World Suicide Prevention Day

“Hope is a necessity for normal life and the major weapon against the suicide impulse”- Karl A. Menninger

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 800,000 people die annually due to suicide. The WHO reports that in 2015 suicide was the second leading cause of death among the 15-29 year old population. Unfortunately, as depression in the society due to a state hopelessness and despair it is very likely to have more attempts at suicide. Research also points to an association between suicide and mental disorders. The rate of suicide is also high among vulnerable groups which experience discrimination, such as, refugees and migrants, indigenous peoples, lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender and those who are incarcerated. Males are particularly at risk at taking their lives due to how they are socialized to be macho. Suicide in men has been described as a “silent epidemic”, epidemic because of high incidence and substantial contribution to men’s mortality. This macho-induced model of socialization often runs counter to the perception of maleness and masculinity and prevents men from seeking the necessary help and or support in working out personal and relational issues which oftentimes are at the root of suicide. According to statistics Jamaica recorded 53 cases of suicide in 2012 and 52 cases in 2013. Jamaica’s 2.6 suicidal rate of per 100,000 of the population is considered relatively low; however, this does not mean that we should not continue to highlight this social problem by raising awareness regarding the issue of suicide which also impacts the families of those who take their lives. Other countries in the Western Hemisphere have varying suicidal rates; Guyana’s suicide rate for males is 46.0 and 15.5 among the female population. Cuba’s suicidal rate is 17.0 per 100, 000 of the population for males and 4.2 for females. According to the WHO, 78% of global suicides occur in low and middle-income countries. Suicide knows no borders, educational levels, nationality and religion.

Suicide is a complex issue and as a result suicide prevention requires not only the health sector to address this problem, but suicide prevention necessitate a collaborative approach across multiple sectors to include, education, the church, labour, agriculture and the media. In response to the global challenge suicide poses it is important that we pause on the 15th anniversary of World Suicide Prevention Day on Sunday, September 10 to raise consciousness of the complexities surrounding suicide and provide support through community based actions to those who feel burnt or stressed out.

Signs of Depression

A colleague of mine who suffers from mild depression shared some thoughts with me while I did this article. He told me of some of the signs he experiences. “Not excited about things you normally love, being withdrawn, neglecting family and friends, moody, as well as cant get out of bed”. My colleague who I will call Mr. O, added, “people need to know and realize suicide is associated with mental illness but we are not mad people”. He went to say “families need to know signs of depression which can lead to suicide. They need to know how to deal with the family members and friends. They need not to ignore the signs but try to help”. Unfortunately, the stigma surrounding suicide means many people thinking of taking their own life or who have attempted suicide are not seeking help.

In closing Mr. O lamented the lack of support in the society for those who suffer from depression. “Organizations that deal with mental illness need to mek more noise, we need to hear from them”.

The Way Forward

In recognition of World Suicide Prevention Day, the ninth suicide seminar was held at the Jamaica Conference Center on Friday, September 8. The seminar is a collaborative effort by Choose Life International, the Mental Health Department of the Ministry of Health and the Social Welfare Training Center at the University of the West Indies. The event is free to the public. Suicide is a serious public health problem and is also preventable. It is important to note that suicide is among the proposed indicators of the health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015. We oftentimes forget to realize that our physical health is dependent upon our mental health.  The Ministry of Health should consider establishing a mental health crisis hotline to offer counselling services. Additionally, the government should embark on a public education campaign to underscore the importance of mental health and inform the public of the agencies and resources available to treat mental health. As a society we need to foster a culture of collective responsibility whereby individuals feel a sense of well-being and comfort in seeking help for their mental state. We need to be more attentive to family members and friends, as well as, we need to pay more attention to our own mental health. The theme for World Suicide Prevention Day is “Life is precious, celebrate life”. We all have a role to play in preventing suicide, one life lost to suicide is one too many. “When you feel like giving up, just remember the reason you held on for so long”-Unknown

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.

waykam@yahoo.com

@WayneCamo

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International Literacy Day

“Reading is a discount ticket to everywhere”-Mary Schmich

September 8th was proclaimed International Literacy Day by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) at the 14th session of UNESCO General Conference in 1966. The aim of such an important day is to highlight the challenges people face across the globe regarding literacy issues, as well as to bring awareness of literacy not only to individuals but to societies and communities. Alarmingly, more than 775 million adults lack minimum literacy skills. The lack of literacy skills among the global population also has a sex disaggregate component since women account for two- thirds of those who are illiterate. According to the United Nations the global youth literacy number stands at 103 million, with more than 60 per cent of that figure being women.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4 addresses the issue of inclusive and quality education for all the promotion of lifelong learning. However, in spite of this fact many societies are struggling to eradicate illiteracy. Literacy is the ability to use printed and written information to function in society. Literacy provides us with the ability to achieve our personal goals, as well as, develop our knowledge and skills set. Literacy is critical to the economic and social development of a society more so in a globalized world. The theme for International Literacy Day 2017 is “Literacy in a Digital World”.

According to Dr. Grace- Camille Munroe in a newspaper interview stated that Jamaica’s adult literacy rate is at 87 per cent. Our state agencies and indeed the education system have done tremendous work in getting us to this place; however, Jamaica still lags behind some of her Caribbean neighours, such as, Cuba and Barbados regarding 100 per cent literacy. There is obviously much more work to be done to ensure 100 per cent literacy among the adult population.

