message, but don't kill the messenger who speaks hard truth. The wise should listen, examine, heed, and take appropriate action. The fact is that it is the internal disposition and resulting behaviour of citizens that determine the social and economic outcomes of a society. If we are unhappy with the outcomes, then we must look at the 'who, what, and how of the inputs'. Garbage in, garbage out.

I established earlier that home is the primary centre that develops internal disposition in a human being. We also established that nearly 50 per cent of our homes are headed by single mothers. We also know, as a rule, that women in homes where males are present as leaders still play an influential role with children and provide strong support to their spouses.

It is interesting to note that the higher percentage of single mothers and absentee fathers are in the inner cities — the same centres which create the majority of our violence-producers and where most of our crime and murders occur. We can therefore conclude something is seriously wrong with the hands that are rocking the cradle in those centres.

With that being true, then focal attention has to be given to mothers particularly in those areas to assist them to become better cradle-rockers.

Please, I do not want the women-defending groups to think I am blaming or saying the mothers are the problem. They are a part, but in my Christian school of thought, the real problem are the men and fathers who are primarily responsible for the welfare and well-being of children to see to their best total development.

A man problem

I am a strong contender of the view that Jamaica's problem is a man problem: Fix the man to become responsible and we fix Jamaica's problem. However, while we should attempt to do that, our reality is that the mothers are mostly the ones present and offering the influence that determines outcomes. Hence, immediate focus should be to better equip her for the task in order to improve the present and secure the future.

The realities of our current Jamaica demand fast action to arrest the moral and social slide which has created the years of previous zero or negative economic growth. It must be addressed now!

It can be argued that nothing has changed morally or socially, yet there are signs of economic upturn. The natural question is how come? Truly, the potential and capacity have always been there waiting for the improved conditions in the social climate.

Some positive actions of the Government in the economic realm, along with the zones of special operations (ZOSOs) and states of emergency (SOEs) are showing temporary reduction in our crime rate. Together there is a perception of social climatic improvement. So, like plants in spring, the economic flowers begin to push up out of the ground. The new economic sprouts need to be protected to ensure their continued growth. Hence, we must make the perceived social climatic improvement become a reality. If it doesn't, we can rest assured the sprouts will be short-lived.

Social transformation now!

By extension, social re-engineering, especially regarding the values, attitudes and issues which facilitate injustice, crime and violence, is now absolutely essential. Our social engineering programme cannot wait for later. It has to inform education, entertainment, use of sports, community development, nature of church engagement, media engagement, unemployment, and wealth creation approaches for all. This is now an absolute necessity to support, drive and guarantee the quality growth and sustainability of the economic upturn the nation is experiencing.

We cannot continue to think and act as if we can separate economic development from social and moral development. We can distinguish between them, but we cannot separate them. The human being operates as a single, complex whole in unity. To attempt to construct man in another way, and expect him to operate differently, is foolhardy.

That is the fundamental mistake that the society has been making. Academia has this side wrong, and so does the economist, sociologist and the politician. The divisive approach and building in different silos has created the dilemma we now have. Many seem content to continue headlong on the same destructive path.

It's time to stop, look, think and turn around. Return to the proven, time-tested principles that have worked and still work in every personal life, corporation or nation: It is the moral that produces the social which enables the economic.

Quickly and intentionally we must put in place a programme of social transformation to have a moral and spiritual impact on the internal disposition of citizens. If principles of spiritual, moral and psychosocial transformation are aggressively applied systematically, islandwide, in five years we can see the new Jamaica rising like a phoenix from the ashes of corruption, crime and injustice.

Should we apply these principles along with the economic initiatives — having both wings flapping — we can lift off. If we continue to flap only the one economic wing, we simply go in circles and never lift off the ground.

It is time! Time to fly!

Rev Al Miller is pastor of Fellowship Tabernacle. Send comments to the Observer or

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