Thursday, 24 April 2014

Poem-Unwelcome Visitor

                                                                  Unwelcome Visitor

                                                                         © 2014
The day started the night before
Runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing
Burning throat, congested nasal passages
Painful swallowing
Having the chills

It was the night before
Listless! Sweaty and drenched clothes
Tossing and turning throughout most of the night
Excess mucus
Red, swollen eyes

It was the night that would never end
Laboured breathing
Pain and aches-everywhere
It is the morning after the night before.

By Wayne Campbell

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Earth Day 2014- The Jamaican Experience

There are more than seven billion people living on planet Earth.  Our planet is at a critical juncture. As the global population increases so too are the environmental challenges associated with so many people living in a finite area. Each year the world pauses on April 22 to commemorate Earth Day. The global theme for Earth Day 2014 is “Green Cities”. With more than half of the world’s population living in cities, it is becoming more and more challenging to refer to our cities as ‘green’. Our cities are increasingly becoming large areas of concrete as governments struggle to provide affordable housing for their citizens. The denigration of the environment is a direct result of urbanization and population increase. This is having a negative effect on all of us, rich and poor, Christians and atheists, black and white. This negative impact is highlighted in Jamaica especially in the parishes of Kingston and St. Andrew where there are hardly any green space available where our children, as well as adults alike to enjoy themselves whether for play or just to admire the beauty of nature.   On the contrary, we have a solid waste disposal facility in the middle of the city which is rather senseless and environmentally suicidal.
Interestingly, a section of Vision 2030, Jamaica’s long term development plan, clearly speaks about protecting the environment. National Development Goal number 4 pursues Jamaica has a Healthy National Environment. However, the Jamaican government’s agreement to the Chinese proposal to build a coal-fired plant at Goat Islands seem to run contrary to moving towards a healthy environment and green economy status. According to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) a green economy is one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. In the past, our economic model was more concerned about improving the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). However, since the global recession a few years ago, many governments have wisely revisited their economic model and have done so ensuring that their environment is not wasted in the process of development and economic gains. Instead, economic growth and development should be based on social inclusiveness and a respect for Mother Nature.
Each one of us can make a difference in protecting our environment for Earth Day 2014 and beyond. We do not need a degree in environmental sciences in order to become wardens of the environment. What we need is a renewed focus to begin looking at the environment as being ours instead of seeing the environment in the abstract.  We need to foster a culture of environmental awareness and consciousness among the population. The destruction of the environment continues to have a gendered approach. Most of the policies, programmes and plans associated with the annihilation of planet Earth are crafted in the minds of men. Even when females are at the helm of government they must operate in a patriarchal space in order to push forward any agenda.   
The time to mobilize ourselves is now. We must lobby our government to invest in clean renewable energy and to overhaul our outdated building codes. We must begin to plant more tress and desist from cutting down our trees. We need to initiate environment clubs in all our schools. We need to teach environmental education in our schools in order to stir the consciousness of the next generation of Jamaicans.  We need to do more recycling of our waste especially plastic. We must pay more attention to our watershed areas. The reality of climate change is being felt and now is the time to act.
In as much as the government has a major role to play in protecting the environment, we too as citizens have a role to play in safeguarding the environment, especially in light of the water problems Jamaica is currently experiencing where scores of people have no water in their pipes. Our citizens must become more vigilant in matters concerning the environment. The dormant collective spirit of our people must be rekindled and awaken with a fervent sense of urgency and cogency in light of the many environmental challenges we face as a society.
In order to “green” our cities we need a paradigm shift in terms of how our cities, communities and government operate. We need to build the green economy and provide green jobs. We need to hold our government more accountable and move towards a carbon-neutral economy. We must each ask ourselves what can I do to make a difference in my community this Earth Day. We must invest protect our environment for future generations. Once you go “green” you never go back. There can be no sustainable development without a clean and healthy environment.

Wayne Campbell


Sunday, 20 April 2014

Resurrection Sunday!

