Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Who WIll Save Our Youth

A repost from my first blog:

My favourite spot on campus is a spreading tree somewhere near the center of the University's Chapel Gardens. The Chapel Gardens is an amazingly beautiful and serene respite from the hustle and bustle of general university life. Frankly, I've fallen in love with the place. I go there to relax, to read, to study, to practise speeches and presentations for classes, to sleep (yes, it is relatively safe there, and sleeping in the blazing sun gives me a good feeling, like I'm charged with Vitamin D!! lol), or just to sit and think.

Today I went there to sit and think, because I'd been running from one class to another, and I felt exhausted, and there were things weighing on my mind that needed to be properly thought out. Interestingly enough, I got a whole lot more to think about than I bargained for.

A young man stopped me. He looked around my age or maybe a little older (early 20s). He was wearing a faded t-shirt and jeans (the proverbial university attire) and he walked up to me with his long arms swinging listlessly at his side.

He told me that he was going to kill himself today. The rope was set and everything. He was going to kill himself, he said, because he was tired of "hard life." He said he had been living in a car for three weeks because his landlord had kicked him out of his house since he was unable to pay his rent. He told me how the rains (we have been getting a lot of rain lately) had soaked him and he couldn't sleep properly at nights. He was broke, busted and very disgusted with life. He wanted out.

I stood there wondering at first why he chose to tell me his very sad tale of woe and dejection. I wondered if he was trying to con me into giving him money. I stood there looking at him, and listening, and wondering if what he was saying was true, and if I should believe any of it at all. He assumed I was a Christian and asked me to pray for him. He told me again and again that I had no idea what it was like, that I had no idea what he was going through, that I didn't understand and that he was just really tired, and he didn't see any point in living anymore.

I stood there listening to his story for longer than I intended to. I think what got me was the way he just looked and sounded extremely sad. You know how sometimes you can look at people and see sadness in everything about them? In the downturned mouth corner; the chapped, dry lips; the dirty clothes and fingernails; the tattered shoes, and even the way they have a tendency to sling one elbow over the head and and use the other arm to hold it up, like the arms are supporting the head-weight while the head is supporting the arms? He looked like that. Everything about him just said sad. And his voice cracked while he spoke and there were tears in his eyes. I think I believed him.

I asked him his name. And he told me a name. I'm not sure if the name he gave me was his real name. Let's call him Phillip.

Phillip was unemployed. Both his parents were dead, he said, and he didn't get along very well with the other members of his family. He said he lived in one of the communities surrounding UWI, that he used to be a gun-slinger, one of the "bad men" in his area. He said he decided to give all of that up because he realised that it was wrong, but now, since things were so hard, he was thinking about going back... or just killing himself...

Maybe I'm just young and impressionable. Maybe I'm still a bit naive. But it bothers me. I can't shake this experience from my mind. What if it was true? What if he was really so disenchanted with life that he had decided to end it?

He said I didn't understand. And he was right. I don't understand. I don't understand what forces cause a society to become so despondent that people see no solution at all anywhere in sight and just decide to take someone else's life or give up their own?

Phillip's story reminded me of the man in Ayi Kwei Armah's The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born. I mean, people are only human. They do the best they can with what little they have and sometimes that just isn't enough. What then? "What do you do when you've done all you can and it seems like you can't make it through?" asked Donnie McClurkin. Phillip was asking the same thing. What was I supposed to tell him? I didn't know what he was going through. He was obviously frustrated, to the point where he preferred to die than live anymore. He wanted some money to pay his rent, and to live a fairly decent life, and really, is that too much for anyone to ask?

Jamaica is a beautiful country. There are so many things right with our country. And so many things wrong. Sometimes we get unfairly stereotyped by foreign media. They make it sound like just the thought of coming to Jamaica is dangerous, like as soon as you step off the plane and onto Jamaican soil, you will have bullets whizzing past your ears and have to pull a Hilary Clinton (run for cover).

Sunday, April 6
It's ironic that Amnesty International recently released thier International Report for 2007, and that, Jamaica, once again, is being chided for some downfall in its justice system. This time it's the violence that the Amnesty Report claims Jamaican Government allows to go unchecked. To quote one of their website's news reports, "Jamaican authorities are wilfully neglecting the poorest communities by failing to tackle the violence - and its causes - that is shattering inner cities."

Monday, April 28
The report says we have a public security crisis in Jamaica. I only just had a debate with a friend of mine over the use of this word crisis, and what she believes is an oversensationalised, hyped-up media that tends to be very "unbalanced and alarmist" (direct quote from her).

Now I won't even bother to get into that right now, but, I urge every Jamaican to get hold of a copy of that report, and read it for yourself. See what it says. And make a decision about it. There have been some articles in our newspapers over the title of the report alone. Because, in my, and their, humble opinion, it says a whole damn lot: "Let them kill each other: Public Security in Jamaica’s Inner Cities."

Let them kill each other? Now, in the case of the young man I mentioned earlier, that isn't even necessary, is it? The way things were going for him, he was willing to kill himself... It's something to think about, isn't it?