Columns

Indiscipline and Ja's development

BY ELIZABETH MORGAN

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

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Without discipline there is no life. — Katharine Hepburn

You leave home to tackle the mayhem on our roads with fear and trembling; in the modern, sophisticated tenement yards you are afraid to talk to neighbours who are invading your space with raucous behaviour; you encounter rude and crude people in daily activities; men turn public spaces into public toilets exposing themselves to all; there is no respect for self or anyone else; corruption and crime have overtaken the society. Discipline and prudence are out the window. Selfishness and folly reign.

A Customs officer said in an interview recently that the indiscipline starts as many Jamaicans arrive at the airport from abroad: “Dem bak a yaad weh dem can duh as dem please.” Indiscipline takes lives, as you don't have to wear motor bike helmets and seat belts in Jamaica. They influence foreigners to join the melee: “Yuh can duh as yuh like an' get weh wid it.” Yet, our goal is to become a developed country by 2030 — the place of choice to live, work, raise families, and do business.

In recent times, many people see only negatives in the Bible's book of Proverbs. Discipline, for them, equals punishment with the rod of correction. Discipline actually speaks to abiding by a code of conduct for civilised living. A complete reading of Proverbs reveals a collection of wise sayings (aphorisms) to guide living, which promote, in general, attaining wisdom and discipline, understanding, acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right, just and fair. We are told that Proverbs were probably written between 700 BC and 4000 BC, and possibly reflect wise sayings not only of the Hebrews, but also other ancient traditions. While there are some sayings which seem questionable from our vantage point of 2018, in general, these proverbs remain relevant to this day.

As actress Katharine Hepburn and others have discovered, disciple is life. It is based on pride and mutual respect. Prudence requires knowledge, good judgement and vision.

A successful individual, family, society, government, to achieve goals, should exercise discipline and prudence. Our Government tells us regularly how important it is to our economic growth and development to consistently exercise fiscal discipline and prudence. Does it tell us regularly how important it is, for us as a society, to exercise discipline and prudence in daily life, and does it set the example?

There is no doubt that Jamaicans have talent and great potential for achieving our development goals. We see companies, teams and individuals, with vision, discipline and determination, achieving success at the highest international levels. Yet, since Independence, as a nation collectively, we have struggled to achieve our development goals. Let us be practical, there are many reasons for this which originates from internal and external sources.

A concern, however, is that since Independence we have witnessed a further breakdown of the moral fabric of Jamaican society. Jamaica has become a most undisciplined society with little regard for the rule of law. Indiscipline has increased all across society, including church, school, police, parliament, and general governance. Indiscipline is the route to anarchy. Without discipline and prudence life can indeed become 'nasty, brutish and short'. Without discipline and prudence, we will continue to struggle to achieve our development goals as a nation.

To paraphrase Michael Jackson's Man in the Mirror, we have to start with the men and women in the mirror. If we want to make a change, to make a difference in Jamaica, we have to start with ourselves. If we want to make Jamaica a better place, we have to take a look at ourselves and make the change. We need not only to sing our national anthem, but to read it, ponder its words, and put them into practice.

I feel, though, that that will not be enough. Discipline should be instilled in the home; “home training” used to be very important. As it says in Proverbs, if you love your children, you will train them to be disciplined people, to value prudence, and when they are old they will not depart from it.

In our society, it will take much to change the course. We will have to address the ills on multiple fronts. I hope it will not be too late to pull us back from the brink.

Elizabeth Morgan is a specialist in international trade and politics. Send comments to the Observer or elizabethmorganstliz@gmail.com.


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