"And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. And he said saith unto them, Be not afraid. Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified, He is RISEN, he is NOT here: behold the place where they laid him". St. Mark 16 verses 5&6. Today is Resurrection Sunday!

Friday, 18 April 2014

Without Good Friday There is No Resurrection Sunday!

"When Jesus, therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head and gave up the ghost". St. John 19 verse 30. Wishing for all a holy and reflective Easter!

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Where Has The Water Gone?

Each year during this period (March to April) Jamaica experiences a water shortage. It has now become common place, especially in Kingston and its environs, to see scores of Jamaicans walking in search of water daily as the taps run dry or as water restrictions by the National Water Commission (NWC) intensifies. Our public institutions, in particularly our schools have been severely hampered and in some instances some schools have had to dismiss early due to the lack of water on their campuses. The Mona Reservoir was opened in the 1940,s, while the Hermitage Dam was opened in 1927. Both facilities were built to provide a reserve water supply for the corporate area of Kingston and St. Andrew. However, at the time those catchment areas were built they were able to adequately provide water for the population.  Since 1943, we have seen an explosion in the growth of the population not only for those two parishes but for Jamaica on a whole.

According to the Statistical Institute of Jamaica, the population of Kingston and Port Royal in 1943 was 103, 713. The same source states that the population of St. Andrew was 120, 067. As a country we have not invested in the necessary infrastructure to adequately provide water for the citizens, given the increase in the population which should have been expected. According to the 2011 census, the population of Kingston stood at 937, 700. Why then do we continue to have census taking if it is that the data collected is not being used to properly plan for the needs and development of the people?  

While we have had some water supply inventions since both dams were built more than sixty years ago clearly more can and should be done to ensure a reliable water supply for the citizens of this country. It is clear we lack proper planning and management in such an important resource.  What is interesting also in the fact that despite the water shortage and restriction water bills from the National Water Commission will likely be for the same amount or in some instances, there might be an increase.

Without any concrete plans in place, it’s very likely that come next year, we will go through this dry phase again. There can be no sustainable development without a reliable and consistent water supply.

