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JEFF BROOMES: We are better than this


JEFF BROOMES: We are better than this

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Last week I spoke on the matter of crime and violence in this country. This unwelcome curse continues to be circling my daily thoughts, and I feel that more must be said in order to clear the muck that has settled in my head causing a major distraction to my necessary focus.

In my quiet moments, I have tried to analyse the prevailing situation in this beautiful country of ours, wondering each time, how did we get here and how can we go forward. 

We all see specific issues and actions on which to apportion blame. We all identify a variety of examples that we can use to define the areas of responsibility and successful corrective measures. 

As we project, I believe that we must address this decline within the broader guiding principles. These I see as areas such as manifest demonstration, unnecessary accommodation, limited engagement and unprincipled glorification. These weaknesses interlock at different stages of individual development resulting in disrespect, irresponsibility and ultimately, acts of crime and violence.

Quite recently I was sitting in Queen’s Park letting the breezes cool me off after a very stressful experience. There was a toddler, snatching a bag from his mom, stomping and shouting. An adult who could have been another family member spoke to him in a corrective manner. The mother objected to the intervention, smiling and saying that he was only a child who knew no better and was simply expressing himself. She hugged him and said how cute he was.  That annoyed me. Such accommodation is a precursor for a deterioration of standards. This was simple bad behaviour and should have been seen and addressed as nothing else.

As youngsters, most of us were mandated to do chores. Some of us had to sweep or mop the house.  Some had to scrub the bathroom or clean the yard.  Others had to feed pigs and chickens (including the cesspool). Still others had to take out sheep, goats or cows. These were required to be addressed before and after school and were seen as a form of engagement meant on teaching us responsibility and the value of work. We cared for our animals in ways that made them seem like family. The inculcated values helped to define our character for years to come.

In addition to the identified chores most of us as students were expected to be engaged in one extracurricular activity or sport. Many of us chose a different sport for each term of the school year.  I can only repeat the constant grandmother mantra about the devil finding work for idle hands. Keep children positively engaged and you keep them focused. The more you do and explore the more you learn and mature. There is a definite need for such a strand of youth development to be reinvested in. Our schools must be seen for more than academics.

A few weeks ago I had reason to be in the Bridgetown Magistrates’ Court and was flabbergasted by what I saw as indecent glorification of what is bad and negative within our society.  As I sought shelter from a slight drizzle, I observed a number of young accused men being led by members of the Royal Barbados Police Force to one of the courts.  They were all well handcuffed and under strict control of the officers. That was the positive, but what transpired after, left me in total disbelief.

As these young men walked by, loud cheers and hoots sprang up from the audience that was gathered under the covering that served as a mock shift gallery. There was high-fiving and applause as though a movie or sports star had arrived.  I was shocked and even more so when the accused men started giving thumbs up signs. I cringed with disbelief and wonder, “Is this what our country has come to?”

This glorification of what most responsible people would see as a negative, serves only to project an acceptance of bad over good and a virtual promotion of crime and violence. Can no one stop, think and ask others to come back? There is a great need for firm, uncompromising action that says to one and all, we are Barbados and we are better than this. 

Jeff Broomes is an experienced educator, principal and community organiser who also serves as vice president of the Barbados Cricket Association and director of the West Indies Cricket Board. Email: [email protected]

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