Ronald Thwaites | Fixing the family
Will we listen to Doreen Dyer? We were outraged to watch her beating her girl child with the machete. What is our reaction to her remorse and distress now that she has been punished?
"I want the fathers to take care of their kids, because probably if my babyfather was taking care of me and my kids, mi wouldn't have to have that anger, 'cause nuff of the times when mi get anything, mi just have to carry it home go give them ... . Mi go to my bed hungry ... . Some of the time is all two weeks, three weeks them nuh go a school ... . If their father was there, that wouldn't happen."
Last week, three beautiful young women came to ask for farm work tickets. All are high-school graduates with no credible exam passes or more than basic occupational skills. One has two children, the others have one each. "The children's father is not in the picture" was the common refrain. All three are being visited by some other boyfriend but claim that "dem cyant do nuttin to help wi ... ."
So they want to go away. "If you get through, who will mind the pickney?"
"Mi a go beg mi madda" or "mi soon send for her" are the replies.
The girl who describes herself as 'Sandra daughter' has been sleeping with her mother and now incontinent grandmother on one bed, in one room in a 'capture yard' downtown. Her mother has a new partner now and tells her, albeit reluctantly, that "now she grow big", she would have to move out although she is still in school. Her guidance counsellor called to ask if the member of parliament could arrange a room for her because the alternative is for her to stay with the taxi-man who has been "looking her".
Last, recall the tragic, fiery deaths of children recently and some of the vapid statements of regret that follow. In each instance, the children's fathers are never mentioned or held accountable for the lack of care. After the funerals, nothing happens.
NO STABLE SOCIAL ORDER
All of these instances add up to a high incidence of social malaise upon which no stable social order, neither effective education nor prosperous economic system, can be built. The society hardly wants to discuss them fully because they are so intimate, and even less, to suggest the form of culture change.
Simply: The society must espouse as a national ethic that if two persons are going to parent a child, they must commit to a partnership sturdy enough to jointly raise the offspring to maturity. Everything else, including crime control, follows from that.
Freedom does not mean the liberty to do anything someone feels like. Our recent history has inverted truth to relate freedom to include indiscipline and disorder. Sustained national campaigns to reverse such misconceived attitudes and behaviour must start now.
Unfettered individuality, the obvious ethos of those in charge, will not cut it for national development.
Then there is something else that can be done to help. It is bordering on criminal that the nation has no housing policy conservative of family integrity. The proneness to personal commitment between people is weakened when necessities such as affordable housing are lacking.
The National Housing Trust (the recent evaluation of which is still a secret) should be building homes for rent and purchase so that squatting may be reduced, families formed and kept united, and the environment enhanced.
Which national institutions have the insight and courage to advance these initiatives?
- Ronald Thwaites is member of parliament for Kingston Central and opposition spokesman on education and training. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.