Wayne Campbell

Monday, 14 April 2014

Marijuana, Masculinity and Decriminalization

In a society where there is an undeniable association between the construction of masculinity and the smoking of marijuana the intention of the Jamaican government to decriminalize marijuana might just go up in smoke.
In jurisdictions where decriminalization has occurred the recreational user of marijuana does not face prosecution for possessing or for using small amounts of the drug. Therefore, it would be illegal to trade, sell, or possess large quantities of the drug. As a result the resources of the state and law enforcement are usually shifted and used to target the suppliers and dealers of the drug.
There is a marked difference between legalization of marijuana-which is the route of both Uruguay and the State of Colorado in the United States of America-decriminalization of the drug. Colorado is the first state in the US to legalize the cultivation, sale and recreational usage of marijuana. Consequently individuals over the age of 21 are allowed to have up to an ounce of marijuana for personal use. Legalization makes an act completely acceptable in the eyes of the law and is, therefore, not subject to any penalties. Decriminalization simply means that an act is no longer regarded as a criminal crime but is still subject to penalties or fines, much like getting a speeding ticket.
The (2006) National School Survey conducted by the National Council on Drug Abuse found that twenty four per cent (24%) of adolescents had used marijuana at some point. We can surmise that eight years later the percentage of Jamaican adolescents who have smoked marijuana is much higher.  According to The West Indian Medical Journal (2004) the initiation of marijuana among Jamaican students begins as early as age nine years.  This is rather unbelievable and distressing. At age nine our children should be preparing for Grade Four Literacy Test (GFLT) not smoking a ganja joint and getting “high”. Can you remember what your interests were at age nine?  Disturbingly, the (2006) National Council on Drug Abuse survey also revealed that students perceive that marijuana to be the easiest illegal drug to access. I am not surprised at all by this finding since it appears that on almost every street in the society there is a house or two that sells ganja.  
Additionally, there is a clear association between using illegal drugs such as marijuana and behavioral problems this causal effect continues to be a concern for all our schools. A significant number of our teenage aged boys are addicted to the smoking of marijuana. We need to ask ourselves what message is being sent by the pending decriminalization of marijuana especially on the male student population who are attracted to or already hooked on the drug. Have we done as assessment to determine adolescent attitudes towards marijuana use in an era of decriminalization? Are we going to put more resources in our schools to assist the administrators to tackle the seemingly losing battle that is being fought daily to save and rescue those students who are addicted to marijuana? Once a student becomes addicted to this drug the evidence is very clear for everyone to see. Evidence includes a marked decrease in one’s school and aggression. In more instances than not the user develops a carefree attitude towards deportment and becomes careless.
Already the Jamaican society is beset by many social problems; issues such as the high dropout rate especially among our adolescent males and a high crime rate which is threatening our economic viability. We all can only imagine with immense trepidation the myriad of issues especially in regards to the further social disintegration within the society that such a move is likely to begin. There is no doubt that marijuana is highly addictive. The use of this drug significantly impairs bodily and mental functions. Now we know what makes marijuana so addictive? Tetrahydrocannabinol or (THC) is the chemical compound found in marijuana which makes the drug so addictive. Low doses of THC help reduce pain and nausea. THC also helps to stimulate appetite. Larger doses of THC result in the “high” feeling which is an altered perception of the user’s concept of time and space. It is important to note that for medical purposes synthetic forms of THC can and is in fact produced in laboratories.
Rastas are not the first
The argument to decimalize has been heavily dotted by beliefs that ganja should be decriminalize for sacramental purposes. It bears thought.
True, if you ask the average person to think of and name a “marijuana religion” immediately Rastafarianism would come to mind.
However, the use of marijuana in religion dates back to the second millennium B.C. and the practice continues to this day. The Jamaican- born Rastafarian movement is perhaps the most documented and well known modern religion that uses marijuana for spiritual purposes. Many Rastafarians believe that marijuana or ganja aids in the worship of God and meditation. Furthermore they believe that marijuana is the “tree of life” mentioned in the book of Genesis.
There is a long history of marijuana associated with Hinduism, since about 1500 BC by some records. It is most commonly consumed in a drink called bhang, mixed in with spices, milk and sugar and drunk during Holi and Baisakhi, key festivals of the Hindu religion. The marijuana plant is associated with the god Shiva, and many Shiavites smoke it in clay pipes called chillums, believing it to be a gift from Shiva to help humans reach a higher spiritual level. Marijuana is also used by yogis to enhance their religious experience.
Like in most religions, marijuana use is controversial and divisive in Buddhism. The tenets of Buddhism advise against intoxicants, but in many sects of Chinese Buddhism, marijuana has been used in initiation and mystical rituals since the 5th century BC. Some Tibetan Buddhist priests believe it to be the most holy of plants, and there are many written records that suggest that the founder of Buddhism, Gautama Siddhartha, lived primarily on marijuana seeds and leaves in the years before his enlightenment.
Reason enough to decriminalize? You tell me.
Wood, Water and Weed
Jamaica’s position at 18 degrees north and 77 degrees west makes the island an ideal attraction for many tourists. In 2010 Jamaica earned US$1.98 Billion dollars from tourism.  
In addition to the land and sea experience it is no secret that many tourists visit our country to sample our marijuana. Hollywood over the years has stereotyped the Jamaican male as a dread locked, sex craved, marijuana smoking individual who just hangs out on the beach.  Are we as a society willing to sacrifice our values to tourism interests? 
Are we convinced that that the advantages of such an important move will outweigh the disadvantages?
What are truly some of the advantages of decriminalization? Such a move will no doubt free millions of dollars now being used to prosecute recreational users.
It can be argued that decimalizing marijuana is likely to see a freeing up of a substantial amount of law enforcement resources which could be used to prevent more serious crimes.
We need to bear in mind that after Colorado “free up di weed” there was a drastic increase in the number of persons using marijuana. There was also a marked increase in the number of deaths from drug overdose. Undoubtedly there is going to be an initial increase in persons experimenting with marijuana once it is decriminalize. Are we prepared for this as a society? Research has showed that many users of marijuana go on to use more serious forms of drugs such as cocaine and heroin. Should we decimalize a harmful drug which is known for its psychoactive effects, we then need to ask ourselves are we ready for such consequences as a society? If the answer is in the affirmative then by all means “free up di weed!”

