Values and attitudes: Is Mr Patterson flogging a dead horse?

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

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Former Prime Minister P J Patterson, in 1994 and again in 2003, threw his weight behind a campaign to steer Jamaicans into a new era of wholesome values and positive attitudes hoping to achieve a kinder, gentler society.

In the first campaign Mr Patterson called on the consummate gentleman, Mr Burchell Whiteman, to spearhead the thrust, clearly thinking that his statesman-like approach to problem-solving was the soft touch that was needed to spur Jamaica on.

The positive values and attitudes campaign was welcomed in many quarters as the magic potion that would restore Jamaica to the halcyon days of peace, calm, discipline, and caring for each other.

Alas! It did not work.

On Saturday, Mr Patterson returned to the theme, calling again on Jamaicans to embrace a crusade of positive values and attitudes. The former prime minister is clearly convinced that it is worth his time and effort.

The new arguments are the old ones: “A crusade to restore the wholesome values and positive attitudes which are the important legacy of our people, and which are essential to our progress as a nation (is crucial).”

He reminded of the oft-repeated African philosophy that “it takes a village to raise a child”, noting: “Nowadays, that sense of self-respect, that sense of caring, the sense of protection of our children, that is what we need to restore.”

He argued, moreover, that the nation must draw on those aspects of its heritage and focus on “those retentions which will impact positively on our processes, on our values, and our patterns of behaviour”.

“When we do, we find that they strengthen our human and social capacity and, at the same time, enhance our prospects for economic growth and our well-being as a nation,” the former leader of government added.

Given the fact that he is broaching the subject for a third time, we had hoped to hear more from Mr Patterson about how to structure such a campaign to give it a greater chance of success.

He, of course, is right in stressing that a campaign of positive values and attitudes cannot be politically partisan, hence his position that he did not care what the campaign was called or how it was packaged.

Having said that, we, as on the previous occasions, agree with Mr Patterson. We believe that the pernicious indiscipline and lack of consideration for each other breed crime and violence and provide the barrier to achieving our true greatness as a very special people.

But we don't expect that such a campaign will be successful merely because Mr Patterson calls for it, or even if it is put on the Vale Royal agenda as he suggests. There is need to put flesh on the concept.

While one cannot legislate values and attitudes, leaders can start by setting examples of honesty and probity, devoting themselves to the pursuit of justice and compassion for the weaker and less privileged.

Mr Patterson might yet succeed at getting greater buy-in for the campaign if he convenes a non-partisan group of highly regarded men and women who will devote themselves to what will be a long search for our better selves as a nation.

Truth is, the horse has already bolted, and the one that Mr Patterson is flogging, is almost dead.

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