FIRING LINE: I am confused, confused!
When I sat down to write this article I intended to write about the furore involving the publishing by this newspaper of two children engaged in a sexual act. This was my first state of confusion.
It remains unclear to me whether the public outrage is targeted at the publishing primarily of the act, or the fact that the act was taking place within the context of a school environment by underaged school goers. There seems to be one section of the public which is saying, “We do not want to see it and do not print it because it is offensive.” The reaction from this section of the public is then buttressed by calls to ban or further strengthen the ban on cellphones in school. There is another section of the public which says it should have been handled differently without the publishing of the pictures, which served not to help but rather further marginalize the children involved.
My natural inclination is to side with the second group. When I first saw the story my heart went out to the young woman involved. I do not think that it is a natural inclination for women especially to allow their bodies to be used so casually. Even among consenting adults the natural inclination is for sex to be private and personal. The public display and the fact that young lady did not feel it necessary to hide her face speaks volumes. At some point in time something unnatural happened in that young lady’s life that made her think her body and her pride useless. I had no condemnation, only sadness and despair.
While I appreciate those that are concerned that the publishing of the act was insensitive, the overriding tenor of the discussion has surprised and baffled me. I went to school, thought I did pretty well but no matter how I try – and I have tried – I cannot get the addition done. I cannot figure out how banning cellphones will deal with the issue of children having sex in schools.
Banning cellphones will perhaps address the public dissemination of the act or rather acts. As far as I am being told, new videos are emerging daily and some even more disturbing. But work with me a little. If we concentrate our energies on dealing with the underlying cause and be realistic with the use of cellphones in school, then there would perhaps be less to record on the cellphones.
I do not know but there has to be a better way and, more importantly, after all of the public outrage what happens tomorrow? What changes fundamentally for the children involved? How do we encourage them to do better or to be better? Who helps the young girl and others like her? Who stands in the middle of Parliament square to advocate for better child protection, a more aware and sensitive justice system or more guidance counsellors in school and aggressive intervention policies for children at risk? If THE NATION ran a Back Page story about something like that I wonder how much traction it would get.
I started there at this first stage of my confusion and then lo and behold in the weekend news I was confronted with the gravy bowl of concessions being offered to Sandals. The concessions given to Sandals hark back to those days when the region was so desperate for foreign investment we gave companies honeymoon concessions for their business. The lessons learnt from that period, if my memory serves me well, were mostly negative.
Interestingly, it is reported that the representative from Sandals indicated that he did not think Sandals would have been able to achieve the excellence in their brand without the concessions and actually went on to say that the duty-free concession would allow them to up the ante on food and beverage. I did not whether to cry or laugh (confused). Well, excuse me! Of course, you will be able to do those things – who wouldn’t?
Interestingly again, we can apparently have an efficient and well-functioning civil service for those who are deemed worthy enough.
I do not want to wallow in my confusion, so I look forward to those responsible for the concessions bringing evidence to show how the farmers will benefit. Is there an agreement that Sandals will source more than 50 per cent of its produce from local farmers? Will inland transport for tourists be de-monopolized so that the average taxi driver will benefit? Given the enclave nature of most of the Sandals hotels, I look forward to hearing exactly how much spin-off there will be and how long it will take for that spin-off to match the concessions that have been given.
Where there is no vision . . . people like me become confused.
• Shantal Munro-Knight is a development specialist and executive coordinator at the Caribbean Policy Development Centre.