Sat | Apr 20, 2019

Clinton Chisholm | Of illegal drugs, guns and sex

Published:Tuesday | October 16, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Clinton Chisholm

Two non-Jamaican writers have made statements that still have an impact on my mind. Concerning the drug epidemic in the USA decades ago, Dr A.E. Wilder-Smith, a Christian academic, said the root cause is not so much the physical availability of drugs to people but the psychical availability of people to drugs.

He urged the supporting point that whereas inhabitants of the major poppy-growing regions of the world rarely become heroin addicts, the USA was reeling from heroin addiction!

I think Wilder-Smith's sage suggestion regarding illicit drugs has relevance for us in Jamaica, and it applies equally to our problem with illicit guns. Our psychical availability to unwholesome things and behaviours is largely neglected by societal thinkers and planners. We may not be able to radicalise the national mindset on some things, but that is no reason to give up on trying.

There are many Jamaicans of all stripes who cannot at all be pulled into the web of illicit guns and/or drugs because of who they are psychically.

This psychic state of being that makes some of them unavailable to things unlawful may not have anything to do with religion either! In fact, if one has only a mild dose of religion rather than the real 'disease', psychical unavailability to things unlawful is not guaranteed at all.

The vulnerability of a given parson, police, politician or any other Jamaican to things unlawful is largely influenced by the state of that one's essential being (character) and values, but this dimension is too often neglected in social analyses of criminality and corruption in Jamaica.




The other non-Jamaican writer whose ideas I have in mind here has a strange surname, which has slipped my mature mind now. He was arguing the point that "your response is your responsibility", a troubling notion if you are hooked on the traditional approach to stimulus and response.

So, when I blame folk for making me do X, Y or Z, I ought to reckon with the fact, the writer suggests, that I am the kind of person that responds a certain way to certain stimuli. Taking his approach, while the force of the stimulus is not disregarded, the focus is more on the one responding.

He used a most insightful illustration of his point by saying that a grain of sand in the human eye is most irritating, but a few grains of sand in an oyster gives rise to a pearl. If the focus should be on the stimulus, we could expect even the odd pearl when sand gets in our eye. It's the oyster's makeup (character) that makes the sand-pearl phenomenon even possible.

So, applying that illustration to the realm of sexual temptation, it is not so much the aesthetic potentialities of that lady's face/body or attire that makes me think of stalking her, or that prompts me to sexually harass, assault or sleep with her, but I am the kind of person (character-wise) who responds the way I do.

Uncomfortable though the thought is, "my response is my responsibility".

Sitting at ease within ourselves with self-control, though difficult to attain/maintain, is always the best antidote against being psychically available for the unlawful and/or the immoral. A person's reach might exceed that one's grasp, but the intention and effort are worth it.

The Rev Clinton Chisholm is academic dean of the Caribbean Graduate School of Theology. Email feedback to and