Many children of that dangerously criminalized period have not yet been healed emotionally
Neil Adams in his letter captioned “Training today has taken a whole new meaning” and published in Stabroek News dated 05/30/2012 forcefully charged that comments made in my letter published in SN two days prior, were in direct reference to a letter he penned in the Chronicle.
While I would have loved to read Mr. Adams’ letter I must admit that I know not what the gentlemen is referring to, I simply did not have the good fortune of reading the particular missive of which he made reference. It is true that I did not mention the author of the Chronicle article I referred to; however, for the purpose of Mr. Adams I will now state that my earlier reference was to an article written by one Mr. Ronald Hudson, former self-identified candidate for Mayor of Georgetown.
In 2008, while I was at a function at the Grand Coastal Hotel, Mr. Hudson proudly presented me with a copy of his article in which he seems to conclude that single-parent families in Guyana are responsible for the crimes in the society. Having scanned through the article I quickly rejected Hudson’s notion and asked what kind of research he had done to draw such a bizarre conclusion. I also bemoaned the fact that such a negative and highly stereo-typical article could have had attracted almost a complete, middle page section of the government owned newspaper. What was worse was that the article had no evidence of scientific research but yet seems to relegate a sizeable section of Guyanese families as nothing but ‘breeding grounds’ for criminals.
Too often the single parent-family receive the wrath of criticism from people who, clearly, did not bother to take the time to research this type of family which has come to occupy most of the English Speaking Caribbean. It is true that many single parent families experience many challenges which may affect the children, but to claim that they are the ‘crime birthers’ of the Guyanese society is abominable, to say the least. I hope that those charged with the nation’s business, do not share this outrageous view.
Mr. Adams, if you did write an article similar to that of Mr. Hudson’s, I missed it but my sentiments towards it would not be different. Conversely, I am grateful that you have decided to pen your views on the important subject of teen violence. It has underscored that point that there is need for a national debate on the subject. I will, however, add that it is views like yours which make it imperative that careful research be conducted on this phenomenon.
Your letter did exactly what I spoke of, it sought to proffer all kinds of ‘self-righteous’ reasons why young people engage in violence, and seems to support a view which says research on this serious issue is useless. Your decision to take us down the lane of nostalgia will not help if we continue to sit and simply talk about what worked in the ‘good old days’ and fail to take action that is relevant to address the problem today.
My intent is not to delve into a sociological discussion on single parent families, as I believe that the issue of youth violence in Guyana is not limited to this type of family, even though more children from such households may become victims of this dangerous phenomenon.
It is therefore necessary that those of us who understand the impact of single parent families on children challenge ourselves to do more for our children. Further, any society which truly prides itself in the development of its people, and one which hopes to give full meaning to the obligation of its judicial system to protect the welfare of its children, owes it to those children to do everything in its power to protect and safeguard their well being and ultimately our own.
Conducting scientific research into the spate of youth violence is not only a modern day reality; it is a sensible, practical and enlightened way of starting to combat a grave societal problem from its base. Like I said before, while we can reminisce and indulge in those pleasurable nostalgic moments on what was and what should be, it should not provide a comfort for us to ignore the state of the current situation but rather it should propel us to act.
In my letter I specifically challenged all of us to play our part, and for those of us who seem to think that we are immune from the consequences of teen violence I say let us rethink our position. Let us not continue to take the easy way out by simply attributing blame and concluding that the problem is that of the parents, only. We with our ‘good old time training’ seem to think that we should not be concerned because our children are already acting right, a fact which you and your children should be commended for. However, I believe that it should be us who should be less reluctant to reach out and help, or support initiatives to help struggling teens. It was Herman Melville who posits that; “we cannot live for ourselves alone. Our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads, and along these sympathetic fibers, our actions run as causes and return to us as results”. So whether or not we like it, the actions of our youth will undoubtedly affects us, Hillary Clinton, in her book ‘It takes a Village’ said: “whether or not you are a parent, what happens to America’s children affects your present and your future”. I only wish to borrow her words and substitute “Guyana’s” for “America’s”.
The onus is, therefore, on all of us to make that effort to reach out. Parents are of course critical to this process so unlike, what Mr. Adams have decided to pedal, I have not hinted nor intimated that the family is not critical to aiding moral and spiritual development of the child. It is my recognition of this fact that I challenge us to execute for our children whose parents might be failing, for whatever reason, to provide this critical support. We as members of society also have a moral responsibility to help in this regard.
Mr. Adams seems to suggest that something is wrong with me calling on the government, religious society and members of the community to come to the rescue of our children. His posture appears to be one which says; ‘let their family try with them’.
The fact is that his position has been operating for the longest while and the consequences of it have been yielding negative results. I say time for us to find solution to a problem eating away at the core of our nation; ‘guesstimation’ period is over, time to do research. Further, I glean from the attitude of some that the issue of teen violence seems to be akin to a certain group and therefore, those of us who are not part of that group reason that this issue should not be of concern to us. I say this is a sad position to adopt, especially since we occupy the same geopolitical space.
The consequences of teen violence know no boundary, racial group, social class or other characteristic which may distinguish us one from the other. I wrote previously, of a woman who believed that her family, particularly her son, was immune from the horrors of the death squad era of 2000-2006.
Unfortunately, the hard reality came home to her when her own son’s bullet-ridden body turned up on a public highway. Since her personal loss I cannot remember her being absent one day from the protest line, when we marched day and night against former Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj and the death squad.
So let us not wait until our house is on fire to throw water, it might be too late we have to recognize that we are part of the ‘sporting arena’ and cannot be mere spectators. I am aware that there are many people in our society who go the extra mile to help a child in need, but I am sure that more of us can help. There are also those young people who are making the effort daily to beat their challenges and stay on the right course. But there are too many more who for various reasons, are falling prey to teen violence, it is time for collective effort to combat this broad social problem.
Let us understand that providing counseling services to a teen in need is not a luxurious modern day theory of the modernist but a necessity perquisite in aiding stability in a teen’s life. There are many children all over Guyana who have had the unfortunate experience of seeing a loved one gunned down whether by the phantom gang, the massacre gang or the vicious criminals, and to date we have not given them the kind of counseling they need, but yet expect them to just get over their trauma and pain.
The fact is that many of these children of that dangerously criminalized period are now teenagers or young adults, who have not yet been healed emotionally, but we expect them to do everything right. Let us approach this issue of teen violence with a broader perspective, with a view of arriving at real solutions. Time for research!