JO - Bring the family back
Bring the family back
Lloyd B. Smith
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
An open letter to my extended Jamaican family at home and abroad.
My fellow Jamaicans,
It is that time of year when there is much eating, drinking and making merry. After all, Jamaicans like to have a good time and no other nationality in the world knows how to party better than us. We can be the most fun-loving, hospitable and warm people ever. That is why so many tourists flock to our shores. It is not just the sand, sea and sun (not to mention sex), that make them "make Jamaica" again and again. It is the people. We are very friendly, accommodating, exciting to be with.
The potent question is, why can't we be so equally sweet and charming to our fellow Jamaicans? Daily, we kill, maim and destroy one another for sometimes inexplicable reasons. Not even pregnant women, little children or elderly individuals are saved from the wrath of marauding gunmen. Indeed, there is a quality of violence that belies the Jamaican spirit of "one love, one heart, let's get together and feel all right.".
Why have we become such a violent, "dog-heart", heartless and wicked people? Why is there in our midst a group of young people who can be referred to as being a generation of vipers?
Is it in the food they eat or is it in their genes? Is it poverty, politics, unemployment, lack of formal education? What is it?
Many of us were born poor, yet we are not criminals. There are many Jamaicans who are not that educated but they have managed to make the best of their respective situations, becoming useful and happy citizens. When all is said and done, my compatriots, Jamaica's descent into the abyss of violence, indiscipline, hopelessness and decadence has to do with the breakdown in family life.
Do you remember the old-time Christmas when just about every celebration centred on the family structure? Do you recall when grandma and grandpa were the anchor on which all families rely for stability? And as for instilling values and attitudes, having manners and possessing other social graces, who did it better than "Granny"? Today, grannies go to "bashment" like everybody else. Just the other day I met a 26-year-old woman who is a grandmother! Need I say more?Then there is the fulfilment of biblical prophesy with "babes begetting babes". With so many youngsters having unwanted children who grow up in an atmosphere of no love, hostility, hunger, lack of attention and constant humiliation, should we be surprised when some, if not all of the country's most vicious gunmen, who kill without mercy, are from dysfunctional homes?
During this year, I've known of at least three young men whom I was mentoring who were victims of gun violence. Their life story was very typical. Living with a single mother, never met nor could ever to relate to their father if ever he was around, barely literate and numerate if at all, unemployed, smoked ganja incessantly, had very low self-esteem and hated the establishment (including politicians and police) whom they saw as oppressors. And what was most startling was that they all told me that they did not expect to live past 25 years. One died at 19, the other at 21 and another at 24. They were all gunned down by their cronies who, I suspect, would also be in their age group.
This Christmas, as we gather to celebrate the birth of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, and enjoy the festivities, let us pause and reflect on the wretched state of family life in Jamaica today, bearing in mind that 80 per cent of Jamaicans are born out of wedlock. It is said that this country has the most churches per square mile in the world. What I find most interesting, if not intriguing, is that we also have the world record for the most rum bars per square mile. In fact, in close proximity to most churches - sometimes just across the road - are rum bars. So in essence, we worship the Spirit while paying homage to the spirits.
It is this bitter-sweet irony that permeates Jamaican life. In one breath we claim to be a God-blessed country yet we do not follow the edict of Jesus Christ which states, "Suffer the little children to come unto Me for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven". Instead, we are sexually assaulting them, killing them, burning them, mutilating them, exploiting them, miseducating them and neglecting them.
Throughout the Christmas season, let us all focus on the family. Let's bring the family back. If you personally don't have a family, then become a mentor. If each of us can save a child from falling through the cracks, then that may well be one less gunman. Oh, how we long for the good, old-time Christmas feeling when there was widespread peace and goodwill. This can only return if we bring the family back. Let's invest in Jamaica's future by investing in the family.
In this vein, I am declaring New Year 2008 as the Year of the Jamaican Family. Won't you join me in this crusade?Have a wonderful, safe and spiritually fulfilling Christmas.