Mind­ing your busi­ness could be deadly

Jamaica Gleaner - - IN FOCUS - ShellyAnn Harris A mother of three, ShellyAnn Harris is the ed­i­to­rial di­rec­tor of Fam­ily and Faith Mag­a­zine. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­erjm.com and shellyannhar­ris@gmail.com.

THE OTHER day, as I was ex­it­ing a phar­macy with two of my daugh­ters, a lit­tle girl no older than about five years old par­tially stepped out be­hind us and dis­carded her dis­pos­able juice bot­tle and bot­tle cover on the pave­ment in front of the phar­macy.

With­out a sec­ond thought, I im­me­di­ately spoke to her, in­struct­ing her to take them up and throw them in the garbage bin avail­able in­side. She was very re­luc­tant, but even­tu­ally did what I said. I asked her where her par­ents were, and she pointed to them in­side the phar­macy. They were well within earshot of my in­struc­tions to her. They didn’t come to see about her, they didn’t come to agree with me and re­in­force the point not to lit­ter, or even to ac­cost me for giv­ing their daugh­ter in­struc­tions. Noth­ing.

The point I am get­ting at is the busi­ness of tak­ing a stand when things are not go­ing right. I could have walked away and then com­plained to my­self and my kids about how nasty we are as a peo­ple and gripe about how the nastiness leads to all kinds of health and en­vi­ron­men­tal haz­ards.

But that day, I said no, I am get­ting in­volved. This young princess needs to pick up this bot­tle, not de­face the phar­macy en­vi­rons, and learn to throw trash in a garbage bin.

But the ques­tion I ask my­self is: Would I have got in­volved if it was a man who threw this bot­tle? Or if it was a man shoot­ing a child in a taxi? Or a man on a bus stab­bing a child for his phone and pre­cious wrist­watch given to him by his beloved grandma? Or would I be out of my depth in those sce­nar­ios?

I know a pre­cious few peo­ple who would get in­volved, mostly men, like my hus­band and my big brother. And usu­ally, when they do get in­volved, I am the one, out of fear of dan­ger to them, say­ing no, leave it alone, don’t get in­volved. Go fig­ure.

Now, as I tear­fully re­flect on the way that the Ja­maica Col­lege boy was killed on a pub­lic bus, I won­der if there were any men like them on Teach­ers con­sole a griev­ing stu­dent at Ja­maica Col­lege on Thurs­day, Oc­to­ber 27, a day af­ter Ni­cholas Fran­cis was mur­dered.

board who would fear­lessly step in and de­fend it! Not be­cause it was their brother, or son, or bre­dren, but be­cause a great in­jus­tice was hap­pen­ing and they weren’t go­ing to stand for it.

These are the sort of men I have got used to be­ing around, and I guess have taken them for granted. But ap­par­ently, they are not the so­ci­etal norm. It looks like we have been com­pletely buy­ing into the idea that ev­ery­one should mind his or her own busi­ness and not get in­volved, not un­less, of course, it con­cerns us per­son­ally.

We may also not be rais­ing boys (or girls) of courage. Are courage and self­less­ness virtues that we teach any­more? Or do we sim­ply teach peo­ple to thrive, be the best they can be, and live their own lives?

It may not be im­me­di­ately

ap­par­ent, but there is a prob­lem here. We are not be­ing our brother’s and sis­ter’s keep­ers. In my mind, I can hear a gen­er­a­tion of young peo­ple, and older folks as well, sigh­ing and say­ing they don’t care and that they are not their brother’s or sis­ter’s keep­ers; ev­ery man or wo­man for him­self or her­self. Ex­cept that this phi­los­o­phy or per­spec­tive has never led to any­thing good or great.

OP­PO­SITE PER­SPEC­TIVE

It is ex­actly the op­po­site per­spec­tive of valour, com­mu­nity, of car­ing greatly about oth­ers as much as your­self, and be­ing one’s brother’s keeper that has re­sulted in some of the great­est and most im­pact­ful move­ments in hu­man his­tory.

Hon­estly, I find it hard to process how a boy could be

ha­rassed for his phone and watch, dragged, stabbed and thrown off a bus full of peo­ple. I find it hard.

Maybe peo­ple saw and thought it was an­other un­ruly bad ‘schoolaz’ who was in some kind of al­ter­ca­tion with a crony and that they ‘jus­ti­fi­ably’ didn’t want to get in­volved. How­ever, this makes no sense. From the re­ports, the man was clearly abus­ing the child and drag­ging him through the bus. Maybe all the men and women on board felt ill-equipped to tackle some crim­i­nal with a ratchet. Maybe.

Maybe the only per­son of courage and abil­ity on the bus was the fifth-form JC stu­dent who jumped through the bus win­dow to at­tempt to ac­cost the es­cap­ing mur­derer.

I wasn’t on the bus and I don’t know ex­actly what hap­pened,

but as I process the un­fath­omable mur­der of the young man, a few things come to mind:

My daugh­ters (and all chil­dren) must learn self-de­fence, es­pe­cially against preda­tors with weapons in both pub­lic and pri­vate spa­ces.

We need to en­sure that there is some kind of se­cu­rity mech­a­nism on all pub­lic trans­porta­tion. Should we now con­sider hav­ing a po­lice of­fi­cer sta­tioned on each bus? Or at least a panic but­ton that the vic­tim or an on­looker can press for help?

There must be some re­spon­sive mea­sure of se­cu­rity given the times that we are now liv­ing in.

In the same way that we scan for weapons when go­ing on a plane, should we not also scan for weapons on buses? Or is this go­ing too far? I think not.

IIIISixth-for­mer Naseem Mil­ton in grief at Ja­maica Col­lege on Thurs­day, Oc­to­ber 27.

Fur­ther­more, I fig­ure that more peo­ple (men and women) would be more willing to get in­volved in a fist-fight al­ter­ca­tion rather than an in­ci­dent fea­tur­ing a knife or a gun.

How can we rea­son­ably pro­tect the wit­nesses who come for­ward with state­ments? There must be pro­mo­tion and strength­en­ing of Ja­maica’s wit­ness-pro­tec­tion pro­gramme.

We need to re­think the val­ues that we es­pouse in this mod­ern time and what we choose to em­brace as a peo­ple. Mind your own busi­ness ver­sus get­ting in­volved.

The fact of the mat­ter is that we can’t rely on men (or women) of valour to al­ways come for­ward in cir­cum­stance like these to res­cue a vic­tim. We must move to put sys­tems in place that, as best as pos­si­ble, pro­tect our pre­cious youth and all our peo­ple and al­low ev­ery­one to re­alise his or her po­ten­tial.

Even as we should strive to take some ac­tion, let us also be mindful that “ex­cept the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: ex­cept the Lord keep the city, the watch­man waketh, but in vain.” (Psalm 127:1)

May God en­ve­lope and em­brace the JC stu­dent’s fam­ily, friends and school com­mu­nity as they strug­gle through unimag­in­able grief.

IIII

JER­MAINE BARN­ABY/FREE­LANCE PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

GUEST COLUM­NIST

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Jamaica

© PressReader. All rights reserved.