Unfortunately, many of schools, both government and private do not have a library, and those schools which are so fortunate to a library; many are without the services of a librarian due to budgetary constraints.

Digital Literacy

The 21st leaner is a feature of the digital community and many of our students have access to smart phones, as well computer devices such as Tablets. In fact the Government of Jamaica has a Tablet in Schools (TIS) Project. The project is a partnership between the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining and the Ministry of Education. The implementation of the project is being done by the E-Learning Jamaica Company Limited and the Universal Service Fund (USF) in which Tablets will be distributed to a number of educational intuitions to include teachers colleges.

Barriers to Literacy

The main barrier to Jamaica achieving a 100 per cent literacy level is our inability to develop and promote a reading culture. The Jamaican society is very much an oral society which is clearly a feature of our African heritage. While we should not discount our predisposition for oral history we also need to encourage our citizenry to document and read. Additionally, there is culture which dictates to boys that reading is anti-masculine and sadly, this sub-culture, which is reinforced by popular culture, has turned off many of our boys from education in general and reading in particular. This lack of motivation for reading must be addressed with a sense of urgency. Disturbingly, boys who display school smarts are often ridiculed as effeminate by peers and even adults in areas where academic excellence by males is typically devalued. It is almost as if manhood and masculinity have been hijacked by a thug culture far removed from education.

Promote Literacy

It seems to me that every opportunity to focus on the written word should be greatly promoted across the length and breadth of our island. The reading process begins long before the child enters the formal education system. In fact emergent literacy begins in the womb at the point of conception. I dare say that a literate society safeguards the well-being of all its citizens. It is clear that, without the ability to read, comprehend and interpret, the student of today, who will form the workforce of tomorrow, will not be able to compete for the better-paying jobs in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). The society needs to find means and ways to redouble its efforts and put in the necessary resources to ensure that no child leaves school unable to read.

In the words of President Bill Clinton “Literacy is not a luxury; it is a right and a responsibility. If our world is to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century we must harness the energy and creativity of all our citizens.”

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.

waykam@yahoo.com

@WayneCamo

Male Teacher Marginalization

As we approach the start of a new academic year there are many issues which the society and indeed schools must come to terms with in order to improve students outcome, as well as to inspire confidence in the leadership of our schools. The rarely discussed issue of male teacher marginalization is very much problematic and is intricately linked to the marginalization of the black male. In fact noted Professor of Teacher Education Errol Miller in his classical work “Marginalization of the Black Male” describes Caribbean societies as having men in marginal positions in the family. Miller’s research highlights the decreasing participation and performance of males in the education system. In defining marginal, Miller states “marginal is meant not being holders of the reins of power in society, possessing little of the wealth of the society; a sense of being inferior in social status, having a belief system which justifies domination by others”. Miller’s Theory of Place underpins his theory of Male Marginalization. Miller asserts that society is organized on the basis of the place. For Miller, “place” is the position that one gender holds in the society in relation to the other. Therefore, as men move to the periphery of the society, women move to the center or to central positions in the society. According to Miller there are five factors or dimensions responsible for this entity of the place. These are power, resources, status, beliefs and culture. Miller stated an equalitarian society can never be achieved in reality and thus relative inequality is society’s reality. Miller asserts that at any particular moment in time individuals and groups in society will be more central and others more marginal. The tendency in education circle is one of forgetfulness surrounding the fact that a significant sub-group of the workforce in our schools continues to be marginalized. A growing number of male educators are of the view that female leadership in many of our educational institutions continue to ignore, sideline and show contempt for the concerns of male members of the academic staff. In fact some male educators are of the opinion that many male teachers are emasculated by an education system and profession which have become feminized. It can be argued that this weakening of the male teacher is being done in a deliberate and systematic manner to wrestle power and prestige from males who historically were the power brokers in most Western societies. This male hegemony in the teaching profession can clearly trace its roots to the emancipation of slavery in 1838 when a number of teacher training colleges were established. However, by 1850 all these teacher training institutions became all male institutions. On the other hand, it can be argued that some male teachers are willing participants regarding the emasculation of their kind. Recently, a colleague referred to the issue of male teacher marginalization as “baggy power”. In defining the term “baggy power” my colleague who works at the primary level of the education system opined that there are too many females as principals and this he adds invariably will lead to conflict with male teachers. While there are some who will raise objection to the term “baggy power” the terminology “baggy power” should not be viewed as sexist or misogynistic. My colleague lamented the need for us not to be so politically correct at times, this he adds result in the message being conveyed becoming diluted. Men and women tend to excel at different aspects of leadership. Female leaders tend to hold onto and carry grudges and are often emotionally, while male leadership on the other tends to be strategic. The issue in my view is not about the number of female versus male principals; it is much deeper than numbers and is rooted in a social psychology of respect. There are basically two types of respect, respect that comes to you based on your position, fame or wealth. This type of respect is impermanent and can be lost once you lose your wealth or status. The other type of respect is derived because of one’s virtues, such as honesty, kindness, patience and commitment. Clearly, the society needs to embrace and engender a culture of gender equality in all spheres of the public and private sector; however, we cannot and should cuddle a culture of crudeness and disrespect at the same time. I am fully aware that there are some female principals who overstep their reach and authority in an attempt to control male teachers; however, this is usually to the detriment of their institution and of their stewardship. Unfortunately, we live in a society where gender relations are not taken seriously. Sadly, this area of cultural studies is often relegated to the domain of the academic halls of universities where less than twenty percent of the Jamaican population are privileged to pass through. However, the stark reality is that in the workplace both sexes are required to work in unison to achieve the organizational goals and targets of the institution. As a result, more emphasis and training should be given to leaders at both the private and public sectors in the dynamics of gender relations and how this impacts the wider society. Disturbingly, in many instances there are female principals who speak down to male teachers as if they are addressing their children or reprimanding a student. This “boyification” attitude by some female principals is quite out of order and sends the wrong message not only to the males on staff but also to the students at the school. Students are rather perceptive and lead can lead to some form of disrespect towards male teachers based on the principal’s behaviour. Our boys too also require positive male role models and in many instances male teachers are denied promotion for no particular reason. Too often we have heard of instances whereby male teachers are reprimanded in the public domain, ignoring protocol with the main aim clearly to embarrass the teacher. It is a weak and insecure principal who takes this approach and the time has come for this to stop. This dichotomy of power and power relations is not exclusive to the education system; however, this should be of little comfort to those male teachers who are voiceless due to fear of malice by those in leadership. The adage respect begets respect is most appropriate and should be woven in the culture of every school. Additionally, there is a deficit of trust in many schools and inevitably the school culture becomes toxic and as a result students pay a high price for the weak and vindictive leadership in so many of our schools. The issue of marginality is not a new phenomenon.

