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OUR CARIBBEAN: Of Rihanna, culture and moral values


Rickey Singh

OUR CARIBBEAN: Of Rihanna, culture and moral values

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In the last SUNDAY SUN a letter writer Pamela Cumberbatch called on Government to revoke the honour it bestowed upon entertainment superstar Rihanna as Barbados’ Ambassador for Youth and Culture because her lifestyle was hardly an example to the youth.
More precisely, argued Cumberbatch, Rihanna was “abusing the leverage given her to promote this country”.
I do not know Ms Cumberbatch, whose letter was published as a guest column. The sentiments she expressed clearly reflect the hurt she feels about the deteriorating moral values in this nation with the “Rihanna influence” being a significant factor.  
One does not have to be a prude to concur that in her incredible rise to international stardom, Rihanna’s own confessional lyrics of Good Girl Gone Bad suggest an attitude of moral rectitude that can hardly endear her to Barbadians, now increasingly revealing a mix of sadness and anger over declining morals and the penchant for lewdness and conflicts among youth.
Objectively, the print and electronic media cannot honestly be exempted from criticisms for contributing to what some cynically view as “the new face of Barbados” where raw lewdness – involving even gyrations of adults and children during the just concluded Crop Over Festival – can find coverage in both media.    
For president of the National Organization of Women, Marilyn Rice-Bowen, some of these lewd acts, captured during Kadooment Day and forwarded to the attention of the police and Child Care Board, constitute child abuse. And she has appealed to women “to respect themselves”.
Long before sections of the local media were being castigated over claimed abuse of Press freedom in encouraging lewdness and general decline in moral behaviour by their photographic coverage of Crop Over events, the media in Trinidad and Tobago had to cope with the wrath of the people in that Caribbean Community (CARICOM) state, who railed against what’s better known in Barbados as sheer “wuk-up” culture.
Leading media enterprises there, therefore, started paying more critical attention to editing the television footage and the use of photographs in newspapers with the understanding that those who engaged in lewd behaviour during Carnival should not expect the media to be a party to such acts by devoting coverage to them.
Within recent weeks there have been repeated denunciations from various pulpits against the extent of media coverage provided to disgusting behaviour in unmistakable sexual gestures.
I am aware that leading media enterprises in this and other CARICOM states have a professional code of ethics or basic guidelines to adhere to when dealing with the coverage of vulgarities that so often masquerade as “just having fun” or “spreading body joy”.
More attention should therefore be paid to what representative voices are currently condemning with the hope of arresting the spreading patterns of immoral behaviour.
But do not expect a response from Rihanna to the call that Government should revoke her status as Barbados’ Ambassador for Youth and Culture.
• Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist.

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