TONY BEST: Youths’ negatives overemphasised
ARE YOUNG PEOPLE in Barbados, especially males, getting a bad rap as they are routinely portrayed as violence – prone, undisciplined, and indifferent when it comes to education and the future?
Are far too many Bajan adults over-emphasising the negative while downplaying the positive side of our young people’s lives?
To Dr Chelston Brathwaite, Barbados’ Ambassador to China, it is an emphatic yes.
“I believe that far too often we emphasise the negative while ignoring the many good things our young people are doing,” said Brathwaite. “I don’t despair about the youth. In any society some young people conform while others do things differently.”
And that includes Bajans.
“Many of our young people are disciplined. They have high hopes and dreams for the future but some are less disciplined,” he added.
That’s why most, if not all, shouldn’t be tarnished with the same brush of negativity and written off.
Almost every day, or so it seems, a young man is paraded before the courts and the cameras, often in handcuffs surrounded by police officers accused of a serious crime, which when reported causes older folks to ask: “What’s our country coming to”? The offences run the gamut from murder, drug and gun possession and bullying of other youths to mugging or assault.
The ambassador said: “When I was growing up, we didn’t have television. Back then too, there wasn’t the Internet and the computer to distract us. These features are important aspects of the lives of young people today. The youth now has a wide range of distractions” with which to contend, he said.
In the 1950s and 1960s, there were the ubiquitous hands of parents in the home and members of the extended family.
“Today, most parents have to be out there making a living while bringing up the children,” he insisted.
Admittedly, said Brathwaite, who is back in China after spending the Christmas and New Year holidays in his birthplace, many parents don’t devote enough time to fashioning their children’s lives. The upshot: some young people adopt anti-social behaviour. Still, the majority of the youth are on track, doing productive things which were often ignored.
Some Caribbean newspapers, certainly not all, he complained, often “sensationalise the negative and many times they don’t emphasise the positive. The exemplars of youth are not on the front page. Those who are doing good work are disciplined and contributing do not get the kind of recognition they deserve.”
The ambassador thinks one answer is an expansion of mentoring programme for the youth. Another is putting a greater emphasis on paying discipline. Third, more attention to good manners, “good morning, good afternoon” and so on.
“There is room for greater care to help the youth navigate this rather complex world, which is much more complex than the world in which I grew up,” he cautioned. “When I grew up we had three institutions which formed the fundamental base of our development – home, school and church. Today the information sources are many, with the Internet, Google and so on – all important sources of information, but also sources of misinformation. ”
Tony Best is the NATION’S North American correspondent.