Origin of Marginality

The concept of marginality first appeared in the field of sociology in the early 20th century and has acquired a multiplicity of meanings. According to sociologist, Janet Billson, there are various types of marginality. She identifies three types; cultural marginality, structural marginality and social marginality. Billson posit the view that cultural marginality is determined by race, ethnicity and religion as well as other cultural indicators. On the other hand, social marginality occurs when an individual is not considered part of a positive reference group owing to factors such as age, situational constraints or occupational role. Billson adds that structural marginality results from the political, social and economic powerlessness of specific disadvantaged groups in societies.

Male Identity Crisis

The Jamaican male for the most part sees his identity in his sexual prowess and his ability to father children. This skewed version of manhood and masculinity anchored in a state of phallocentrism and patriarchy is reinforced almost daily in the pop culture, especially dancehall music.

“I born as a bedroom bully

Bedroom bully fi di gyal pickiny

I born as a bedroom bully

Bedroom bully gal a wine up fi mi

Real top gyallis man a bedroom bully”

The above lyrics from dancehall artiste Busy Signal, clearly captures the sentiments of the construction of masculinity in the Jamaican context. It is quite evident that the construction of Jamaican masculinity for the most part rests on the sexual objectification of women. Ironically, women are the main supporters of dancehall artistees whose music is steeped into this form of male identity and manhood. Interestingly, there are other forms of masculinities which have separated from this hegemonic form. However, males who subscribe to these marginal masculinities often run into problems and must endure the harassment in having their sexual orientation questioned. See below the lyrics of a popular dancehall song

Buddy Bruka-Aidonia

Nuh boring gyal

Boring gyal

No man nuh want no boring gyal

Cyah fu@k boring gal

You see my gyal?

She can skin out!

Gyal you ah buddy brucka.

As the debate rages regarding boys’ underachievement there are a number of schools of thought. Firstly, there are those who claim that boy’s underachievement is a direct result of the emphasis that has been placed on girls and women. These shifts of resources both material and human have contributed to a significant number of males falling through the cracks of an elist education system. The development of human resources requires a more gender-sensitive approach in order to maximize the best outcomes for both sexes. Secondly, there are those who locate the problem in relation to wider social changes and how this impacts males, particularly adolescent makes with regards to their view of masculinity and schooling. There needs to be a more concerted effort in making education more appealing to boys. Research has shown that boys learn differently from girls and are more interested in hands-on and interactive methods of instruction. Undoubtedly, male under-participation in the education system is linked to the gender socialization. Gender socialization traditionally affords more privilege to males and thus promotes male hegemony. This gendered approach to socialization gives boys less exposure to those skills set which instill self-discipline, time management and promote an interest in academic attainment.

Towards A Gender Transformative Approach

Schools are the primary agents of socialization in many if not all societies.

It is debatable that the overreach of feminism in the education system is already having a negative impact on male students. It is not wise nor is it healthy to hide under the cloak of feminism to subdue the natural competitive tendencies of boys and turn them into “half men”. It is therefore critical to remind ourselves that outside of the need to empower our students in literacy and numeracy skills, our schools are responsible to reproduce the status quo of the society. The state of the construction of masculinity is at a crossroads, what is required is a healthy state of masculinity. It is imperative that our boys see positive role models in our male teachers in which to emulate. Regrettably, the view regarding the construction of Jamaican and Caribbean masculinity is a negative one and by extension the society cannot afford to accommodate any further instances to add to the marginalization of male teachers within the education system. The issue of male underachievement in our educational institutions is cause for concern and must be deconstructed. There is much division among male educators and this invariably plays into the hands of female principalship aimed at the marginalization of the male educator. Additionally, our culture of homophobia and transphobia also contribute to the situation of division of male educators to work together to address concerns relating to them. As a male once you lose respect for and confidence in the leadership of your school it is clearly a sign, not necessarily from above to part ways. The way forward to create better working conditions in our schools for both sexes will require all stakeholders to voice their honest opinions at arriving at more gender neutral policies. The time has also come for male teachers to have their own association to advocate on issues which are of concern to them. The days of “holding down” the male teacher has passed. We need to re-socialize the society, especially since the workplace is a shared space requiring of us to get along with each other, regardless of religion, sexual orientation, sex, political persuasion or social class. We must put aside our personality differences in order to adequately address the needs of our students.

