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We are all involved!


by Bertram A John Ph.D. 11.APR.08

The sequence of events pushed it into the open. It has not come into the open by accident! So why don’t we examine this matter that has been pushed right into our faces? We do have the capacity to do that! This business between the Prime Minister and the young lady officer has become an important issue for all of us. It came to us through a news conference, and it was presented to us as a political affair.{{more}} So let us deal with it as a newsworthy political affair, a truly political (relating to your views about social relationships involving authority or power…) affair. How does this affair, one that was produced by Vincentian culture, make us feel about ourselves? If we feel that it is an affair that brings us pride in the people that we have become, all well and good. If on the other hand it suggests that we ought to be doing better than that, then we really need to be serious about the business of doing some growing up! I am not one of the former. I know that we are capable of far better, and we know better.

Let us examine this issue within the context of what it tells us about ourselves. We can do this now! Let us look at it as a symbol for the way that we communicate with each other. The scenario would have little meaning for us if it weren’t for the fact that rape is now fairly common in the land. Question 1. Why have the rate of rape, and other expressions of rage gone up so dramatically in the community? Answer! In short…rage is the primitive expression of hurt. Inner hurt makes us afraid, and powerless. It induces self – loathing. We vent our rage – usually at those we blame for the feelings, or at those over whom we believe we have power. Since rape is essentially the attempt at control through aggressive sexual exploitation, then we might conclude that rapists have serious issues with rejection (more on this in the course of what I hope will become an ongoing conversation). In SVG currently, a great deal of that rage has been directed at women, the people we claim to love so much. Now this is the challenge. We have to decide whether this course of social behavior is healthy to our future or not. If not, then we must start to heal ourselves. It is that simple!

Questions 2, 3, and 4: Why are boys and men so hurt? Why are they so angry? And why are they inflicting such pain on each other, and on women and girls?

Answer! This one takes longer, and it will involve a lot of input from you. It is clear, however, that the status of boys has suffered of late. I believe that this decline in status has much to do with the sense of powerlessness that many boys and men experience. We must examine this phenomenon in some detail. We must also look at it in the context of the tremendous successes of emancipated girls and women. As we look at the path we’ve taken in raising our boys, we might discover ways of re – embracing our very common task of lifting up the next generation. That is our responsibility. Can I be so bold to offer homework? Think hard about what our boys’ lack. Next week there will be a test.

Questions 5 and 6: Why would a young woman fabricate a story of being raped? What sort of mentality would produce such destructiveness? Here, too, even with the possibility that inducements might have been offered, we would be left with a person of at least a deeply flawed character. But consider for a moment …the destructive intent. Does not this sound like a person who has been deeply hurt, hurt to the primitive core? I’ve been talking here about a lot of pain. Hasn’t pain been deeply embedded in our history? A lot we need to talk about, that’s going to take us beyond next week.

Migration as a Psychosocial Stressor on the Family

I want to spend a little time on the phenomenon of migration, and its reflection on the difficulties that many families face. Migration has become a central pillar in economic planning for much of the region. Typically now, Caribbean women are the pioneers in exploring opportunities away from home. They pioneer because they are often more equipped to fit into the North American and European job market than their male counterpart. What becomes apparent is that as many young women from the region move to greener pastures, they frequently leave behind their children, who are often left in the care of relatives. The process of migration as you are aware is often unpredictable, subject to delays, and insecurity for those who undertake the task of resettling a family. It normally takes years to resettle a family under the best of circumstances. Let me try to convince you that national development is intricately linked to this process by describing a series of cases of the many I’ve examined over several years (these cases are of course composites). Take the case of a 4 year old boy, one of 4 siblings, whose mother, a young nurse, left SVG in 1988. She intended to “send for them” and their father, as soon as things settled down in New York where she would be working. Immigration policy being what it is – she was able to get the children to New York over a period of ten years and her husband- not at all. Over the course of the migration process, he decided to start a new family in SVG. By the time the 4 year old (let us call him T) was reintegrated with his mother and siblings, he was 14. At this point, T was unmanageable. He was substance involved, and substantially delayed academically, and developmentally. He was extremely resentful towards his mother and at risk of being removed from his home because of his truancy. He had been picked up twice by enforcement officers of the Department of Education. All this occurred in the first year of his life in a new country, where his mother hoped that he would find real opportunity. T came to our attention years later when his now very distressed mother was seeking our intervention because he was in custody, charged with assaulting the mother of his two young children.

There are two issues I’d like you to consider here. T spent 14 years of his life in SVG. His sense of hopelessness began there. Secondly, the fractures in his family life mimic those of many young people, particularly young boys, who are often left to their own devices to solve problems that parents and society have abandoned.

A critical issue that children face is the early experience of success or failure in school. This experience is a child’s orientation to the world around him or her. The school is the child’s first contact with the world beyond the relatively secure cocoon of the family, and forms a basis for a child’s expectations. A child who feels abandoned by his parents begins to see himself as a failure. When the focus of abandonment is the mother, there are ramifications for his sense of women, and their power. It is important that such young children get the support that they need, before hurt gives way to rage and aggression. Children like T are more likely to become aggressive towards women.

I would urge that responsible organizations in SVG begin to focus on ways to engage the youth, especially those at risk, not just in activity that sublimates these passions, but in ways that encourage them to be expressed. There needs to be an assessment of the reality of the lives that people actually live in SVG if the problem of social fragmentation is to be adequately addressed.

When SVG produces “a surplus of registered nurses”, then the families of those nurses for export must be considered. Policy has to be integrative of the realities on the ground.