OFF CENTRE: The village and the children
By Sherwyn Walters | Tue, July 03, 2012 - 12:00 AM
Every now and then you hear some well intentioned soul, concerned about the behaviour of children, cry out: “It takes a village to raise a child.”
I suppose the best interpretation of this saying, often attributed to the Igbo and Yoruba people of Nigeria, is that the raising of a child is a communal effort.
This communal responsibility for raising children is, I am told, reflected in other African proverbs, such as the Sukuma (Tanzania) proverb “One knee does not bring up a child” and in the Swahili (East and Central Africa) proverb “One hand does not nurse a child”.
But yuh know that in the Caribbean we often take the superficial aspects of Africanness and have no interest in the real substance, the belly, the guts of the thing. So we run off with proverbs and dashikis and wukking up with no substantial linking of what we trumpet as African to their actual underpinnings, value system included.
About the wukking up (outside the bedroom): so many people tell us that it is an African t’ing. What nobody bothers to bring is the context, the consonance with social mores in the African situation.
Does public wukking up in Nigeria or wherever over there have the same naked sexual connotation that it has over here? Isn’t it hinged to something deeper in the culture that takes it away from mere sexual suggestiveness?
As is the case with bare-breasted women in many places on the African continent.
You know how many Caribbean men, with sex or something close to it on their minds, are working their own brand of X-ray vision because some attractively bubbied women ’bout here refuse to walk about without blouse and brassiere?
Different culture. Different mores. Different morals. We’s in the Caribbean now (Remember “We’s in America now” from the television miniseries Roots). Bubbies in the open mean different things over here.
Perhaps an African man is publicly turned on by an exposed ear lobe or kneecap. Not me.
Yuh cahn just wrench something away from its peculiar social and moral environment and transplant it to another quite different milieu and proclaim that it has the same meaning. Not wukking up. Not exposed breasts. Not ear lobes or knee caps.)
Same way with this village talk.
When I was growing up, people could let the village raise the child – and indeed it often did. You see, back then virtually everybody in the village had the same values of my upstanding parents – don’t curse, respect your elders, respect your neighbours, respect authority figures, don’t eat while walking the street, speak politely to everybody you pass, don’t litter, don’t talk loudly, go straight home, work hard and plan for tomorrow, respect females, be always dressed tidily, go to church and Sunday School, don’ idle ’bout, and so on.
What are the prevailing “standards” of the village these days? The village cursing, the village littering, the village feteing like there is no tomorrow, the village idling (they call it “the block”), the village is sex-obsessed, the village en got no time for church nor Sunday School, the village is anti-authority (variously called the establishment or Babylon), many in the village keeping unneighbourly noise, the village walking ’bout with pants below underwear or with breasts bounding over tops as if they can’t wait to get into your hands, the village men talking “man talk” in the presence of children, etcetera, etcetera.
And the extended village, in the form of radio, television, the Internet and various “voices”, is teaching children about their rights and not their responsibilities, and training them in the objectification of women through heavy doses of the reckless mouthings and anti-social songs of obviously unsupervised (or badly supervised) radio deejays, and delivering tutelage in how to have low regard for the real people around them as they immerse themselves in online social networks.
Now, I know people have it to say that the majority en like that. Why do they keep talking about “majority”? It is not smart. It is not perceptive. Listen: it doesn’t take a majority to ruin anything – only a critical mass. And that critical mass of badness is clearly in evidence in almost any Barbadian village.
It might, ideally, take a village to raise a child. But if you say “It takes a village to raise a child”, you had better say how we are going to change today’s village so that it is worthy to raise the child.
In the meantime, take my foolish advice: don’t let today’s village raise your child, hear?
• Sherwyn Walters is a writer who became a teacher, a song analyst, a broadcaster and an editor.
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