You can be heroic, too

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY - I Garth A. Rat­tray is a med­i­cal doc­tor with a fam­ily prac­tice. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­ and garthrat­

TO­DAY, WE cel­e­brate our Na­tional Heroes Day and en­joy the pageantry of the cer­e­mony at King’s House. To­day, our coun­try be­stows na­tional hon­ours and awards on se­lect, de­serv­ing cit­i­zens to ac­knowl­edge their good works, sac­ri­fices and to hold them up as ex­am­ples for us to em­u­late.

On Na­tional Heroes Day, we are re­minded that a hero or hero­ine is de­fined as, “a per­son who is ad­mired for his or her courage, out­stand­ing achieve­ments, or noble qual­i­ties”. Our of­fi­cial list of Na­tional Heroes was started in 1969 with Mar­cus Mosiah Gar­vey, Paul Bogle, Ge­orge Wil­liam Gor­don, Nor­man Wash­ing­ton Man­ley and Sir Alexan­der Bus­ta­mante. In 1982, Nanny of the Ma­roons and Sa­muel Sharpe joined their ranks.

The Or­der of Na­tional Hero is the most se­nior or­der. The hon­our of the Or­der of Na­tional Hero may be con­ferred upon any per­son who was born in Ja­maica or is, or at the time of his or her death was, a cit­i­zen of Ja­maica and ren­dered to Ja­maica ser­vice of a most distin­guished na­ture. Na­tional heroes are en­ti­tled to be styled ‘The Right Ex­cel­lent’ and the motto of the Or­der is ‘He built a city which hath foun­da­tions’.

There have been no new of­fi­cial na­tional heroes since 1982, but there have been in­nu­mer­able acts of hero­ism. Some have earned pub­lic ac­co­lades, ci­ta­tions and awards for gal­lantry, but we have among us many silent heroes that go with­out ac­claim or fan­fare but whose ac­tions qui­etly shape the fu­ture that we want for this coun­try and, per­haps, even save lives. They con­sist of the sim­ple folk from the neigh­bour­hood and some­times the hard­work­ing pub­lic ser­vant/of­fi­cial that makes cer­tain to do his or her part in build­ing na­tion­hood.

How­ever, we need more heroes; our coun­try needs more peo­ple to do the right thing in or­der to re­duce crime and vi­o­lence and safe­guard our fu­ture. I’m not re­fer­ring to huge pub­lic dis­play of hero­ism or the out­right risk­ing of life and limb as seen in the movies. I’m re­fer­ring to the quiet com­mit­ment of de­cent and con­cerned cit­i­zens to re­shape our trou­bled and be­sieged so­ci­ety into one of dis­ci­pline, peace and even­tu­ally pros­per­ity.


It is heroic for inner-city fathers to go against the grain and see to the proper up­bring­ing of their chil­dren. In many poor com­mu­ni­ties, the tra­di­tional so­cial­i­sa­tion of our young men teaches them that a ‘big man’ has as many women as pos­si­ble and if preg­nan­cies en­sue, that’s woman’s work. To do oth­er­wise makes young men of that ilk seem soft and weak in the eyes of their peers.

This sort of (poor par­ent­ing) be­hav­iour is per­pe­trated be­cause it suits the dead­beat dads to have as many fathers be­have as badly as they do in or­der to avoid any spot­light be­ing shone on them. But, we need young men to stand up as fathers and be counted, be­cause it is a well-known fact that the ab­sence of a fa­ther or of a strong fa­ther fig­ure is the num­ber one cause of crim­i­nal be­hav­iour in young men.

If our fathers ex­hibit courage, out­stand­ing and noble qual­i­ties (the hall­marks of hero­ism) by in­volv­ing them­selves in the lives of their chil­dren, sev­eral things will hap­pen. The de­mands of proper par­ent­ing will au­to­mat­i­cally lead to young men fa­ther­ing far less chil­dren. Chil­dren (es­pe­cially boys) will be more bal­anced and the crime rate will fall. We will have more re­spon­si­ble cit­i­zens and a more pro­duc­tive so­ci­ety.

We need cit­i­zens to be heroic in tak­ing back com­mu­ni­ties from the crim­i­nals. Ev­ery sin­gle crim­i­nal has to have do­mes­tic sup­port from some­body or some peo­ple. There are fam­ily mem­bers who are fully cog­nisant of the be­hav­iour of their chil­dren or spouses. How­ever, fealty, mis­placed ‘love’, some­times fear, and per­haps even greed, pre­vent them from in­ter­ven­ing and/or re­port­ing their ac­tiv­i­ties.

The scam­ming, thiev­ery, rapes and mur­ders are not go­ing to stop by them­selves. The po­lice can’t do it alone. Our free and demo­cratic so­ci­ety doesn’t al­low for the im­po­si­tion of mar­tial law. Un­less peo­ple do the right thing, do the brave thing, be­come heroes in their own right and do their part to stop this scourge of crim­i­nal­ity with re­spon­si­ble par­ent­ing and re­spon­si­ble ci­ti­zen­ship, we will never achieve peace and pros­per­ity.

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