Commentary Jamaica Magazine

Jamaica’s moral and ethical comeuppance

Written by Brian Richardson
Is the motivation based on ideas of wrong or right (ethics) and the distinction between good or right conduct (morality) dead in  Jamaica?

In this, some believe Jamaica’s darkest hours, we have come to completely understand that the truth is relative and not absolute (relativism) and that an expression of agreement is not supported by real conviction (hypocrisy).  Both of the foregoing typically brings an individual or individuals to this: the belief that there is no universal truth or underlying reality that under-girds moral values (nihilism). 

Let us think about this for a moment.  There are two fairly good methods to finding out what people ethically and morally care about. One is to ask them, and gauge their sincerity of the response and the plausibility of what they say.  The other is to see what they do and try to do it (would we do it the way they did it).

Ordinarily, we Jamaicans can cope with fallibility by shrinking the likelihood to a mistake.  We can check what people say by seeing what they do.  A man may present himself as a dutiful and nurturing father, and believe himself to be such.  But if he never makes or takes the opportunity to be with his children, we must have our doubts.  

Suppose, though, he does make himself available for such opportunities, and gladly takes his children and dutifully nurtures them and shows few or no regrets.  Then the thing is settled: he cares about his children.  However, in other cases as the one before us, the diagnosis of smoke screen and hypocrisy beckons.

Over the past eight weeks  we have been through a whirlwind of emotion and reflection as we collectively watch in these darkest of hours as smoke screens, relativism, hypocrisy and nihilism dog ethics in the ”land of our birth”.  Our government would have us believe that our sticking to our duty as citizens or insisting on our rights as the electorate
on matters of simple principle are groundless.

Many are afraid that the situation on hand has unmasked us on the world stage as creatures fated by our recent political history to be selfish, hypocritical and tribalistic.  And that future outcomes for OUR country, based on this tribal history, are too difficult to contemplate given the “ethical macka” we are now in. We have been brought up to believe that that if they do it, then we have a right to do the same or be against them. 

Many people will say it is ‘just us’.  But I beg to differ.

We have all seen through our history men and women of honour and principle, from the late Professor Rex Nettleford, to Hugh Shearer, to Nanny, to Paul Bogle, to Sam Sharpe, to Sir Alexander Bustamante, to Norman Washington Manley and Marcus Mosiah Garvey.  Our very soul as a nation was built on the very fight for ethics and morality. 

Keeping our feet on ground, we should all ask ourselves: What distinguishes us from them? Is this the kind of country we wish to be a part of? Is this what we should demonstrate to our children and their grand children? What will they think of us on reflection if we sit by and collectively do nothing but talk?

It is what we do in the coming days that we will be judged by our future Jamaicans.  Will they say of us: “Lesser things were of greater importance?”

Jamaica’s moral and ethical comeuppance: is the motivation based on ideas of wrong or right (ethics) and the distinction between good or right conduct (morality) dead in Jamaica?

About the author

Brian Richardson