The plastic ban has inspired us to take a look at the toxic behaviors we find in Jamaica daily. We hope we can push poor practices out of our collective consciousness. Here are a few we’re throwing out this year.
Every Jamaican has a funny beating story, but if you’re honest with yourself, the humor only comes from hindsight. In that moment when your parent/guardian was scolding you, you probably thought you were going to die; you may even have wished it. We tell ourselves that we lived through it and it was for the better, but many of us walk around with hate, anger, and resentment in our hearts that come out in other areas of our lives. Many studies link childhood spanking with violent behavior in adults. You don’t wake up one day when you’re older free from all your experiences of youth. No, they shape you. There are other ways to discipline children. Know your child and their value.
Violence against women
We had an uncle who used to say: “A man who raises his hand to a woman has forgotten where he came from.” So let’s remember our roots. Women literally carry the nation. Hitting a woman doesn’t make you powerful, it only reveals how small and coward you are. When the argument escalates, simply walk out. Take the whole night, hell; take a month if you need to. It is never alright for anyone to hit anyone ever. One of the beauties of being human is we have verbal language to communicate our thoughts and feelings. It is one of the things that separates us from other animals.
The next time a victim of sexual assault finds the courage to report it and someone asks what she was wearing, may Nanny herself rise from the grave and box them. Jamaica has a toxic rape culture that puts all responsibility on women. Instead of asking young girls to cover up, how about teaching young boys and grown men to respect them. It’s the time we finally understand that women are not objects designed for male consumption, but humans with their own minds, and ambitions and whose bodies were not made to be simply incubators and toys.
We’re all familiar with pedophilia, but it is often used as a blanket term for all child-related paraphilia. Ephebophilia is a paraphilia under the pedophilia umbrella that is very common in our society. Technical definition differentiates pedophilia as sexual interest with prepubescent children, from ephebophilia, which is sexual interest in adolescent children (ages 15-19). Though Ephebophilia may not always be illegal, it is still a paraphilia. It is not a pretty sight to see grown men ogle teen girls but who would quickly stone child molesters and pedophiles. Sex with teens is exploitative. We’re not trying to rob teenagers of their sexual agency, but the power is unequal power adults and teens in those relationships. Let’s leave pedophilia and ephebophilia behind for good. Call out lecherous men when you see them. Protect our girls.
It’s disappointing that this is still a thing, but let’s kill it here.
Colonial mentality is thinking foreign ideas, people and products are somehow superior what we have. It affects our culture, our personal lives, and our economy. Think about it? Why do we continue to allow foreign artists to profit from our culture, at times with no real credit to us? And some have even co-opted it as their own and poorly so. Are we so desperate for their approval that we’ll settle for just being present? Seriously, it is as if they have taken our skin and sold it back to us. Think about castor and coconut oil. Rural women have been using these for decades, centuries even, and yet it took the American-based Naturalista movement for us to see their worth. The same can be said about natural hair. We were blessed with the Rastafarian movement as a beacon in this post-colonial society. Whatever opinions you may have of them, they have been a consistent pro-black voice and have been vocal about black beauty. But as a nation we were raised to loathe blackness; to do our best to remove as much of it as possible: to straighten our hair, bleach our skins, value English over our Creole, and aspire to an image of success that was formed on European bourgeois ideals. Although prompted by the movement and pop culture in America, we have at least started to embrace our blackness once more.
Neglect and Ignorance of Mental Health Issues
Culturally, we view mental health problems and those afflicted as abhorrent and demonic. Many a loved-one has tried to “cure it” using divine intervention. Now, Jesus is good at problem-solving. But chemical imbalances in the brain are below his pay grade. You know whose it isn’t though, a psychiatrist.
As humans, we romanticize much of our existence to understand life and cope. But we are all just walking chemistry sets. People who suffer from mental illness simply have too much or too little of a chemical in their bodies. Thinking that they are possessed, cursed or malevolent is idiotic. Because of such thinking, a huge portion of our society suffers in isolation. Let’s not take this way of thinking into the next decade.
“I make myself rich by making my wants few”
—Henry David Thoreau.
Appearances demand a huge portion of our lives and are one of the great burdens of modern society. What we wear, drive or live in and the restaurants and resorts we patronize determines how people see us, and more troubling, how we see ourselves. As Jamaicans, we’re boasty; we love to show out and be seen; we love the flash and the brands. To maintain the image we sometimes stretch ourselves past our means. This only reflects how poor you are as a person. If your worth is dependent on material things, you are worth nothing. This year, try minimalism. If you do not absolutely need something, leave it be.
The plastic ban is a great first step towards a healthier Jamaica, but let’s not ignore the health of our society. Can you think of other poor practices that hurt our society?