In the powerful words of Hillary Clinton, let’s continue stand up for those who are vulnerable to being left out or marginalized.

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.

waykam@yahoo.com

@WayneCamo

#masculinity #marginalization #schooling #education #leadership #socialization #power #respect #trust #principalship #school #feminism #personality #gender

Jamaica’s Cultural And Creative Industries

Very often we tend to underestimate the impact of culture and creativity as agents of economic growth. According to the Cultural Times, the first global map of cultural and creative industry, revenues generated globally in 2013 from cultural and creative industries (CCI) totalled US$2,250 billion and employed over 29 million people. It is noteworthy that creative industries include, film and television, music, advertising, fashion, performing arts, and animation. The significance and impact of the contribution of cultural and creative industries to the Jamaican economy was highlighted and reinforced to delegates who attended the recent Jamaica 55 Diaspora 2017 Conference at the Jamaica Conference Center. Minister in charge of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sports, Olivia Grange in a wide ranging speech entitled “Jamaica 55-Jamaica’s Creative Economy” used her presentation to underscore the impact of the CCI on the Jamaican economy.

According to Minister Grange, creative industries contribute 5 % to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). She said the cultural and creative industries (CCI) were “untapped economic potential” and added that the CCI covers “urban and marginalized areas”. The Minister outlined plans regarding Jamaica 55 celebrations. One of the main pillars anchoring the 55th anniversary of Jamaica’s political independence is what the Minister referred to as Legacy Projects. The Jamaica 55 Secretariat has identified approximately, 22 projects under the Jamaica 55 Legacy Project. There are five core projects, Sports infrastructure, Entertainment and culture, National Monuments, Gender Infrastructure and Jamaica55 Publications. The Minister in her presentation mentioned three reasons for the legacy projects. These are; cultural retention, growth and development and transformation. In further explaining the legacy projects, the Minister’s presentation was met with a rousing applause from delegates as she sought to rationalize each. In response to Jamaica’s cultural retention, she pointed out the need to preserve the cultural and creative expression of Jamaica, secondly, it is critical to showcase the island’s rich cultural diversity and to transform Jamaica in the process. According to Minister Grange, the Legacy Projects are slated to last between three to five years. In addition to providing employment and wealth, the Legacy Projects are intended to stimulate innovation as well as to become a pillar of Jamaica’s economic growth. The Minister added that the government will shortly create a Cultural and Creative Industry Council which will include participation from five other government ministries.

In a presentation which clearly was meant to galvanize the Diaspora, Minister Grange told members of the Diaspora that the government was seeking partnership in working to accomplish the Legacy Projects. The Marcus Garvey Park and Museum in St. Ann is one such project. The redevelopment of the National Stadium which is slated to cost US$45 million is another Legacy Project. The redeveloped stadium will have a seating capacity of 45, 000. It was also announced that the government was seeking assistance in establishing a Creative Industry Satellite System to work towards capturing data and statistics on the cultural and creative industry (CCI), as a result the government has approached the government of Colombia in this regards. Minister Grange declared that the government has approach the United Nations, Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) with regards making an inscription of Reggae. “It is important we safeguard and protect reggae music”. She added that the global value of the Creative Industries totals 7% of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Financing of Cultural and Creative Industries

Subsequently, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) in a recent policy move announced that it will be providing the initial capital for a multi-donor fund to improve the competitiveness of the cultural and creative industries sector in its borrowing member countries (BMC’s), including Jamaica. The Barbados based Caribbean Development Bank said it is making an initial contribution of US$2.6 million to the establishment of the Cultural and Creative Industries Innovation Fund (CIIF) as a pilot intervention, and it will also administer the fund. According to a release from the CDB, the CIIF will support the development of the creative industries sector, and encourage innovation, job creation and improved enterprise sustainability by providing grants and technical assistance to governments, business support organisations and academia that support the creative industries sector. It will also provide funding to creative and cultural entrepreneurs and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in CDB’s BMCs. Additionally, the CDB said the CIIF will primarily support projects identified in the priority sub-sectors: music, including production, distribution, sales and events; audio-visual, film, interactive media, animation and gaming/digital; fashion, and contemporary design; and festivals and carnivals. The fund is said to have three components focusing on: supporting the enabling environment; the development of sector data and market intelligence; and supporting MSMEs in the CIs sector to develop new products/services, implement new business models, improve employee and managerial capacity and access new markets.  This move will clearly be appreciated by those individuals who over the years have found it difficult to access funding for the cultural and creative industries and will undoubtedly spur economic growth.

In a response to a question regarding the limitation of cultural space, the culture Minister mentioned that the government was seeking to establish a State of the Art facility in Kingston to be used as a Concert Hall. Minister Grange said despite the limitations of resources, the government was looking how best to identify facilities outside Kingston to be upgraded and used such as school halls. The minister implored artistes to ensure that they educate themselves regarding the business side of their craft and highlighted the Bob Marley Foundation as an example of how an estate can go about protecting their rights.

In closing Minister Grange said that she was in favour of content quota regarding the playing of music. She gave Canada as an example of having such a policy in place in order to ensure that a percentage of local music is played. The Jamaica 55 Diaspora Conference was held in Kingston, July 23-26, 2017 under the theme: Partnering for Growth.

In the powerful words of Marcus Garvey, “a people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots”.

