Bassterre, Saint Kitts – Nevis
May 15, 2008 (CUOPM)
Compassion, self-respect, inner peace, religion and racial pride have been identified as the right ingredients for shaping a new Caribbean society.
St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas told some 250 persons attending the annual Mother’s Day Gala organised by Kittitians and Nevisians Association (KANA) in New York that children spend hours with electronic games and gadgets instead of interacting with mothers and grandmothers, fathers and grandfathers, neighbours and other children.
He said the five areas are needed to help Caribbean mothers raise the type of children needed to defend the interests of the people of the region in the years ahead.
“If we get these five areas right at the level of the family, then all will be well at the level of the community, the level of our proud nation and Caribbean,” said Prime Minister Douglas.
On the issue of compassion, Prime Minister Douglas noted that the lack of empathy is the truest evidence of evil.
“As people all over the world grapple with the issue of crime and violence, it is important for us all to remember that human beings are incapable of showing empathy to others if empathy has never ever been shown to them. As our lifestyles have become more “modern”, our children are spending less and less time interacting with other human beings. Electronic games and gadgets have filled the hours that were once spent interacting with mothers and grandmothers, fathers and grandfathers, neighbours ““ and other children. In addition, even though most of us have no choice, more and more children are being left in day care centers at earlier and earlier ages. At the end of each day, therefore, tired though we may be, it is becoming increasingly important that mothers, fathers, some relative or caring adult find the time, tired though we may be, give our children the physical closeness, the emotional support, that personal contact that is so essential to forming the psyches, and protecting the emotional health, of young children. It is in these moments of closeness and interaction that we pass on the most important gift that we can pass on ““ empathy and compassion,” he said.
Prime Minister Douglas noted that the children of the region must be raised to feel something when others are in pain.
“They must be raised to feel something when others are in distress. We must make a special effort to develop in all of the young people with whom we come in contact, whether they are our children or not, the instinct to feel something when others are embarrassed, ridiculed, excluded. And we cannot fail in this because this is how we preserve and protect our essential humanity,” he said.
Children and the young people who feel something in these situations are extremely unlikely to bury a knife in the chest of another human being years later, decades later, to raid the pension funds of employees who have worked for them for decades and so compassion, empathy must become the trait in raising children.
He said too that before there can be self-respect, whether in the home, in the community, or at the level of the nation, there must be standards. There must be a sense that there are some behaviors that are acceptable, and some that are unacceptable. People in all cultures must strive on an ongoing basis to preserve and assert the preciousness of their humanity, because while other creatures are governed primarily by instinct and impulse, human beings are different.
“Self-restraint, self-control, self-mastery, set us apart from other creatures. And so, as individuals, as families, as nations, we must cherish and encourage these traits. We must abandon the instinct to shrug. There are times when our humanity demands that our souls sense “Not good enough.” This is how strong families are built and this is how strong societies are built. And this is the basis of that most important of human traits – self-respect.”
“We must know, as a people, who and what we wish to be. And with discipline and with dedication, we must strive to attain that ideal. As with all cultures, we must earn the respect of others by, first, respecting ourselves. And we do this by ensuring that standards guide and shape us, and ensure for us constructive, meaningful lives,” said the St. Kitts and Nevis leader.
Dr. Douglas noted that far too many people around the world seem to be stressed, driven, supremely unhappy ““ often despite quite a bit material abundance and there is need to find a way to greater peace.
“We have all seen the way that some people in very wealthy countries young men routinely turn on friends, teachers, complete strangers without a shred of remorse. In impoverished countries or areas, we see young men stabbing, shooting and killing each other. At the same time, we hear about multi-millionaire corporate executives in distant lands juggling and manipulating their companies’ books and knowingly throwing hundreds of loyal employees into destitution,” he noted.
“We in the Caribbean must find ways to resist the excessively materialistic values that have wreaked such havoc everywhere. We must help the region’s mothers to educate their children about the crushing personal debt that comes with this crass consumerism. We must all understand the link between the frightening criminality found in much of the world and marketers constantly and aggressively telling people what they want is the same as what they need,” said Prime Minister Douglas.
He said if the region’s mothers are to be helped in raising their children “we will have to develop sensitive, skillful methods of teaching our youth to ignore a media that tells them that they must lead excessively gadget-laden lives.”
“We have to free them from the notion that updated versions of every gadgets must be acquired every six months, and that their wardrobes must be totally brand-name based. We have an obligation to free our youth from these pressures – and to help them to find an inner peace and stability that has nothing to do with material possessions. We can best do this by talking with our young people ““ and each other, on these issues”¦”¦by engaging our young people ““ and each other, on these points “¦..by showing them ““ and each other, with sensitivity and imagination, that gadgets should be tools and not masters. We must help our young people to see and understand the stresses and dangers associated with the no-exit, excessively gadget-driven, consumption-obsessed and treadmill,” the Prime Minister said.
Dr. Douglas noted that Caribbean people have traditionally been a very religious people. “We are less so than we used to be, but religion is still important. In the months and years ahead, we must help mothers to impress upon their children the fact that it is not only on the rituals of religion, that are important, but the underlying purpose of religion ““ that is, to make us kinder people, more responsible people, better people. The purpose of religion is to stimulate and keep alive within us a keen sense of the difference between right and wrong”¦..and to keep our consciences alive.”
“If we could keep this sense of right and wrong alive in our homes, if we could keep this sense of right and wrong foremost in our communities, if we could keep this distinction alive, the impact on man/woman relations”¦.parent/child relations”¦.employer/employee relations”¦..even the relationship between political parties, and business and professional rivals, would be so profound that many of the deep and troubling problems that so many now face, throughout the region and around the world, would, literally, evaporate.”
Prime Minister Douglas said that Caribbean people are very reluctant to talk about race and even more reluctant to talk about their history. “Many of us feel that those of us who talk about either race or this region’s history have chips on their shoulders, or “˜have a problem.’ Nothing can be further from the truth. Those of us who think about race and who re-visit our history are healthily self-aware. And this self-awareness helps us to understand both our historical tribulations as well as our historical triumphs. It reminds us of our sacred obligation to be perceived by ourselves and others as persons of dignity, while not giving up the natural joy and free spiritedness that comes so easily to us as Caribbean people. As sense of racial pride will help us to reject television images that skillfully and constantly encourage our young people to see themselves as less than they really are,” said Dr. Douglas.
He stated that racial pride should remind that Caribbean people are a people of purpose, a people who understand the importance of joyous celebration, but that are always a people of dignity.
“We owe this pride in our race and our history to our ancestors who endured so much. We owe it to our ancestors – and ourselves – who achieved so much. And we owe it to our ancestors, to ourselves, and to generations yet unborn, in whose name we pray for, and dedicate ourselves to, our very special nation,” Prime Minister concluded.