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Crippling Effects of Anti-Social Behaviour

Those of us who have had the privilege of attending an educational institution operated by nuns know without a shadow of doubt that they are dedicated, hard working and sticklers for discipline.
It is indeed a sad day in Jamaica to find out that the Alpha Boys Home which has served both as a home and school for thousands of boys will cease its residential care facilities in June of 2014.  The Alpha Boys Home started in 1891 with sixteen boys and has turned out many distinguished Jamaicans including some of Jamaica’s finest musicians. The school was founded by the religious order The Sisters of Mercy and has had a proud and illustrious record over the years. The Sisters of Mercy was founded in 1831 by Catherine Elizabeth Mc Auley, an Irish nun who used her inheritance to build a home for homeless women and children and provide for them care and an education.
Two reasons were given by The Sisters of Mercy for the closure of the residential care facilities. One was the failure of human capital to respond to the numerous and changing faces of the issues being displayed by the children as well as the increase in anti social behavior among the children in the care system. These issues however, are not confined to Alpha Boys Home; in fact the problem of anti- social behavior within the society speaks to the moral decay the society has been experiencing over the years. This social ill should be a cause of grave concern for all well thinking Jamaicans and should spur us into action to tackle this monster.
Given the fact that many of the boys who lived at Alpha Boys Home are at- risk youth we need to ask the question what will become of their living arrangements after the closure of the residential facilities at Alpha Boys Home? In many instances these boys are from abusive backgrounds and should not return to such conditions. This is extremely disturbing especially since the Ministry of Youth is reporting a thirty nine per cent increase in incidence of abuse of children. It is extremely a sad state of affairs! Our children cant seems to catch a break.
At the same time we must be grateful that the Alpha Boys Home will continue to operate its day school which will provide necessary skills training and academic classes to countless number of young men who are in need of such support. It also important to note that the famed music programme is projected to continue.
As a society we need to thoroughly examine the situation at hand and put in some concrete measure to stem the tide of neglect and other forms of abuse that our children encounter daily.
We need to engage our parents more in terms of having parenting workshops on a regular basis. Too many of our parents are neglecting their responsibility as parents. We cannot continue to neglect and abuse our children in this manner. Our children are the foundation of all sustainable development. As a society it is important that we do all given our budgetary constraints to enrich, protect and build the human capital of our country.

Wayne Campbell



Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Core Values versus Individualism