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.

waykam@yahoo.com

@WayneCamo

#Ja55Diaspora

#Jamaica55

#MarcusGarvey

 

 

Gym Etiquette

There is no pleasant way of saying this, so here goes, body odour is offensive. The gym serves a dual role and purpose. Our views and opinions are largely rooted in how we are socialized, as well as, the values and attitudes which are important in and to our families. However, on the issue of personal hygiene I do believe that there should be some basic standards, especially regarding the sharing of public space. In recent times there has been an increase focus on the health of Jamaicans. This increase spotlight is aimed at promoting a state of conscious and physical activity among the populace. The Ministry of Health currently has a programme called “Jamaica Moves” which is geared at getting Jamaicans to lead a healthier lifestyle by encouraging them to engage in some physical activity to prevent non-communicable diseases (NCD’s), for example, diabetes and hypertension and to remain healthy. Hugh, 49, who attends the gym regularly, shares his opinion in the following way. “Because you shower every night before you go to bed”, Hugh says there is no need to shower before you go to the gym. For those who go to the gym in the evenings Hugh has a different perspective. “Evening goers I believe must be refresh with proper hygiene after work before going to the gym. He added that proper hygiene in this regard does not necessarily mean taking a shower but could include using a deodorant or brushing one’s teeth. Another colleague Fabian shared his opinion. “Without a doubt, body odours are not always pleasant. Most gyms are inside of an enclosed space which traps the various odours. Fabian added that taking a shower encourages confidence. “When you shower it makes you know that you smell fresh, makes you feel more relax after a long and tiring workout”. It’s always good to have a perspective from both sexes. Miss Bucky answered in the affirmative to the question. “I have to, I feel nasty. Ok so I am a low key germophobe so I always shower before any physical activity including the gym. When I go there I have to see them with Lysol or some other cleaning aid to clean off the equipment you can imagine catching crabs OMG! or Hepatitis C”. A germophobe is a person with an extreme fear of germs and an obsession with cleanliness. Clearly a germophobe would have an impulse to take a shower before going to the gym and after working out. Claude, age 54, is an avid gym goer voiced his opinion “Why freshen up to go get all hot and sweaty. Unless one has a high body odour then a shower would help to keep the odour down during a workout. But it also depends on how bad the odour is, so if you have a means of controlling same with a shower and medication and deodorant then by all means it’s fine to shower before gym”. Anthony, age 45, “If I am leaving work where I am in the air conditioning all day I am not going to shower before gym. However, if I am out and about and sweating and smelly, I owe it to those in the gym not to make them uncomfortable with my smell”.

Scents, Sexuality and Personal Hygiene

As humans we try our best to prevent ourselves from perspiring by using various antiperspirants and deodorants. We are socialized from early that excessive sweating is to be shun and not to be tolerated. This natural occurring human activity perspiration is often used to label individuals as being nasty and dirty. Pheromones are chemical substances that are secreted through our skin pores. Pheromones are crucial to critical development phases in our lives, from breast-feeding to mate selection. It can be argued that the scent produced by pheromones contribute to making us horny. In light of the fact that most gyms if not all are used by both males and females the gym is often a place of hooking up as well as for getting one into shape. Androstenone is a pheromone compound that is present in male and female sweat. In males, androstenone is associated with alpha-male like characteristics to be the leader. Females often see the alpha-male as dominant and sexually appealing. Androstenol is found in the sweat glands of males and has a musky smell. Many studies have concluded that women who produce higher than average amounts of female pheromones also known as Copulins have greater success with men. These women are often viewed as exciting, seductive and desirable. Interestingly, body scents can and does send sexual messages to the opposite sex. Whether or not we act on the message is another story and for another blog. The reasons why people go to the gym are wide and varied. Maybe you are desirous of meeting someone of the opposite sex? Perhaps, going to the gym for you is mainly to build muscles, or maybe to tone your body. Whatever your reasons are for going to the gym just be mindful that you share a public space and as such you should do your part in making the gym experience a pleasant one for others.

Wayne Campbell

waykam@yahoo.com

@WayneCamo

#pheromone #copulins #androstenol #hormones #sweat #physicalactivity #sexuality #gym #androstenone #hepatitisC #germophobe #personalhygiene #masculinity #femininity

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating Boys’ Scholastic Achievement

