“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