Madman Steady! Madman Steady! Shouted the children as they dash passed the mentally challenged man on their way home from school. Move you ** %#@! (Euphemized as, “Whats-it nat”) came the response as he stamped his shoeless feet to the urine drenched soil emphasizing the swear word. He is becoming angrier with each taunt, leaving him with knitted eyebrows on his wringed face and foaming at the corner of a now sprouted mouth. A few brave, devilish and mischievous barefaced ones throw pebbles at him and then pick up heels.
Steady may not be is legal given name, but then again, nobody seems to know. Who really cares? Where is he from and to whom is he related? “Don’t know,” always are the answers. Yet, Steady is around for as long as I can recall, roaming the streets, days and nights with no set place to abide.
His clothing is the same one worn at all times, shirt ragged and unclean. His locks are filthy, held together by dried dirt and his body odor, unpleasant. All sorts of strings and electric cords are decoratively tied around his hands and neck. His pants though buckled, hangs loosely from his meager hip and the tear in the rear, and exposes his buttock to the elements. He is mild mannered, provokes no one and even when bothered, all he does is swear. Never has he retaliated in a violent or physical way.
Steady’s condition is not unusual among many other Jamaicans suffering from mental illness. The entire society is neglectful of his existence and others alike. This couldn’t be the Jamaica that has the most churches in the world per capita. If so, then where are the doers of good, the keepers of mercy and those that profess the virtues of Christianity? And if that’s not all, then why do we have in the National Pledge as a promise to work diligently and creatively and to stand up for brotherhood in the prosperity and advancement of the whole human race? Is this a farce?
The same indignity, alienation and stigma, which the citizens apply to people of unsound mind, are perpetrated by Government Officials. The present government, to which I am still a staunch supporter, came into power under the banner and slogans, “We put people first,” but I must now ask, which people? The National Motto proclaims, “Out of many one people,” but now I wonder if it has changed. “One love,” the hit song of the late Reggae International Superstar Robert Nesta Marley is plagiarized to a modern day cliché and is being used in every facet of Jamaican life. Yet, this catchy phrase is nothing but mere words. Where is the love? The Rastafarians brethrens are as guilty as the Christians in their neglect of the Insane as well as the Common Man and the Government.
Marcus Garvey who is so revered around the world and Jamaica’s first National Hero has given to us his words, “One God, One Aim, and One Destiny.” Let us live out its credence. Let us not isolate ourselves from those among us who need our help, compassion and love. Mental illness is a sickness that can be treated and in some cases cured. We must endeavor as a Nation to be our brother’s keeper, if not then this will drive me, “stone moderated mad.”