Unmasking Jamaica's aggressive personality
Over the years we have consistently devalued the importance of data, especially those that seek to address the growing aggressivenessamong our people.

It is appropriate to examine Jamaica's inherent common personality trait of aggressiveness. It was Professor Trevor Munroe who described this national personality as a combination of “certain passivity, a capacity for long-suffering, with an extraordinary aggressiveness, individual self-assertiveness, and proneness to violence.” (Jamaican Politics: A Marxist perspective in transition) Reputed sociologist Professor Orlando Patterson described the formation of this Jamaican personality as originating from the “long history of extremely severe colonialism and extremely severe resistance like no other country in the modern world or in the history of the world”. (The Gleaner, December 12, 2019)

Over the years we have consistently devalued the importance of data, especially those that seek to address the growing aggressiveness among our people, and failed to use the information to craft actionable government policies to curtail the wanton destruction of our citizens and free our people from political enslavement by an overbearing paternalistic State.


As a nation we have witnessed an increase in domestic violence, especially among people who purportedly care about each other. The term “domestic violence” is used when there is a close relationship between the offender and the victim. This includes spouses, 'maties', ex-partners, immediate family members, other relatives, and family friends.

In addition, people who experience a lot of negative affect, and particularly those who tend to perceive others as threatening, are likely to be aggressive. For example, the gruesome beating of Kaylan Dowie by five women “happened after one became angered by the way in which the teen reportedly looked at her”. ( The Gleaner, November 19, 2020) When these people see certain types of behaviour, that may or may not be hostile in intent, they tend to perceive it as aggression.


Social anthropologist Dr Herbert Gayle wrote in a seminal work “Young Boys Learning to Fear, Hate and Harm: A Recipe for Sustaining Tribal Political Violence in Jamaica's Garrisons”, that,“as a child grows he or she is taught directly and indirectly through socialisation”. Dr Gayle further argued that “in violent communities, children are raised to survive violence. In this setting some children are taught to be violent in order to survive and are exposed to immense violence, while others are taught how to avoid violence and are shielded from experiencing it by parents and other community service providers and social units. Children learn through a variety of ways: observation, imitation, coercion, persuasion, reward, punishment, instruction, and example. Socialisation starts in infancy. The main agent of socialisation in a child's life is his or her family”.

In regard to children, it was believed that girls had the tendency to display more indirect aggression and boys more physical aggression. However, Dr Gayle recently revealed that there is an evolutionary aggressive behaviour being displayed by girls, and that “several schools are reporting that boys are being bullied by girls”, and that these “girls are taking advantage of a principle where boys are restrictive in their actions”. ( Nationwide90FM, May 6, 2021). Despite the long-held view that males are predisposed to displaying greater levels of physical aggression, it has been found that provocation plays a significant role in their behaviour.

The aggressiveness of most Jamaicans is further manifested in personality disorders that include factors such as power-management struggles, psychosexual dysfunction, and dependency issues, and many of these sufferers are in our educational institutions at various levels. A Gleaner editorial of February 21, 2018 reported that “a 2008 survey that estimated that 20 per cent of persons in Jamaica, aged between... 15 and 74, suffered from depression. That is around half-million people, including, we expect, many high school students”.


It is clear that we are now experiencing an impending mental health epidemic due to very poor social interventions in curtailing aggressive behaviour. As the saying goes, 'Children live what they learn'. Therefore, if aggression is used to resolve conflicts within our families and communities, then children over time adopt those behaviours.

For the past 45 years our elected officials have failed to create an economic environment that would reduce the people's dependency on the State, and our governments have celebrated each year how many people they can get on the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH). In other words, Jamaica's political culture is built on a policy of pauperisation of the people, especially those living in impoverished communities characterised as garrisons.

At the heart of Jamaica's pauperisation culture lies unfulfilled needs, born out of a tribalistic, political system that has spun out of control and is supported by unworkable policies. Other manifestations of this includes denying economic empowerment through living wages so that people can pay for their children's education, electricity, affordable housing, and food.


RJR94 FM reported in a newscast on October 13, 2017 that Justice Minister Delroy Chuck said: “The Government has determined that it will be unable to respond to one of the 10 recommendations made by the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry – the dismantling of political garrisons.” Chuck further stated that the “Government was struggling to figure out how to go about tackling the garrison phenomenon, noting that it was agreed that this was a job for the country at large”.

In my article 'Let's take back Jamaica' ( Jamaica Observer, July 23, 2019), I wrote that “the word 'determined' means having made a firm decision and being resolved not to change it”. This, in direct reference to the fact that the politicians' desire to secure their political bases and strongholds is more important than Jamaica, land we love.


This job for the country at large requires constitutional action, and I am calling upon members of civil society to get off the fence of neutrality to save Jamaica.

If Jamaica's religious communities have a redemptive conscience, then they ought to rise from their knees to join in efforts to end the nation's garrison phenomenon. The escalating homicides, gang violence, crime hot spots, and public displays of aggression have infested the nation, and our politician's preference for power over the quality of life of our people is obvious. While it may be our dream to wave a wand and fix Jamaica's problem of violence, addressing the issue of aggression in adults has been proven to be very difficult. If we are serious about fixing Jamaica's problem we must return to the family and community.

Dudley McLean

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