A symptom our young people is again occupying the attention of our nation, especially through the media. The Government, the church and indeed many concerned persons in Barbados are troubled by the upsurge in lawlessness and violence amongst our youth.
It is disturbing to see how a few misguided, indisciplined and angry youth can so negatively impact a positive people, such as we are known to be. I say a few, because it is indisputable that the majority of our young people strive to live up to what is expected of them.
For example, we saw many young people achieving success in the island’s examinations such as CSEC and CAPE; and just recently we heard of over a thousand students graduating from our Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies.
I mention this because the constant reporting of this bad behaviour of our youth can engender a feeling there is no hope for them. Over the past few weeks we have been informed of several of our young people being charged with serious crimes, some being remanded and others sentenced to prison.
Thank God, there are those who have been reprimanded and ordered to do community service. This, of course, gives the wrongdoer a second chance, and offers him/her hope. However, after all has been said and done, the question as to how we address this vexing problem of violent young people stares us in the face.
At this juncture, I wish to state that I am convinced the present volatile behaviour of our youth is a symptom of a deadly disease. That disease is indiscipline. Our society has found itself struggling with the very foundation of this country, which was once admired and respected by all. Respected, precisely for its discipline.
Here I make bold to say that the discipline referred to is the one that is rooted in Christianity. In fact, this nation is rooted in Christian principles, and those very principles are the source of discipline.
I remember when I went to the seminary in Trinidad and Tobago, to study for the priesthood, hearing the sociology professor saying that Bajans were full of themselves, but that no one could fault them for their discipline.
She spoke of the buses leaving the terminal as the clock struck the particular time to go. She spoke of people responding in conversation with “Yes please; no please”. She spoke of children being corrected by adults, and of teachers looking out for children.
She told of policemen being protectors on the beat. She told of children being respectful to adults, even if the adults were not on speaking terms with their parents. And the list went on.
I am not calling here for a return to those days. I am saying that those things were the results of a society that valued discipline. This discipline was founded on faith –– faith in God. It was that faith, in spite of the failures at the time, that kept this country alive and well.
Oh yes, while there were negative and criminal actions in that society as well, it was clear to all that wrongdoing would be punished when guilt was proven, and corrected when repentant. Today, nothing seems to be certain.
Today, everything is questioned not so much for clarity, but so as to validate selfishness and immoral behaviour. The result is that discipline is no longer an absolute necessity to all and sundry. One hardly hears the word today.
One of the symptoms of this disease I make bold to say is the present reported lawlessness amongst our youth.
I have the experience of relating with many young people. Among them are those who I can say are struggling to be good. What I note, however, is that a number of those who have fallen foul of the law do so because of bad socialization, selfishness and ignorance of The Commandments. They need to be taught that stealing, lying, greed, adultery, murder and disrespect are all wrong.
I am among the church leaders who agonize over the “. . . spirit of wickedness that has overtaken this country . . .”. I am certain many of my sister and brother clergy heard the SOS from The Kiwanis Club of Bridgetown, Magistrate Graveney Bannister, Rev. Dr Joseph Atherley and the Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs Adriel Brathwaite for divine intervention.
Together we will respond to the call to reach out to our youth to value life and respect themselves and each other. In fact, our churches are reaching out to many in an effort to root out the “spirit of wickedness” that is distressing our once proud and industrious country.
The disease that devastates us is indiscipline. I am tempted to join the
pessimists and say we have lost at least three generations. If we have, and I don’t think we have, then there are still upcoming generations which need the antidote to the indiscipline disease. That antidote is Christian discipline.
What do we do with this generation? Engage it through conversation with individuals. Offer positive alternatives to the present offensive and deadly behaviour and find ways and means of making discipline attractive to all and sundry.
It is not accidental that the Gospel Of Matthew ends with Jesus saying to the 11 disciples: “All authority in Heaven and Earth has been given to me. Go therefore, make disciples of all nations . . . .”
In this case, to be disciplined is to be a disciple of Jesus. Jesus is saying to us to go make disciplined young people and
so save our country.
(Fr Clement Paul is a priest of the Roman Catholic Church.)