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Riding the wagon

Olu Walrond

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WELL,  it seems our latest bandwagon has rolled to a final stop: the Vibes Kartel and Mavado Peace Train. It’s probably resting in the same dump heap as the school uniform controversy of a couple months ago – not to mention the cellphone controversy and all of the other teapot affairs that consume time and energy in our neck of the woods.The time must surely come when, as a people, we develop the ability to separate the proverbial chaff from the wheat in the arena of social discourse, so that trivia like Vibes and Mavado don’t get elevated to the status of matters of state.Public discourse, especially via the mass media,can be a useful mechanism for stimulating positive social change.Sadly, in our country we choose to waste this opportunity in the pursuit of political tribalism and nine-day wonders.Since when is the staging of a fete by a group of visiting artistes a matter to which ministers of Government should be devoting their valuable time and energy – unless there are concerns of a national security nature?When the late Father of Independence and national hero, E.W. Barrow declared that he would never insist that the University of the West Indies conform to any conventional wisdom, but would be free to explore the spectrum of ideas and ideologies, he was espousing a liberalism which harmonises with our statusas democracies. Barrow wasn’t just making a fine speech; he demonstrated this liberal outlook in the 1970’s when he permitted the late Kwame Toure (Stokeley Carmichael) to visit Barbados at a time when Toure was being banned from nearly every Caribbean country. Far too often there is the tendency to suppress views or activities with which we don’t agree, even though they may pose no threat to the peace or security of the society.We see it in the response of some religious people to the de-criminalisation of prostitution and homosexuality; we saw it recently in the banning of drums from the school sports. The allowance of diverse cultures, ideologies and behaviours that are non-threatening to the general peace and well-being is one of the hallmarks of a modern, free society such as ours.The larger issue for us – buried as it was in the avalanche of foolishness – is that we are raising generations of our young people on just the same diet of musical shavings and idle talk – otherwise knownas FM radio. So Vibes and Mavado or not, our youngsters will continue to drink freely from the same fountain of musical and verbal drivel that flows so freely and unfettered on a daily basis.This is not a case for banning; rather it’s a case for more diligent parenting: do we exercise control over what our children listen to? It’s a case for radio administrators to recognise that young minds need to be exposed to far more than those things that titillate; that radio ought not to be just about “bigging up” and “shouting out”, and hailing the various “possies”. Who has ever heard on FM a well-constructed documentary on some interesting aspect of Caribbean geography or culture; or a feature interview on the pursuits of a young person talented in fine art, drama or music?.  If we want to “take back” our country, as some do, let’s begin with a reform of radio.Let’s give our people – especially young people – the benefit of hearing the works of some of the world’s musical giants.  If, as studies have suggested, some kinds of music have a positive effect on the development of intellectual capacity, we must surely be robbing our young people of their mental growth.Small wonder, then, that they exhibit, in the main, such low levels of mental capacity and behaviour.