Revival of that values and attitude initiative badly needed

THERE'S never a dull moment in Jamaica. Therefore, we would not be surprised if, amid all that's happening, most people missed a call by the Association of Christian Communicators and Media (ACCM) for Prime Minister Andrew Holness to establish a ministry to address rampant moral and social decay.

The ACCM, in a letter to Mr Holness on Sunday, said it took note of his recent disclosure that a Ministry of the Family, Social Development, and Social Interaction is under active consideration by the Government.

That, the ACCM said, "is a step in the right direction", and pointed to a statement it released in February calling on the Parliament and Government to immediately effect a plan of action to halt decay in law and moral order.

The group noted that its February statement had drawn attention to recurring news of abductions, rape, and murder of our children; buggery of our boys; acts of suicide; wanton theft and corruption; a general breakdown in godliness; as well as abandonment of righteous principles on which the Jamaican society was built.

The ACCM also argued that the levels of immorality and disregard for decency would only lead to greater destruction of families, businesses, and communities, which are still the backbone of the nation.

The issues the ACCM pointed to have been plaguing this country for a long time. In fact, an effort to deal with them was at the root of the Values and Attitudes Programme launched in 1994 by then Prime Minister P J Patterson. At the time, Mr Patterson described it as a programme of action to promote attitudinal change and social renewal, saying that it was "the surest way [and perhaps the only way] to improve in the short run, and in the longer term maintain the quality of life for all Jamaicans".

Unfortunately, that initiative died on the altar of political partisanship and, despite a relaunch in 2003, the programme withered away.

The upshot is the coarseness we are now seeing in public behaviour, amplified, of course, by social media. Added to that are deeply worrying social and economic problems such as violent crime at a frighteningly high level; children attending school on an irregular basis for varied reasons, including lack of money for transportation; students leaving school semi-literate at best, with no useful skills for an increasingly sophisticated job market; teenagers or very young adults with no earning power becoming parents; and, as Mr Patterson pointed out last month, people in positions of political leadership and authority engaging in "distasteful" and "disgraceful" public discourse that "belittle us as a nation" and sets a poor example for our children.

Amid all that, we have individuals with influence who, instead of using that power to guide behaviour, promote decadence and moral turpitude. An example of that is the celebration of 'dunceness' that has now evolved to school bags being branded with the word "Dunce".

The fact that these bags have become popular among some students, and those adults who provide the means for their purchase, speaks to the need for reviving that values and attitudes initiative.

That, combined with the all-of-society approach to social transformation being implemented by Project STAR can pave the road for positive change, we believe.

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