Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The Self-Righteous Among Us Are At It Again!

 Published Monday, November 04, 2013-Jamaica Observer

BEFORE we rush to condemn we should all try and remember the numerous times we have had lapses in judgement in our younger days. He or she that is without fault please indicate now.
The overarching tendency in our society is to be characterised by short-term memory. We oftentimes forget that each generation of Jamaicans, like in any other society, tries as much as possible to push the envelope regarding decency and acceptable behaviour.

Having viewed the footage from the two-year-old Maggotty High School "bashment" video, I did not react with the typical jaw-dropping, knee jerking, shock and awe response as was the usual reaction from a significant portion of the Jamaican society. We live in an over-sexualised society, in which we are constantly being bombarded by sexual images and nuances by a media more concerned about their profit line than what is broadcast. One only has to view local television on a Saturday afternoon to easily see similarities in the music videos being shown there and the Maggotty video. Then again, hypocrisy and classism are two other characteristics of the society in which we live and as such I do not expect my instruction to change people's long-standing biases.
The ever-evolving changes in the technology of this century have afforded us the luxury to witness real-time events regardless of where we are on the planet. We are able to videotape events, share files and email, as well as download and upload images at the click of a mouse. This is probably where youthful exuberance does have
its disadvantages.
The fact is we all have failed in our collective responsibilities in grooming and raising the next generation of Jamaicans. To begin with, most of our homes are dysfunctional and our parents lack positive parenting skills. For the most part, our youngsters are aware of themselves in a sexual and sensuous manner mainly because of the society we have shaped for them. Too many of your youngsters have no sense of self as it relates to decency and discipline. The 'spiritual self' of which many of us, as older Jamaicans, are aware and find very relevant and important is fast fading, and to a large extent has become almost non-existent for a significant number of younger Jamaicans.
We share a history in which food and dance are used to celebrate achievements and used as markers for significant milestones. Unfortunately, unlike other cultures the Jamaican society does not identify with a rite of passage, which is a necessary cultural form and ceremony which allows for the transition between childhood to adulthood. Such ceremonies serve as important markers in a person's life, such as birth, puberty, marriage, childbirth, and death. Rites of passage usually involve ritual activities and teachings designed to strip individuals of their original roles and prepare them for new roles. The traditional American wedding ceremony is such a rite of passage. In many so-called primitive societies, some of the most complex rites of passage occur at puberty, when boys and girls are initiated into the adult world. In our context, high school graduations are probably the nearest event we have and celebrate as a sort of quasi rite of passage. So how do youngsters know when they are permitted adult behaviour?
What if the genre of music was different? What if the video was done to soca/calypso music; the choice of music for more affluent Jamaicans? What if the school involved was an "uptown" one? Smell the hypocrisy?
Each year we set aside the Sunday after Easter to parade and gyrate in costumes half-naked on the streets of Kingston or in Mas Camps in the name of carnival, yet when our students follow the lead we have set there is a public outcry.
Were the boys treated in a different manner than the girls for their involvement? In most of the discourse to date there has been a subtle tap of the wrist for the boys' behaviour in the video. What message is being sent, particularly, what message are we sending to our youngsters.
A number of individuals have been clamouring for the school to suspend or even expel the student, who apparently is the only one still attending school, for her involvement in the video in her uniform. I firmly believe the school involved went with the best option, given the circumstances including the fact that the video was done two years ago, of not suspending the student. One can only imagine the immense pressure she faces daily from her community, school and family and the negative impact this is having on her. This provides an ideal opportunity for State agencies involved in child care and protection to step in and offer some assistance. Yes, counselling should be provided, not only to the student involved, but I dare say the entire school population should be counselled since it appears that the event was not a singular instance.
We need to redouble our efforts as adults in this society and provide the necessary leadership and example that we wish to see our youngsters emulate, instead of sitting on the proverbial fence. Each one of us can and should mentor a child in an effort to bringing about the changes we wish to see in our society.
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.