For the first time since 2012, boys outperformed girls in the 2017 sitting of the Language Arts paper in the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT). According to data released by the Ministry of Education, Youth & Information, boys achieved a higher mean percentage score of 76.7% in Language Arts, compared to 68.5 % for girls. This development augurs well for boys’ education, especially since men’s educational attainments have fallen and continue to fall drastically behind women’s. Boys’ underachievement has been at the heart of many academic journals and discussion over the years. The issue is not unique to Jamaica; in fact the concern is of global significance and is rooted in both a socio-political and educational ideology. Males over the years have been underperforming at almost every level of Jamaica’s education system. There are various schools of thought which have been forwarded with regards to boys’ underachievement. There are those who argue that boys’ underachievement is a direct result of the emphasis that has been placed on girls and women. Secondly, there are those who locate the problem in relation to wider social changes and how this impacts males, particularly adolescent males with regards to their view of masculinity and schooling. Statistics from the Mona Campus, of the University of the West Indies, indicate that more than seventy per cent (70%) of all graduates are females. Data from the other degree granting institutions paint a similar picture. The discourse surrounding gender and education is often emotional resulting in a loss of focus regarding the issue at hand. Boys too have structural hurdles to overcome in the education system. One such is the gender-based bias in the curriculum as well as the methodology being used. It is hope that the new National Standards Curriculum (NSC) will address the deficit boys’ face. According to the Minister of Education, Senator Ruel Reid, the National Standards Curriculum will improve methods of teaching, particularly for boys. The National Standards Curriculum aims at improving the general academic performance, attitude and behavior of students. The National Standard Curriculum is student centered and emphasis will be placed on project-based and problem-solving learning, with Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics (STEAM) incorporated at all levels of the education system. It is critical that we engage our males, specifically, adolescent males in trying to change the gender norms within the society, one of which is that English Language is a girl’s subject. Unfortunately, we live in a society in which boys who display school smarts are often ridiculed as effeminate by peers and even adults in areas where academic excellence by males is typically devalued. Undoubtedly, our males continue to struggle with questions surrounding their masculinity and manhood and many just give in to the popular culture of the day. The achievement of our boys at the primary level is more significant against this prevailing thug culture often far removed from education. It would be interesting to have the progress of these young men tracked over the duration of their high school years to see how well they perform at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) especially so in English Language. We need to build on the momentum gained from the boys’ GSAT achievement by fostering a movement to rescue our boys from academic slumber. The onus is on the policy makers to ensure that equality of educational opportunity for both sexes is achieved and that this is sustainable for the long term viability and development of the society. In the words of freedom fighter and statesman Nelson Mandela, education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.

waykam@yahoo.com

@WayneCamo

A Changing Culture-For the Better or Worse?

“We are, at almost every point of our day, immersed in cultural diversity: faces, clothes, smells, attitudes, values, traditions, behaviours, beliefs, rituals”- Randa Abdel- Fattah

It is astonishing and somewhat frightening how our ideas about self, the society, gender-relations, masculinity, politics, culture and indeed the world have changed over time. Recently, a colleague and I had a discussion surrounding some of the social issues which infuriate many law abiding citizens. My colleague was very obdurate regarding how much in bondage we still are as a people and collectively as a society. My colleague stated that the freedom we lose as a society with each fleeting culture change is rather disturbing and unacceptable. It bears thought as to what are some of these freedoms? We are also left to ponder whether or not culture is static or is culture on a continuum defined by globalization and technological advancement. Culture is defined by The Center for Research of Language as the characteristics of knowledge of a group of people, defined by everything from language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and arts. The Center for Research of Language Acquisition goes a step further by defining culture as shared patterns of behaviours and interactions, cognitive constructs and understanding that are learned by socialization. This bondage of self to which we seek freedom is to a great extent self-imposed having been socialized in a manner not to critically think outside the box about issues which affect us, including those pertaining to cultural matters. We live in a society in which our mores and norms are part of the socialization process and are handed down to us from role models and parental figures usually along matriarchal lines. To this extent one can easily dismiss the father figure role in the process of socialization since many of our homes are father-less. This is quite troubling on many fronts, especially the responsibility regarding how to be a man role has been taken over by mothers, strong black women, who single-handedly have had to raise generations of boys into men. This is especially true for Jamaica, as the 2012 Jamaica Survey of Living Conditions shows that 46.4 per cent of all households were female-headed. One can surmise that the situation has worsened since the survey was conducted five years ago. Dr. Barry Davidson of the Family Life Ministries research was a bit more probing and revealed that father-absent children scored lower in Intelligence Quotient (IQ) than father-present children. This finding is rather disconcerting and should be of concern not only to parents but to the policy makers especially those in the field of education. Undoubtedly, this finding has serious implications regarding parenting in light of the absence and burdens this place on the parent who is there in administering discipline and raising the children.

Genderization of our Culture

We live in a world and society in which even our refreshments and drinks have been coloured by gender. We often speak of female drinks and male drinks. I was at the barbershop recently, and my barber informed me that Smirnoff is a typical a female drink; he went on school me in the genderization of liquor. He ended the lesson by telling me that Campari was a male drink. My trip to the barbershop was for a haircut, not to be schooled in the binary construction of drinks along gendered lines. However, we all know that the barbershop just as much as the hair salon is that space, where ideas collide consciously and subconsciously on life and social issues. The premise behind the male versus female drinks has much to do with the alcohol content in a drink the more alcohol content the more masculine gender the drink becomes associated with. Additionally, our fruits have also taken on a gendered involvedness. The peach for example, is largely considered a female fruit. My colleague added that many men do not eat strawberry, simply because, they claim nothing of that colour should pass their mouth. Just stupidity if you ask me! However, this is the reality and these realities are true of men from a wider cross section of the society regardless of the intersectionality of social class, educational background, religious persuasion or age. These gendered ideas are rooted in a culture of hyper-masculinity and machismo. Ironically, behind closed doors, some of the said men who have this twisted ideas, are the very ones who are indulging in fifty shades of grey and ‘under the table’ activities. Years ago males who used lip-balm were looked on as being weird, now, it has become commonplace, especially in North America for men to wear chap sticks especially during the harsh months of winter. The examples are endless and all these issues are associated with social constructs that each society has in place to somewhat regulate human behavior. The politician by the name Andrew Fletcher once said; “Let me write the songs of a nation: I don’t care who writes its laws.” His point is all too clear for if music were a workman’s tool it would be a hammer. As per definition by the Center for Research of Language the behaviours and thought patterns that create culture are learned. However, one does not become cultured by merely reading about a culture and I would argue that the halls of academia have little impact. Culture is formed through living and interacting with people, together we form culture. I made reference to music because I believe this is our most effective way of influencing behaviour and thought construct. Parents have a lot to do with our cultural make up. Music, especially reggae touches people at the very core (heart beat music), stirring emotions and imprinting on our minds the doctrines that becomes culture. Some may see this as another attempt to malign Reggae music. However, this is not the case. I am a lover of our music and I am proud of it being a hallmark of our culture. With that said I look back on my own life and remember messages and ideas that were conveyed via all genres of media but found music to be the most influential. During the 1980s crack/cocaine was issues new to Jamaican youths but not for the life of me can I recall one advertisement regarding this issue. The mass was once again reached through music. The lyrics; “doone gi mi that mi nuh waan nuh crack” and “coke is a ting weh feed pan yuh system” comes to mind. This followed by Shine Head encouraging us to; strive, remove the doubt from out your minds and let good flow”. The Jamaican cultural identity continues to evolve. Our values and attitudes are no longer being shaped and defined by ourselves. Instead the Jamaican cultural identity has become a cultural hybrid mirroring closely the happenings of those who control of the economic purse string to which the Jamaican state need access to in order to realize sustainable development and progress.

