What happened? Mother took a traditional “disciplinary” method (probably inherited from her mother) with a traditional value system and enforced this system [of violence] on her daughter on a non-traditional communication medium. Basically: She cut she chile a$s on a digital main road.
Throughout the entire week, I have engaged (and sometimes endured) rigorous, long and drawn-out debates with persons who speak of discipline and love as if they were synonyms with violence. At no time, the discussions interrogated power. At no time there was a discussion of the painful and long history of violence in the Caribbean that has shaped our social and economic structures and how this has been internalized into our psyche. I had flashbacks about the awkward moment when Elliot and Olivia reads you your Miranda rights in Law and Order and you can only recall police officers kickin’ dong and cuffin’ dong everyone involved in a fight before throwing them into a police vehicle at the Bazaar! I remember seeing children in school hit for raising a question (“Why, Sir/Miss?” ) and the teacher was both judge and jury in all matters. And that time when you laugh at someone else getting lixx but you swallow oceans of saliva when a close relative of yours – child or adult – is hit as you cry and cringe observing your own powerlessness.
I grew up with a mother who made the conscious decision to not hit me to discipline me. Surprise! There is no AK-47 in a shoebox underneath my bed nor have I hit her a Hadouken when we ever got into an argument. We actually did things the long way, sat down, talk, cry, sometimes shout, intellectualize, apologize. After all the emotions, one had to commit oneself to not do the wrong thing again and try one’s best to understand the purpose of parameters. Like all young people who yearn to live their own lives, we make mistakes. And like our seniors who were once young, who all, in some form, put their hands by fire to know what hot is, learnt from their mistakes (and also from the mistakes of others). Many have told me that my position against corporal punishment is not practical in the real world and “Amilcar, ah go love to see how your children come out!” The real world, at least, in our island, sometimes shows a place where people do not give the necessary time, effort and patience to teach and learn a lesson. I am not arguing that all young people’s actions should be excused. Rather I prefer that we explain to them what they have breached or done wrongly and allow them to explain themselves. If wha we do, children/youth, can cause harm or has harmed someone, let us go through the full process of explaining how we have hurt others, how we hurt ourselves and how we hurt – the pain that may precede the action (anger, a desire to be loved and get attention, feelings of insecurity, the need to uphold a particular self-image, etc.).
What about my primary school friend whose father beat her with a fan belt from a car for having ‘boys call de phone when she supposed to be on books’? Tell me about the genius statisticians and scientists that became of my Form 3 Class when the teacher beat half the class for not doing we homework on Pythagoras theorem? And what goes to say about my aunt who was born writing with the left hand and her schoolteachers thought it was not appropriate and beat her into submission to writing with her right hand? Of course, we laugh at the militant mother and father now. We can boast that after Common Entrance/S.E.A the lixx did not matter, yuh didn’t feel a ting, but what happened to the fathers who kept hitting their sons and mothers, or, mothers who gave permission to other men to beat their sons? I heard, “lixx is fuh only when yuh break de rules. It does work on some people and it doe work on some. But if yuh hit dem enough, dey does get respect and dey doe jump out deyself!” So leh we go dong in YTC visitor room and tell de parents we eh beat dey children enough. I cannot forget that Form 4 PTA when my best friend returned a blow to his father with the car antenna as his old man choked him and pressed his fifteen year-old body to the car for bad grades – the neighborhood was in uproar. The idea of parent-child violence where the child hits the parent always seems absurd because it was never about discipline; it was about power and more specifically, authority. We prefer to have authority over our children rather than train them to develop intellectual and emotional autonomy in their lives.
Now, our West Indian middle class sensibilities, tradition, my-mudda-used-to-isms, mixed with ageism looks down on every young person “caught on camera” in online communities that expands way beyond their potential audience in their off-line lives. We abhor schoolgirls fighting but anyone who goes to school in Port-of-Spain or San Fernando or goes to Trincity Mall on the last day of teaching has been aware of the age-old problem of school violence and gang culture among youth. We could post a million videos of young girls and boys whining or simulating sex when we all know about ‘parry in de IT room’ ‘heads on de football field’, whining in front of the mirror to Lady Saw and Red Rat and maybe your own fear of the existence of delfies (pictures of your penis) and pelfies (pictures of your vagina) floating somewhere around in cyber space since msn messenger. If we do not unpack the public discourse on lixx, we may very well set our children up into a more violent society and entrench authoritarian models of leadership. We may underscore the racist undertones in the conversations about these young males and especially, female bodies, completely miss the boat on sexual education and reject proposals that assist the youth in managing their social identities in an ICT-age.
The hardline distinction between the public sphere and private sphere as it relates to state ability to defend all its citizens propagates the very idea that the home is potentially the bastion for the sociological brutality of the family. If we do not know how to deal with our problems effectively in order to create healthy human beings and a safer society, let us use evidence-based approaches and research to make prescriptions for our national development. Let us work toward the nation where children do their homework not because they get lixx if they do not; instead, they see returning a CXC grade slip with ‘good grades’ as a receipt to the Return on Investment for the parent and all the school uniforms, books and brown-paper bag covers.
All de children who pee deyself when dey see somebody han’ raise, all ah allyuh who cry and hide your little sister or brother, all ah allyuh who still angry and think to yuhself ah couple times dat yuh too old to have mummy and daddy issues, de people like me – where allyuh? We know what we inherited as children and we are old enough to discern the well intentions from negative outcomes. We can make the choice to change our lives and reset de ting!