Have you ever asked yourself what are the core values of the Jamaican society? Can you identify those principles which have guided us a nation throughout the good and bad moments within our history? Those who are honest will admit it is rather challenging to identify such core values. However, we first need to ask ourselves what are core values? Core values are those principles and ideals which help make up the identity and culture of a society. Since our political independence in 1962 our sense of identity as a people have been interrogated and deconstructed repeatedly and now we are at crossroad regarding our cultural identify as a society. Indeed many factors contribute to a society’s core values. Our proximity to North America and the invasion of subscriber television popularly known as cable TV have greatly contributed to a new spectrum of core values in the Jamaican society.

In a socialist society, for example, the core values surround equality for all, equality in terms of housing, health care and education. The value of equality means that no one in the society has any special benefits.

However, in a capitalist market driven society such as the Jamaican society, the core values are different.  Capitalism is an economic system in which trade, industry and the means of production are controlled by private owners with the primary goal being profit making.

As a society our traditional core values of hard work, honesty and fairness have been replaced with greed, corruption and individualism. Our core values now surround an “all you can grab” for “me, myself and I” attitude.  The society no longer reward its citizens based on the quality of their work instead one’s worth and progression in the society is intricately linked to who knows you. Disturbingly, this ethos of preferential treatment is also being replicated and reinforced by those who should know better. We continue to play politics with the future of the Jamaican society as if it’s a board game; however, the game has now become the reality and it is no longer humorous. The Jamaican society faces a crisis of leadership in all domains whether it is private of public spheres. Our families have become dysfunctional and the destructive and negative sub-culture fuelled by social media is seriously threatening to overcome the dominant culture in the society.  Social media has now become the primary agent of socialization in the society. The values being expounded by social media has crept into the society and is on the verge on becoming a part of this new wave of core values. We now live in a world where everyone is connected 24 hours and engaging in “Face booking”, “Sexting” and “WhatApping”. Added to this our homes for the most part are without fathers and as a result we now have a society in which there are more female single parent households than any other time in our history. An entire of generation of males have been raised without fathers and the problem from all perspective seems to be worsen. This splintered family arrangement has added significant burden and stress on our women and children especially in light of Jamaica’s poverty rating worsens. A recent study conducted by the American Counselling Association and the Association of Adventist Family Life found that some 1.1 million Jamaicans are living below the poverty line. This is most troubling and undoubtedly speaks to the failure of the state to put in place adequate social safety net measures to cushion the economic pressure which is being felt by the most vulnerable in the society.

Our schools are not as effective as they once were in terms of stemming the tide of anti social behavior within the society. For the most part our schools are being negatively influenced by all that is happening around them instead of positively impacting the communities in which they operate in. The ongoing violence in sections of West Kingston is a prime example of this. The students who live and attend schools in such areas live and breathe violence almost on a daily basis. Many of the students are traumatized so too are the teachers who work in such areas. The day to day functioning of such schools is being negatively impacted. In many instances the school population has dropped since parents are afraid to send their children to school or have transferred them to schools outside the area.  The future of the country is at risk if it is that our children are being denied an education. The abuse of our children continues while we turn a blind eye. Mothers are pimping out their daughters to the highest bidders even in the face of prosecution provided by under the Child Care and Protection Act (CCPA). While this phenomenon is not new it appears that this despicable and abhorrent action is increasing especially in rural areas and economically disadvantages urban enclaves of the society. While the terminology (pimping) has changed over the years pimping of young girls can be traced as far back as the 1960,s when the US farm workers programme was an integral mainstay of the Jamaican society. In many instances many mothers would literally hand over their daughters to older adult males returning from farm work to satisfy the twisted sexual appetite of these men. It was indeed a tabooed subject then; however, it was and still is very much a part of the underbelly of the Jamaican cultural experience. Of course in an enlighten period people are now beginning to talk openly about the issue and rightly so. The issue of pimping is rooted in economics, as well as a socio/cultural ideology within the society.  While this is not an excuse for this depraved action the fact is the economic desperation some mothers face is as such that they would prefer to sanction their under aged daughters having sexual relations with adult males just to put food on the table. A significant number of adult males have been brought up not to have any qualms about having sexual relations with under aged girls.

This practice of prostituting our young girl’s needs to be shunned by the wider society and such mothers as well as the adult males who are found guilty should face the full force of the law.

The church as an agent of socialization no longer plays an integral role in the lives of many Jamaicans. Added to this Sunday and Saturday which were traditional days of worship are now considered normal working days under the newly introduced flexi work week arrangement.

The influence of the popular culture namely dancehall music is also adding fuel to this sort of negative anti social behavior. In the genre of dancehall music our women are portrayed as sex objects to be used and abused by men. In fact there is now a huge void in dancehall music with the sentencing of one of its biggest stars. As a result many artistes now jostling and jockeying for pole position as the heir apparent by appealing to the lewdness common denominator (LCD).  Gone are the days when communities would look out for the best interest of all children. The breakdown of the community as an enforcer of good values needs to be restored with a sense of urgency. We cannot continue along this path of self centeredness and individualism. We all need to engage in a bit of self searching and identify how each one of us can do a bit more to help restore our core values to society. The Jamaican society needs a spiritual renaissance. We need to collectively repent of our sins and seek God’s forgiveness in a new trust to move the country forward by restoring our traditional core values. We all have a social responsibility in ensuring that Jamaica succeeds.  

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