In the words of Mark Pagel, culture has worked by coming to exercise a form of mind control over us. We willingly accept and even embrace this mind control, and probably without even knowing it.

Wayne Campbell, waykam@yahoo.com, @WayneCamo

and Andrew Nugent, laptopswer@gmail.com

Fatherhood, Masculinity and Society

We live in a society and indeed a world where fatherhood is often downplayed, particularly, in the black community where many men have abandoned or relinquish their roles as fathers. Notwithstanding this there are many outstanding, caring and industrious fathers who take their role as fathers and the accompanying responsibilities very seriously. Fatherhood goes beyond a biological act; fatherhood is a self-sacrificing commitment to see to the welfare and wellbeing of another human being. The coaching, mentoring and oversight of a good father can never be counted in monetary terms. We often equate good fatherhood solely in terms of how much money the man comes home with. However, a child needs more than money, after all money cannot buy the affection and the unconditional love of a child. Many men are lacking, and to those men, it’s time to step up and be that father to your child and to your children. To those men who are doing what is required of a good father we encourage you to continue on this journey. There is dignity in fatherhood! My father, Fitzroy, has always believed in, encouraged and supported me. Thank you dad! Fatherhood often comes with a price, a sense of pride in being there for your child no matter what. On this father’s day I urge you to examine yourself, and do what is necessary to be the best dad ever. It is vital that as men you develop a relationship with your child. Equally important is your spiritual relationship with God! Have a fun-filled and family-orientated father’s day!

Wayne Campbell

waykam@yahoo.com

@WayneCamo

 

Relationships, Weddings and Culture

The complex issue of any relationship is rather fluid and filled with dynamism. A relationship is not like a Bugatti Veyron 16.4 sports car which can hit 60 mph in 2.5 seconds, or a Porsche 918 which can race to 60 mph in 2.2 seconds. Each society has norms steeped in cultural expectation and history which often serves as a guide or social control regarding the ‘dos and don’ts’ of relationships. One of the relational matters which always get strong opinions from both sexes is the perennial question: Would you invite your ex to your wedding? A wedding is supposed to be a happy and family orientated event in which the bride and groom take center stage. A colleague of mine, Alberto, not his real name, age 42, is of the belief that it is ok to invite one’s ex to one’s wedding. “I believe too many people have hang-ups about this person and that person. He added that if the ex is a great person, and we have a great friendship, I don’t see why not”. Alberto clearly takes a mature approach to the topic, a topic which is not necessarily in the category of most popular subject matter to discuss. However, in playing the devil advocate, one can ask the question, if the ex was such a great person, why is it that you did not marry that great person. Alberto adds, not everyone is meant to your mate, you may date, have a relationship and then you experience some deal breakers, like future plans don’t align or just some habits you can’t stand”. Alberto went on to say, “As long as she respects my wife and not trying to undercover, reconnect with me, and we have a healthy friendship, then I see no issues”. Alberto who is married revealed that he invited two of his exes to his wedding. He confidently stated that his wife knew about them. “As a matter of fact she has met them before and is even Facebook friends with them. You might be wondering if his exes turned up to the wedding. Take a guess, one made it, the other would have too, however, she had a family emergency. However, not all men are like Alberto. Kurt, age, 41, is also married and was quite adamant that inviting an ex girlfriend to one’s wedding is not a good idea. When asked if he would attend the wedding of an ex, this is what he said. “I don’t think I would go. Even though it may be good between us, the other person may not be comfortable with that”. A female colleague shared her opinion on the subject. I will refer to her as Miss Ting. Miss Ting also made it down the altar and is the mother of two children. “It is somewhat insensitive to invite an ex to your wedding, as such an occasion for the bride and groom is indicative of attainment, commitment, moving on and for the ex it cements loss, failure, inability to secure. So although the ex may be genuinely happy that such an individual is finding joy, even if that ex is married it’s almost impossible not to feel a sense of tortures while the bride and groom experiences joy unspeakable” Miss Foxy, age 48, sees this as a non-issue. “I would invite an ex with whom I have a good relationship and understanding after we break up”. Among the younger respondents to this rather informal survey are Black Princess, age 26, she was very unwavering that she would not invite her ex to her wedding. “Unless I was trying to make the person feel jealous and if that be so, there is some feelings”. Her friend, Shanna, age 24, said No, “ex is the ex, no feelings, even when they pick a number, that person must remain in the number lane”. Black Princess, agreed with her by adding, “remain ex lane, don’t cross the bounder”.

