Worrying trends and hopeful signs

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Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. — Martin Luther King

 

A worrying trend is a negative matter or behaviour that takes on great significance because it represents a clear and present danger that, if not halted, will increasingly harm more and more people or wider aspects of our society.

We all can agree that since Independence in 1962 we have not yet brought to maturity the kind of Jamaica our founding fathers dreamt of and declared in our anthem, motto and pledge. Our journey has taken us off course, yet we have accomplished much for which we must give thanks.

We have given the world much in keeping with the charge to advance the welfare of the whole human race. Our name is known around the world, mostly for good, but also some negatives. Not many nations carry the notoriety (fame and infamy) we have attained.

Internally, we have experienced serious social, economic, and political decline from which we have sought to wrench ourselves. In the last decade we have seen some improvements and maturity, but not sufficient to inspire real hope. Hence, there has been the cry from most citizens for the building of a new Jamaica — I wholeheartedly subscribe to this.

After 50 years, a generation has passed, a new generation is emerging, the changing of the guard is in process bringing a glimmer of hope that better can come. The cries for the new Jamaica have intensified with improved systems to overcome corruption, electoral fraud, improper political conduct, police brutality and extrajudicial killings, governmental accountability, and services.

 

We have had much infrastructural development, but all these gains seem to have been overshadowed by a high level of crime and violence for the the last two decades. We have, in recent times, tried to press forward by attempting to tackle many of the social issues and to focus on progress and prosperity which are absolute necessities. However, there are some worrying trends that, if not expeditiously addressed and uprooted, the new Jamaica of progress and prosperity will be an elusive dream.

The nature of these trends are of such that their behaviour, like cancer, destroys at the cellular level, ensuring that in time death is inevitable. Here are a few such trends:

 

1) SEXTING

The Gleaner of Tuesday, November 20, carried a headline: ‘60% of teens into sexting’. Sexting is the sending of sexually explicit photographs, video, text messages, or e-mail via mobile phone to a willing or unwilling receiver. Sexting is intended to increase the senders popularity or to solicit sexual attention and liaisons.

A study recently commissioned by the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech), and “led by professor of management information systems at UTech’s College of Business and Management Paul Golding, was conducted among 2,200 students at different grade levels in high schools in every parish”. The significance of this worrying trend is first in the numbers.

Some “60%” speaks to majority, and majority indicates culturally acceptable normative behaviour. Then secondly, it speaks to thought processes. We all know what it’s like to be inordinately caught up in sexual thoughts and activities at that age. It distracts us from focusing on our studies and passing examinations critical to us achieving our career dreams. This worrying trend, if not halted, means therefore that we can expect to see a higher number of underachievers and dropouts from our schools. This does not augur well for our future workforce competence and production toward national prosperity. Then, thirdly, if sexting successfully increases a teen’s ability to engage in a sexual liaison, then we can expect a possible rise in teen pregnancy, abortions and sexually transmitted diseases. This will, to say the least, increase pressure on our already pressured health services. This worrying trend must be halted!

 

2) MURDER

The cold-blooded murder of women and children is now not an oddity but a commonplace occurrence. This worrying trend is now so commonplace that we need no validating newspaper report or research to confirm. This trend, some of my readers may remember, had its watershed moment with the 100 Lane massacre of January 2, 2002. Reportedly, a 25-strong posse of gunmen set fire to several houses on the lane and started shooting as the occupants fled. Seven people were killed; five females and two males. Two of the females were children and eyewitness reports of the time claim that they were killed execution-style.

I remember a time when women and children caught up in gang warfare or robbery would never be targeted by the perpetrators of the crime and violence being committed. Such was the respect our criminals had for our women and children. It was part of a wider societal construct.

Remember longtime days when if a man “tell yuh ’bout yuh mother” it meant an immediate fight, no matter how quiet a child you were? Times are a-changin’! Women are not so respected anymore. Since that watershed moment of 2002, our women and children have been increasingly targeted by criminals; not just to be shot alongside their men, but to be raped before they are murdered. This worrying trend must be halted.

 

3) EARLY SEXUAL DEBUT

Much of our music is sexually explicit, especially the music we play at our street dances and children’s parties. It is now common to see trending on social media platforms videos of children at these dances and parties twerking and simulating sexual activity as dancing. The adults present are usually engaged in egging them on and laughing at or cheering their efforts. In addition, the DJs usually augment the music with lyrical sparring, which degrades women and promotes sexual activity and violence. All this with children in full view, listening and responding.

Could this be part of what leads our children into early sexual activity? I am well aware that we have adults in our communities who deliberately prey on our young children sexually. But are our dances and parties the gateway to early sexual initiation?

