Moral bank­ruptcy

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY - Ron­ald Ma­son

THE SUCCESS of a coun­try is grounded in re­la­tion­ships and deal­ings that give rise to a set of shared cul­tural, so­cial and economic norms. The per­sons in­hab­it­ing that space de­fined as the coun­try share things in com­mon, even if they do so in­vol­un­tar­ily.

Ja­maica has fast be­come a self­pro­tect­ing mech­a­nism that causes cit­i­zens to shut off all non-fam­ily in­ter­ac­tions. We take pride in boast­ing of this be­hav­iour. We do not watch news from tra­di­tional me­dia. We do not go any­where near the in­ner-city com­mu­ni­ties. And we do not feel kin­ship with those out­side well-de­fined group­ings.

We speak glibly about ‘them’ and ‘us’, and this, in and of it­self, is trou­bling. Trou­bling, when we ac­knowl­edge that 95 per cent of us spring from the same stock. This has been hap­pen­ing for a long time, and it is a tragic re­flec­tion of di­vi­sions we have es­tab­lished in so­ci­ety. We start with the two tribes in Par­lia­ment. Very rarely does one hear the ap­pli­ca­tion of logic, rea­son. Peo­ple vote be­cause they claim they were born PNP or JLP, or they live in a gar­ri­son dom­i­nated by one of the tribes or where they per­ceive they will be able to get some per­sonal ben­e­fit. Or they do not bother to vote at all.

WASTE OF AIRTIME

This is glar­ingly ob­vi­ous in this pe­riod of elec­tion­eer­ing for lo­cal gov­ern­ment. The so-called de­bates proved to be a com­plete waste of airtime, as all we got were graphic il­lus­tra­tions of cross-party re­crim­i­na­tion about how much worse the other side was. They even sought to re­cruit mos­qui­toes. What an ut­ter waste! What a cha­rade! The turnout on Novem­ber 28 may well be the low­est it has ever been for any national elec­tion.

The so­ci­ety has bro­ken down so much. Ev­ery­body steals. Politi­cians steal dis­as­ter sup­plies and one does not know whether they sell these items or dis­trib­ute as in­duce­ments to vote.

We have mas­tered the art of steal­ing. Em­ploy­ees steal from their bosses, and bosses steal from em­ploy­ees. Co-work­ers steal from co-work­ers. Stu­dents steal from fel­low stu­dents. Ten­ants steal from land­lords. Work­ers steal from the work­place. Shop­pers steal from busi­nesses and busi­nesses steal from shop­pers.

Banks steal from cus­tomers and cus­tomers steal from fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions. Gov­ern­ment steals from cit­i­zens and cit­i­zens steal from the Gov­ern­ment. Prae­dial lar­ceny is a $6bil­lion-a year busi­ness. I heard a prom­i­nent Ja­maican giv­ing ref­er­ence to the fact that par­ents praise the chil­dren’s en­ter­prise in bring­ing home a new school bag or books. Some of the ed­u­cated among us steal from clients’ funds, but for­tu­nately some of them end up in prison.

Look at what happened at the ac­ci­dent scene on Spur Tree Hill. The cit­i­zens who happened on the scene im­me­di­ately be­came scav­engers and took all they could. Not for one mo­ment did it cross any­body’s mind that the mer­chan­dise had le­git­i­mate own­ers, who were en­ti­tled to sal­vage what could be had of their prop­erty.

The res­i­dents saw this as a wind­fall and set out to steal as much as they could, as barefaced and as openly as they could, and not one po­lice of­fi­cer would in­ves­ti­gate.

Re­flect for a mo­ment on where the coun­try is head­ing. We ur­gently need economic de­vel­op­ment to pro­vide jobs, but what do we have as as­sur­ance that even when peo­ple have jobs, the morals of the so­ci­ety would be ac­cept­able for a civilised coun­try?

Ed­u­ca­tion, as cur­rently struc­tured, still pro­duces large num­bers of per­sons who are very poorly so­cialised, have no doc­u­men­ta­tion to prove success in ex­am­i­na­tions, and who are be­ing de­luded daily that they need to be taught in their na­tive tongue and not English. Even this does not, to my mind, por­tend a less crude, crass, thiev­ing, mo­rally de­based so­ci­ety.

STAN­DARD FARE

Dancehall mu­sic should be ac­cepted be­cause it is a re­flec­tion of their daily ex­is­tence. Misog­yny and vul­gar­ity are stan­dard fare. Young chil­dren and their moth­ers and grand­moth­ers go to these dances, at the same time and with the same in­tent, where this mu­sic is played.

We throw garbage any­where, ev­ery­where, ev­ery­day, and we live with the filth and then holler that some­body must come and clean it up. Up­town, down­town and mid­town are all guilty.

The Ja­maican so­ci­ety needs to do a lot of in­tro­spec­tion. The so­ci­ety can­not be healed un­less and un­til we all make a de­lib­er­ate, con­certed ef­fort to pro­vide re­ward and pun­ish­ment in­cen­tives to in­duce be­havioural change. Chang­ing the name of the po­lice force will not change the be­hav­iour of its per­son­nel.

Politi­cians, young and old, can­not lead the trans­for­ma­tion be­cause they are the very ones who brought us here. We need to go back to the time par­ent-child re­la­tion­ships were val­ued, and par­ents could im­pose the dic­tum: “If you nuh hear, you will feel”, and “hard eze pick­ney nyam rock stone”. The bib­li­cal ad­mo­ni­tion is still most apt: “Spare the rod and spoil the child.”

Ron­ald Ma­son is an at­tor­neyat-law and Supreme Court me­di­a­tor. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­erjm.com and na­tion­sagenda@gmail.com.

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