One cannot switch on and off one’s emotion like a pipe. The emotional journey which one engages in while in a relationship often takes a longer time to come to an end even after the relationship has ended. Clearly the jury is still out on this subject. The decision to invite or not invite an ex to one’s wedding is not a right or wrong one issue. It all deepens on the individuals involved, the level of respect each party has for the other as well as the type of relationship which existed between the parties. It bears thought that traditionally June is the month of weddings in Jamaica. On your wedding day the attention and focus should be on the bride and groom and not on some past relationship, or on issues associated with a past relationship. One’s wedding day should be drama free, unless you are doing a reality television show and desperate for ratings. Each person has to figure out what is best for them regarding their big day!

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.

@WayneCamo

waykam@yahoo.com

Guard Young Against Lead Poisoning

We are all at risk of being poisoned by lead, however, our most vulnerable in the society, our children are at a greater risk of being exposed and affected by lead poisoning. The curious and free spirited sense of adventure in children put them at the fore for exposure to lead poisoning. Disturbingly, in many instances our children are not adequately supervised and they are left to explore, touch and taste all that they come into contact with including lead-coated objects. Lead is a naturally occurring toxic metal found in the Earth’s crust. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the widespread use of lead has resulted in extensive environmental contamination and significant public health problems in many parts of the world. Once lead enters the body, it is distributed to organs such as the brain, kidneys, liver and bones. Interestingly, the body stores lead in teeth and bones where it accumulates over time. The WHO states that undernourished children are more susceptible to lead because their bodies absorb more lead if other nutrients, such as calcium, are lacking in their diet.

Long Term Impact of Lead Poisoning on Children

Many Jamaicans have a tendency to believe environmental matters are only issues which affect first world societies. We cannot underscore the responsibility of adults to safeguard the health and well being of our children. Exposure to lead can have extremely serious consequences on the health of our children. At high levels of exposure lead attacks the brain, and central nervous system. According to the Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital website, exposure to lead can result in a variety of effects upon neuropsychological functioning including deficits in general intellectual functioning, ability to sustain attention on tasks, organization of thinking and behavior, speech articulation, language comprehension and production, learning and memory efficiency, fine motor skills and poor behavioural self-control. The same source states that the result of these neuropsychological deficits for the child is often rather debilitating and includes poor academic learning and performance. Research indicate that children who are survivors of severe lead poisoning maybe left with mental retardation and behavioural problems. Most medical studies conclude that lead poisoning affects children’s brain development resulting in reduced intelligence quotient (IQ), reduced attention span and increase anti-social behavior. According to research conducted by Dr. Aisha Dickerson, postdoctoral research fellow in the departments of Environmental Health and Epidemiology at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, a number of toxic heavy metals are present in Jamaica’s soil, water and food especially in bauxite mining areas. These include arsenic, chromium, cadmium, zinc, copper, mercury, uranium and lead. According to studies, Lalor 1996; Johnson et al, 1996 the level of lead in Jamaican soil is more than four times the global average (44mg/kg compared to 10 mg/kg).

The Way Forward

As a society we need revisit the subject of recycling and disposal of waste, in particular the burring of waste, which releases dioxins and several heavy metals in the air. In many cases our response to these critical areas of recycling and waste disposal, put us at unnecessary risk to exposure to lead. Developing societies tend to ignore environmental matters for the sake of economic expansion and investment. However, we must realize that an unhealthy population will not be able to enjoy the successes of economic growth. More research on the long term impact of lead exposure from the local medical community is urgently needed, especially in light in the growing number of Jamaican children who are now being diagnosed with behavioural difficulties and learning challenges. It would be useful to know how many children die annually from the effects of lead poisoning in Jamaica and identify the areas of highest concentration of exposure of lead poisoning. A          few years ago there was a major concern regarding lead in pencils and crayons used primarily by children. There is an urgent need for the society to conduct a study on the areas surrounding the landfill at Riverton City as well as other landfills to ascertain the impact if any of lead poisoning on those children. This is critical since much of the lead in global commerce is obtain from recycling. We should be mindful that lead can be found in paints as well as in crayons and pencil.

We need to safeguard the future of our country by ensuring that our children are protected from exposure to lead poisoning. Exposure to lead also impacts the health of adults, including increased risk of high blood pressure and kidney damage. Pregnant women are also at risk for miscarriages, premature birth and stillbirth from exposure to lead poisoning. Exposure to lead poisoning is clearly a public health concern and the necessary resources must be found to tackle this problem. The society needs to formulate guidelines on the prevention and management of lead poisoning. According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), lead exposure in 2013 accounted for 853,000 deaths, with the highest burden on low and middle income countries; this is unacceptable especially since lead poisoning is entirely preventable. We need to raise the awareness of exposure to lead poisoning to highlight the dangerous and often irreversible effects of lead poisoning. The health of a nation is paramount to the growth and development of that society. We should therefore be mindful that Goal 3, of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG’s) speaks to ensuring healthy lives and the promotion of the well-being for all at all ages. There cannot be sustainable development without a healthy population. In the words of Nelson Mandela, there can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.

@WayneCamo, waykam@yahoo.com

&

Emma Lewis is a writer and social activist

@Petchary, petchary@gmail.com