Research has shown that early sexual activity has serious consequences. Consider the following study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information and the US National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine:

“Initiating sexual intercourse early increases risk for STDs, unintended pregnancies, and HIV/AIDS (Meshke et al, 2000). Early sexual debut is often accompanied by the early initiation of tobacco and alcohol/drug use, which compounds youth risk (Kotchick et al, 2001). For example, youth who initiate cigarette smoking early (by age 11) are at elevated risk for carrying weapons in adolescence and for sustained and heavy smoking in adulthood (DuRant et al, 1999; Tucker et al, 2002).” This is astounding information and we should all be able to clearly see examples in our Jamaican experience. This worrying trend must be halted.

 

4) CORRUPTION

The cries of corruption in Government, whether real or imagined, are continuous. What it says is that more care must be taken to put and improve systems to ensure accountability, and for those who manage them to follow proper procedures and practices.

What it says is that there are too many in leadership who have not developed the moral and internal fibre necessary in leaders. Neither is there a commitment to operate by principles, instead of by expediency.

Then there is the other end of the scale, where we have low trust levels and high fear levels. Consequently, we develop high expectations to see corruption around every corner so much so that often many people cry corruption for anything they do not understand or cannot see personal benefit to them. It’s like a man who fears “duppy”; he is sure he sees a duppy when it is only a shadow from a banana leaf blowing in the wind.

I shared in a previous article that owing to the high and deep levels of corruption in the past the nation has become paranoid about corruption. This has begun to impair judgement of some and cause possible over-regulation in certain agencies and boards. This hamstrings the liberty to take responsible yet innovative and productive initiatives. Such is the nature of this corruption trend; a double-edged sword. This worrying trend must be halted.

 

5) CRIME AND THE OCCULT

When crime and the occult mix, and increases at the apparent rate evident, we have moved in a realm beyond police capability. Occult practices are in the realm of the spiritual and cannot be challenged or defeated by mere physical weapons. Only the arm of the church that operates in the realm of the supernatural is able to counter this reality.

A proactive church should collaborate with the police to work at defeating this trend. The truth is more of our nation’s problems have a spiritual base as their cause than we realise or care to acknowledge. The ignorance of many loud public voices discourage, discredit and discount the spiritual power of prayer to our national detriment. Their ignorance blinds them to the obvious reality that we live in a physical world (the visible), which is driven by the spiritual (the invisible).

The forces of the invisible are great and that which sustains us in the visible. For example, where would we be without the air and the wind of the invisible reality? Does their unseen nature make them irrelevant? I am not even going to mention the invisible God of creation. That would be too much for some to fathom.

I state unequivocally that the war against crime needs a greater joint approach between police and the church. For the need for the moral and the spiritual, guiding the physical, cannot be ignored. This worrying trend must be halted.

 

HOPEFUL SIGNS

Amidst the many challenges we continue to face as a nation, there are some hopeful signs for which we have to give thanks, firstly to God, who continues to be gracious to us in spite of us. We must also credit the Government for following through on the initiatives of the previous Government, showing a maturing political environment. There have also been new initiatives and execution by the current Government that has manifested in growth in the economy and improvements in unemployment levels.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, at the recent Jamaica Labour Party annual conference shared achievements of his Government since taking office. There are some positive undeniable takeaways. Of particular encouragement, to me, is the shared consciousness of the prime minister to the plight of the poor and particularly their housing needs. He alluded to the fact that we are not building sufficient affordable housing solutions for the people to purchase on a fair and just basis.

I do not agree with the fact that the market is not working fast enough, and hence the reason for the lack of affordability. It does contribute, but the main reason is that the primary developers are greedy, rapacious, with self-serving minds that lack care for others and best national good. What we need are developers with conscience.

It was also encouraged to hear Holness acknowledge that National Housing Trust (NHT) has never been used as efficiently as it could. He is absolutely right. I hope, however, he recognises why?

At the risk of upsetting some people, I contend that the primary reason for that is that successive boards have not been comprised of sufficient persons with genuine care and understanding of the plight of the poor. The board needs caring social thinkers.

Before they bite off my head, I ask how else can you explain the billions collected for housing over the years with little housing solutions and having prices beyond the reach of the average citizens, and yet the money is stored, making the banks rich and the poor suffer lack and the Government drawing overtly and covertly on the funds sometimes for questionable uses. There has been enough money in the NHT Fund to have long solved the housing crisis and could have also assisted in strengthening our education system by improving our schools’ quality education, not just for few but for many.

There is not a natural care and love for the people by too many in leadership. We have not had a history of leaders and managers who have genuinely put people first. I hope it is changing. In addition, the prime minister also needs some advisors around him, and in his Government, who are truly committed to people development, which is true national development.

Copyright © 2018 by Rev Dr. Al Miller.

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