The chil­dren from our vil­lage

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION&COMMENTARY -

LIKE MOST Ja­maicans, I am se­verely and con­tin­u­ously trau­ma­tised by the per­va­sive and peren­nial, ex­treme and hor­rific vi­o­lence be­ing per­pe­trated across our is­land home. Our so­ci­ety has pro­duced a sub­class of peo­ple that op­er­ate far out­side our laws and ac­cepted so­cial norms.

This ever-in­creas­ing group ex­hibits a warped sense of moral­ity. Sur­vival and upward mo­bil­ity are dic­tated and achieved by an evolv­ing set of rules quite sep­a­rate from our own.

The value of their lives has been di­min­ished, so they place lit­tle or no value on our lives, save for the pro­vi­sion of things that they want and per­haps need. A cheap cel­lu­lar tele­phone may fetch a few hun­dred dol­lars on the black mar­ket, but any­one re­sist­ing their de­mands to re­lin­quish own­er­ship of that phone and/or diss­ing them by re­mon­strat­ing au­to­mat­i­cally earns a death sen­tence. Some will even kill for pal­try sums, just to buy a few things that don’t last very long.

And so, af­ter the usual pub­lic hue, cry and con­do­lences, we hear ques­tions about the ori­gins of these heart­less peo­ple who kill men, women, ba­bies, the very young and the very old with im­punity. They didn’t fall from the sky and they aren’t all de­por­tees; they are prod­ucts of our own so­ci­ety – made by us, right here in Ja­maica.


There’s a proverb from the south­ern and south­west­ern re­gion of Nige­ria (from the Igbo and Yoruba peo­ple) that says, ‘It takes a whole vil­lage to raise a child.’ Es­sen­tially, it says that chil­dren are gifts from God and, as such, they are the most pre­cious things that any so­ci­ety can pos­sess. They are our fu­ture. The (proper) up­bring­ing of chil­dren is, there­fore, the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the im­me­di­ate fam­ily, the ex­tended fam­ily, the neigh­bours, the wider com­mu­nity and even the en­tire so­ci­ety.

Chil­dren not only rep­re­sent the fu­ture of their par­ents and im­me­di­ate fam­ily, they rep­re­sent the fu­ture for us all. There­fore, we must never ig­nore any child or al­low any child to be brought up un­der un­favourable or dele­te­ri­ous cir­cum­stances.

Chil­dren used to be un­der con­stant scru­tiny and su­per­vised by ev­ery­one in our com­mu­ni­ties. And, in­ex­pe­ri­enced par­ents sought ad­vice and help from the older and re­spected mem­bers of the com­mu­nity. Chil­dren were the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of gen­er­a­tions of ac­cu­mu­lated knowl­edge and shared ex­pe­ri­ences.

But to­day, in our so-called mod­ern so­ci­ety, par­ents feel that they are above and be­yond ad­vice from ‘out­siders’. They shield their chil­dren from ‘in­ter­fer­ence’ and never ad­mit their wrong­do­ings. The new nu­clear fam­ily has at its cen­tre an im­ma­ture and frag­mented core. Ab­sent fa­thers along with bit­ter, des­per­ate, in­ex­pe­ri­enced, mis­guided and poorly so­cialised moth­ers pro­vide a mucky brew for rais­ing dis­or­derly, undis­ci­plined and felo­nious cit­i­zens. In fact, many fam­i­lies have no core at all and the chil­dren are raised by rel­a­tives, strangers or by their peers who are denizens of the streets.

Gangs pro­vide a so­cial struc­ture with a leader and a pur­pose, al­beit ne­far­i­ous. Un­like the rites of pas­sage into man­hood car­ried out by our African an­ces­tors and even some tribes of to­day, the cow­ardly acts of gang­land wannabes, neo­phytes and ‘sol­diers’ rep­re­sent the ul­ti­mate an­tithe­sis of brav­ery and hon­our.


De­void of any real love and proper so­cial­i­sa­tion, these vic­tims of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and abuse, and wit­nesses to vi­o­lent acts with­out con­se­quences, form the grow­ing sub­class of our so­ci­ety evolv­ing with very faulty moral com­passes. When our so­ci­ety ig­nores them, they be­come filled with feel­ings of re­sent­ment and ha­tred for oth­ers. Our so­ci­ety’s mon­strous chil­dren have ab­so­lutely no com­punc­tion about shoot­ing, stab­bing, slash­ing, burn­ing, maim­ing, rap­ing, tor­tur­ing, killing and dis­mem­ber­ing peo­ple.

In their eyes, we en­joy the cream of so­ci­ety while they are forced to wal­low in the dregs. We, through our in­ac­tions and some­times ac­tions, have cre­ated the mon­sters that now stalk and hunt us at will. They are the chil­dren from our (failed) vil­lage.

We must ac­cept cul­pa­bil­ity, start from the ba­sics, and in­sti­tute de­tailed over­sight of all our chil­dren. They all need love, care, pro­tec­tion and ed­u­ca­tion. There must be so­cial fair­ness, jus­tice and equal op­por­tu­ni­ties. Un­til and un­less we do those things, we will con­tinue sow­ing the seeds of our own demise.

Garth A. Rat­tray is a med­i­cal doc­tor with a fam­ily prac­tice. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­ and garthrat­

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