By Malcolm Strachan
THE Bible has told us much about sparing “the rod of correction”. In turn, we have bastardised what refers to guidance and discipline to justify downright child abuse. While some of us, many of whom have turned out to be productive citizens, reflect fondly on the days of taking the walk to what felt like the gallows to pick the switch off the tree, it is time to have a serious discussion on why this is still culturally accepted in our country.
Two very different, but intersecting issues that occurred in the news last week have brought this conversation to the forefront. First, surely our timelines would have been filled with commentary by the social media mob who would have turned the now locally famous “Muffin” into pancakes and the like – once again, exhibiting how insensitive we can be as a people in the face of very serious issues. How easy it is for us to simply discard one another over a few seconds – a mere snapshot – that goes viral over social media. That’s all it takes for everyone to become the expert, offering their flawed opinions on how they would perpetuate a destructive cycle.
The voices of reason on such issues, unfortunately, are drowned out by negative input from our brothers and sisters.
Which is why it is so disappointing that those with the platform continue to make mischief and bring unwarranted shame on their country when their energies can be focused on areas that need it most.
Rights Bahamas, the ironically-named organisation concerned predominantly with the rights of immigrants, Haitians in particular, ignored where they were needed right here at home - just as they were having the government called to the 172nd session of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights in Jamaica to respond to a petition on the treatment of migrants. This is especially concerning this was done while the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill is currently out for consultation. If that had not been enough to question the organisation’s motives, scouring through their Facebook posts last week, there was no mention of the child abuses that took place last week. Absolutely none.
One would think that an organisation formed to argue the rights of “Bahamians” would be leading the charge in this regard.
It is frustrating to continually stomach how we refuse to mature as a nation.
Have we not considered the damning effects for children growing up experiencing such trauma? We do not have all of the facts in Muffin’s case. However, we do know that an adult was the person recording a child visibly upset and refusing to obey a command. Are we simply to surmise that a child is “stinking rude”, and not for a second, question the intentions of the person recording the child?
As noted earlier, we love to reference, “spare the rod, spoil the child”. But what about another scripture: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord?”
Where are the organisations championing these causes – the rights of our children?
In March of this year, Social Services Minister Frankie Campbell made a plea to parents and the wider community to be more vigilant in keeping our children safe. This was done in response to the spate of child abductions taking place. We’ve yet to hear an official statement from the minister on this latest issue. Though senior assistant director of the Children and Family Division of Social Services Charlamae Fernander called into question our cultural beliefs on the issue of corporal punishment.
“I don’t know if it’s because of cultural beliefs or whatever, but people often don’t know where the line is between discipline and abuse,” she said.
Also, drawing the comparison between discipline and punishment, Fernander said: “Punishment means that you do not care if the person learns anything, you just want to strike out and punish them. Discipline is meant to be a teaching method…”
It would seem that this sums it up.
Too often, we are insensitive about how another is affected by a situation. It’s as if we see each other as subhuman.
Was it too much to wonder what Muffin has gone through in her young life to have that much anger? That much frustration?
No question, this was a child who has become hardened and obviously fed up. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that we accept “stinking rude” behaviour. Not at all.
Rather, we truly practice what the Bible teaches us in Proverbs 13:24 – the true meaning. It says: “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.”
It is our responsibility, as the adults who care for these children to love, nurture and guide them - showing them the way that they should go about life. Discipline them through loving instruction, as being a parent or guardian requires patience.
Choosing punishment is a dangerous game of roulette – where we’re potentially building young people who are callous and filled with hate and resentment. Who wants to grow old in a world like that?
Minister of Education Jeffrey Lloyd confirmed police are now involved as the person recording the ordeal is likely being interrogated on the grounds of recording and publishing material with a minor on social media.
Hopefully, this creates a forum to discuss the child abuse that potentially takes place in many homes across this nation.
Just because many of us have grown up to be functioning citizens in society, it is lost on us when we’re grappling with the many issues we face in this country. Perhaps, we need to look no further than in the mirror.
Not until we begin to question the vicious cycles we’ve been a part of and consider how we can break them for the better will we get serious about change.