Have you ever asked yourself what are the core values of the Jamaican society? Can you identify those principles which have guided us a nation throughout the good and bad moments within our history? Those who are honest will admit it is rather challenging to identify such core values. However, we first need to ask ourselves what are core values? Core values are those principles and ideals which help make up the identity and culture of a society. Since our political independence in 1962 our sense of identity as a people have been interrogated and deconstructed repeatedly and now we are at crossroad regarding our cultural identify as a society. Indeed many factors contribute to a society’s core values. Our proximity to North America and the invasion of subscriber television popularly known as cable TV have greatly contributed to a new spectrum of core values in the Jamaican society.
In a socialist society, for example, the core values surround equality for all, equality in terms of housing, health care and education. The value of equality means that no one in the society has any special benefits.
However, in a capitalist market driven society such as the Jamaican society, the core values are different.  Capitalism is an economic system in which trade, industry and the means of production are controlled by private owners with the primary goal being profit making.
As a society our traditional core values of hard work, honesty and fairness have been replaced with greed, corruption and individualism. Our core values now surround an “all you can grab” for “me, myself and I” attitude.  The society no longer reward its citizens based on the quality of their work instead one’s worth and progression in the society is intricately linked to who knows you. Disturbingly, this ethos of preferential treatment is also being replicated and reinforced by those who should know better. We continue to play politics with the future of the Jamaican society as if it’s a board game; however, the game has now become the reality and it is no longer humorous. The Jamaican society faces a crisis of leadership in all domains whether it is private of public spheres. Our families have become dysfunctional and the destructive and negative sub-culture fuelled by social media is seriously threatening to overcome the dominant culture in the society.  Social media has now become the primary agent of socialization in the society. The values being expounded by social media has crept into the society and is on the verge on becoming a part of this new wave of core values. We now live in a world where everyone is connected 24 hours and engaging in “Face booking”, “Sexting” and “WhatApping”. Added to this our homes for the most part are without fathers and as a result we now have a society in which there are more female single parent households than any other time in our history. An entire of generation of males have been raised without fathers and the problem from all perspective seems to be worsen. This splintered family arrangement has added significant burden and stress on our women and children especially in light of Jamaica’s poverty rating worsens.  Families without a father in the home are generally poorer than those families where a father is present. Not surprisingly, a recent study conducted by the American Counselling Association and the Association of Adventist Family Life found that some 1.1 million Jamaicans are living below the poverty line. This is most troubling and undoubtedly speaks to the failure of the state to put in place adequate social safety net measures to cushion the economic pressure which is being felt by the most vulnerable in the society.
Our schools are not as effective as they once were in terms of stemming the tide of anti social behavior within the society. For the most part our schools are being negatively influenced by all that is happening around them instead of positively impacting the communities in which they operate in. The ongoing violence in sections of West Kingston is a prime example of this. The students who live and attend schools in such areas live and breathe violence almost on a daily basis. Many of the students are traumatized so too are the teachers who work in such areas. The day to day functioning of such schools is being negatively impacted. In many instances the school population has dropped since parents are afraid to send their children to school or have transferred them to schools outside the area.  The future of the country is at risk if it is that our children are being denied an education. The abuse of our children continues while we turn a blind eye. Mothers are pimping out their daughters to the highest bidders even in the face of prosecution provided by under the Child Care and Protection Act (CCPA). While this phenomenon is not new it appears that this despicable and abhorrent action is increasing especially in rural areas and economically disadvantages urban enclaves of the society. While the terminology (pimping) has changed over the years pimping of young girls can be traced as far back as the 1960,s when the US farm workers programme was an integral mainstay of the Jamaican society. In many instances many mothers would literally hand over their daughters to older adult males returning from farm work to satisfy the twisted sexual appetite of these men. It was indeed a tabooed subject then; however, it was and still is very much a part of the underbelly of the Jamaican cultural experience. Of course in an enlighten period people are now beginning to talk openly about the issue and rightly so. The issue of pimping is rooted in economics, as well as a socio/cultural ideology within the society.  While this is not an excuse for this depraved action the fact is the economic desperation some mothers face is as such that they would prefer to sanction their under aged daughters having sexual relations with adult males just to put food on the table. A significant number of adult males have been brought up not to have any qualms about having sexual relations with under aged girls.
This practice of prostituting our young girl’s needs to be shunned by the wider society and such mothers as well as the adult males who are found guilty should face the full force of the law.
The church as an agent of socialization no longer plays an integral role in the lives of many Jamaicans. Added to this Sunday and Saturday which were traditional days of worship are now considered normal working days under the newly introduced flexi work week arrangement.  
The influence of the popular culture namely dancehall music is also adding fuel to this sort of negative anti social behavior. In the genre of dancehall music our women are portrayed as sex objects to be used and abused by men. In fact there is now a huge void in dancehall music with the sentencing of one of its biggest stars. As a result many artistes now jostling and jockeying for pole position as the heir apparent by appealing to the lewdness common denominator (LCD).  Gone are the days when communities would look out for the best interest of all children. The breakdown of the community as an enforcer of good values needs to be restored with a sense of urgency. We cannot continue along this path of self centeredness and individualism. We all need to engage in a bit of self searching and identify how each one of us can do a bit more to help restore our core values to society. The Jamaican society needs a spiritual renaissance. We need to collectively repent of our sins and seek God’s forgiveness in a new trust to move the country forward by restoring our traditional core values. We all have a social responsibility in ensuring that Jamaica succeeds.   

