Ronald Thwaites | Educating to build trust
“Mi no confident him yet”! That was her declaration when I enquired why she was not thinking of getting married to her boyfriend. Never mind that the two of them had been “deh” for over eight years and were parents of the two children she had brought to Sunday School. No matter that I pointed out that for all extents and purposes they were living as if married.
No, she insisted. “Mi no trus’ him to dat”. Their relationship, though affectionate, was still transactional. She left space to be able to opt out. Enough trust to be vulnerable in life-long commitment was missing. It is not part of her culture. In her community downtown, trust is not a prerequisite to intimacy.
There are many, many reasons for that. But the negative consequences stare at us, don’t they, even though as a society we squirm to evade them. Witness the pleas in mitigation of the One Order gangsters in the Supreme Court last week. Attentive fatherhood, united parenting are hugely important in building a flourishing society, in discouraging criminality.
The trust deficit in Jamaica is showing up everywhere. We hedge our personal relationships to counteract what many foresee as the inevitability of betrayal. Unhappiness is the outcome. The worst victims are the children and others who are especially weak.
Trust, the intangible glue holding together all relationships, is not taught, sufficiently mentored nor respected. Following some of our disappointing neighbours in the US, there are among us even those who deny the existence of this virtue and promote the over-reach of the use of law, coercion and ginalship in its place.
Just observe the missing trust, the suspicion (different from disagreement) evident in what goes on in parliament and the underlying presumptions of some of the laws which are passed. Based on experience but more so for opportunist purposes, we make it our habit to distrust each other.
Last week, poll results confirmed what many of us have been sensing, that public support for something as basic as becoming a republic, is dwindling. This was entirely predictable and is likely to intensify. The trend has nothing to do with yearning after King Charles and much more because of deep distrust for the political apparatus which is proposing the change.
It is understandable. In respect of the ongoing process of constitutional reform, what trust ought any of us to repose in those leaders who expressly state their intention to use political power to dilute the Charter of Rights when these are the same people who will speak in mellifluous tones of their commitment to aid the Haitian people, but who evict Haitian women and children refugees without due process?
Recent events prove that if Jesus were to make his second coming in the persona of a black refugee, much as he did as a Palestinian deportee to Egypt in the Gospel story, our Government would not allow Him in. They would unceremoniously send him back to Haiti, heaven or wherever at 3am next morning.
Jesus reserved strong condemnation for lukewarm people. The churches in Jamaica are muted in their stand for the righteousness which alone exalts a nation; we fail to follow the example of Sharp, Bogle, Gordon and Garvey and simper in submission while a misguided state apparatus proposes to weaken their influence in church-owned schools. Check the recent proposals for reforming the education regulations.
TRUST AND CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
Instead of the trust which a mature people ought to share in the reform of our fundamental law, unnecessary roadblocks of suspicion are created which only add to mistrustful cynicism.
Take the matter of the nation’s final court. It is undeniably true that the Privy Council in England do not want to hear our cases any longer and increasingly obstruct our capacity to approach them quickly . Andrew tells Prince William that Jamaica wants to” move on” but demurs to support the two-thirds vote in parliament on the CCJ which would effect the “moving on”.
This would be faithful to majority opinion and an essential step to build the comity which will ripen into further reform. So power and intransigence defeat trust. What is the good purpose of that?
On a more granular level, big announcements are made about money available to fix roads. Quite properly, this is supposed to engender trust and satisfaction. But the Wide Sargasso Sea of procurement prevents the repair from happening as was complained of by MPs last week.
There is nothing here that could not have been corrected. Once more, trust in the public square is squandered. In the exercise of our social contract, those in whom the frightening powers of arrest and taxation are reposed, make us victims of a system largely of their creation or control while amply rewarding themselves as they “move on”.
So how does a nation build trust in our context of inequality, corruption and selfishness? I suggest that a “new beginning” start with the early childhood cohort, their teachers and parents. If those two little ones who the single mother brought to Sunday School are exposed at church and at school to an intense programme of religious (distinct from confessional), civic and humanistic education and indoctrinated to understand that fulfilment comes from trustful community living - shared basic beliefs, respect shown, taught and insisted upon,self- reliance and social responsibility emphasised; a better Jamaica will emerge in a generation. Reform the curriculum and upskill the teachers and parents to emphasise social competencies. Radical and essential. Academic skills are for later.
As it is, we are building on the shifting sands of low trust – the single parent of disrespect and selfishness.
Rev Ronald G. Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. He is former member of parliament for Kingston Central and was the minister of education. He is the principal of St Michael’s College at the UWI. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.