When William Shakespeare said “Music is the food of love,” I think he was remiss in not adding “….and life.” It brings moral fortitude, psychological distraction from adversity, and hope and inspiration for many of those so deprived. I have seen many letters from prisoners attesting to this and so I am inclined to think that those opposing Lisa Hana’s viewpoint on deplorable musical lyrics, as clearly stated in the JAMAICA OBSERVER 2/27/17, are gripped with fear, because she speaks the truth. Crime has held Jamaica at ransom for decades. It has wreaked havoc on our economy, seen the flight of large numbers of concerned patriotic citizens who have chosen to leave her shores rather than fight the continuous erosion of ethical principles, live under a perceived threat of criminal elements and the derailing of common decency, which had previously held the fabric of our society strong and attractive.
Many Jamaicans are adept at crying out for blue murder and restitution from a government that they fail to acknowledge is pulling all stops to quell crime. They fail to understand the various paradigms that attribute to this decay, that government alone cannot do it, and that all hands and hearts must contribute, if even by support, for those who valiantly strive to rid the country of this horrific malady. They fail to understand that by their very abstinence they are succinctly contributing to this steep downward spiral of society’s decline to a dis-eased state, of which, music plays a pivotal role in guidance and instruction where positive thought is lacking.
Lisa Hana commands the highest respect, especially as a woman, for standing her ground and reinforcing her commitment as an advocate for positive change, constructive, responsible and thoughtful action in listening carefully to the implicit messages in songs that serve to negatively influence the thoughts and actions of our children, even in the face of personal threats.
Here is the full text of her message to the JAMAICA OBSERVER:
From my life’s experiences I’ve learned courage has no limits. Courage can be perceived as stubborn or unreasonable. Courage can force you to stand alone on principle. Courage can create the perception you’re choosing battles unwisely that could adversely affect personal ambition. But courage has a responsibility to future generations to take a stand and act in a manner that’s in our children’s best long-term interest. Courage forces you to recognise that this coincides with Jamaica’s best interests.
For example, when Norman Manley stood up against the world at the United Nations and declared Jamaica would ban trade and travel with the apartheid Government of South Africa, he stood alone. He stood for what was right. He chose a most unpopular battle — one that appeared unwinnable at the time. Jamaica was the first country in the western hemisphere to take such drastic action. Norman Manley had the vision and courage to believe he would be vindicated by history.
Over 50 years later, Jamaica finds itself at another historical crossroads. Every day, every Jamaican is faced with choosing between what’s right versus the new normal. But our courage is being held hostage by a culture of aggressive abuse and violent threats that passes for disagreement.
I’m an unapologetic lover of music, including dancehall. But there’s no necessity for some artistes to use music as a medium for promoting violence and abuse of women. The data confirm that violent and sexually explicit lyrics have negatively influenced many Jamaican youth’s thought processes through increased feelings of hostility and aggression.
These negative influences are exacerbated when we turn a blind eye to radio airplay of new productions by people we know are incarcerated and so may have been abetted by corruption in our prison system. This reality necessitates us being urgently honest with ourselves. We should be prepared to have a national discussion about messages glorifying criminality being conveyed to our children that’ll ultimately bring deleterious consequences. These messages have been pushing us towards a different society from the one in which we all say we want to live.
I commented publicly on this recently and the media house chose to give my comments a particular headline which encouraged others to conflate the issues and completely overlook my central message. That’s par for the course. But the disgusting comments on my social media pages exposed the dark and vitriolic underbelly of this new normal, and justified the point I was making. The undisguised violence and vulgarity of the disagreements posted and the sheer volume of antisocial attitudes were like megaphones screaming at Jamaicans to wake up and smell the decay into which Jamaica’s proud history of decency and mutual respect have plummeted.
When it comes to women’s and especially children’s rights, I speak out without fear of any reprisal. My record on these issues speaks for itself. Early in 2016, Jamaica moved up 52 places on the UNICEF KidsRights Index to be ranked 51 out of 163 countries. Between 2013-2105, the number of children in State care qualifying for tertiary education moved from two to 60. One young man scored over 11 distinctions, gaining entrance to medical school. It was pure joy to see the beauty on their faces and the pride in their step when their first prize-giving ceremony was held outside the walls of the Child Development Agency.
These achievements resulted from the hard work of the youth and culture ministry’s staff. We coordinated with other ministries and agencies to implement key government policies. Results of these integrated efforts included the separation of children from adult correctional facilities; teaching the arts (dance and drama) to girls at the South Camp facility; placing more children with families; assisting more children with therapeutic care via a mobile counselling clinic; and building child-friendly spaces at police stations across the country.
But I believe the most effective decision was to treat every child in State care as our own, not a government statistic. We provided mentorship, love, and new possibilities. Something as simple as granting one little girl from Maxfield Park Children’s Home her wish of being dropped to school on some mornings helped immeasurably to build her self-esteem. She recalled how good she felt to be able to converse with someone on issues important to her. That little girl lives in a country mired in crime and violence fuelled, in part, by the lack of opportunity; an ineffective educational system; weak, dysfunctional or non-existent family structures; and inadequate resources for our security forces and social intervention. But one of our most socially debilitating yet often ignored problems is the moral decay within our value systems. We cannot continue to abdicate our social responsibility and ignore the messages we send to our children through some of our music and via the general disrespect we sometimes show to each other.
Jamaicans can’t any longer pretend we haven’t created an alternative culture. We can’t pretend this culture is “normal” or healthy. We can’t tolerate this alternative culture currently in ascendancy yet pretend to have zero tolerance for crime. It’s time we admit this alternative culture promotes and encourages violence against and contempt for women. We can’t defend what’s, on its face, unapologetically misogynistic and immoral, while pretending to crack down on violence against women and children.
I pray that all Jamaicans who value common decency will find the courage to push back against this new normal and defend Jamaica’s true culture. If we lose this battle, however unpopular the battle or its choosing may be, we will have lost Jamaica.
Lisa Hanna is the Member of Parliament for St Ann South Eastern. Send comments to the Observer or
MARLENE DALEY is the Founder and Publisher of Kotch Magazine at https://kotchmagazine.com/