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Grieving in a Crisis

Just imagine if you had a loved one on Malaysian Airlines flight M370 which vanished into thin air on the March 8, 2014. Imagine for a moment the pain you would have experienced not knowing what had happened to your loved one. The emotional toll on the families has been heart rending as seen from footage on the television.  The process of grieving has been around ever since the creation of mankind. Humans tend to make strong bonds of affection or attachment with others. When these bonds are broken, as in death or separation, a strong emotional reaction occurs, which is defined as grief. Grieving can occur at anytime throughout an individual’s lifespan. Grief counselling refers to a specific form of therapy or a focus in general counselling with the goal of helping the individual grieve, and address personal loss in a healthy manner. The purpose of grief counselling is to assist the individual work through the feelings, thoughts and memories associated with the loss of a loved one. Grief counselling is very important in that the process helps the individual work through acceptance of the loss, as well as, determines how life can go on without that person, and consolidate the memories in order to move forward in a healthy way.
Children especially have a difficult time dealing with the loss of a loved one, such as, a parent and it is very important that all the support be provided to them in order to help them overcome that period of bereavement.
As human beings were are not immune to crisis. In fact from the moment we are born we enter a crisis filled world. It is imperative that we develop coping skills to deal with inevitability of crisis. A crisis is the experiencing of an event or situation as an intolerable difficulty that exceeds the person’s current resources and coping mechanisms. As a result grief counselling is a useful tool as it provides us with a variety of direct and action-oriented approaches to help us find resources within ourselves to deal with crisis
It must be very painful for the families of those passengers of flight M370 especially since there is no concrete evidence as to what happened to the flight. Many family members are in a state of denial and will be in such a state until some physical proof is given alongside the theory that the plane crashed into the ocean. The family of passengers on Flight M370 will require long term crisis counselling in order to cope with the untimely death of their loved ones.
Let us continue to pray for the families so that they too might find peace in this their moment of stress and immense loss.

Wayne Campbell

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Certify High School Graduates

The decision by the Ministry of Education to stop offering the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) examination has turned out to be both ill-advised and foolhardy.
At the time the decision was taken the education ministry said the SSC examinations had lost its relevance in the society. The Ministry of Education announced then that a more relevant high school diploma would replace the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) examinations.
The SSC Examination was introduced in the 1970,s and served as an exit exam for many students after their five year stint at the secondary level. Many years have passed since the education ministry announced plans for a more relevant replacement exam and we are still waiting to see the rolling out of the high school diploma replacement examination. Consequently, thousands of students have graduated from high schools across Jamaica without any form of certification. The fact is the SSC examination was very much relevant. A student with a pass at range 4 or 5 could have used those subjects to matriculate into tertiary level institutions as well as to enter the world of work.
The SSC examinations primarily targeted students of non-traditional high schools who were not at the required level to sit the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) exams.  Nothing is wrong with having changes; especially since the process of education is constantly evolving. However, we should not have stopped the SSC examination without first implementing a replacement examination. As we approach yet another examination period in the academic year the sad reality is that another cohort of Jamaican students will be leaving various high schools without any form of certification. We have done a grave disservice to countless number of poor people’s children. The Ministry of Education needs to move with a sense of urgency in order to ensure that 2014 is the final year students will be graduating from high schools without having a national examination in place to certify them.
Wayne Campbell