(For The Punch – Issue 28 October 2010) by P. Anthony White
Last Sunday the 2010 National Youth March and Rally saw thousands of young people from a myriad of schools and youth organisations parading in unity through the streets of New Providence.
The kaleidoscope of colours of the various uniforms and the harmonious stepping to the rhythms of the various bands – if one watched and listened carefully – easily translated into the One Bahamas of today and tomorrow.
Obviously the whole magnificent extravaganza entailed detailed planning and organisation by persons and groups in the community and in the government who understand and appreciate the urgent need for care and attention to the emerging youth of the nation.
That was the situation last Sunday, and it was all beautiful as thousands of other citizens lined West Bay Street, Blue Hill Road, Poinciana Drive, and Nassau Street to observe and applaud the Bahamian future passing in review.
But what happens after last Sunday? What truly happens to the youth of The Bahamas in the weeks and months ahead until the 2011 National Youth March and Rally?
Over the past year The Bahamas has been made to bear witness to far too many instances of young people at risk or in danger, and even even other young lives snuffed out in untimely and unceremonious fashion.
Yes, there was the weeping and gnashing of teeth at the sad funerals, then the little bodies are laid in short, low graves. Then the shades of night fall, the tears are dried, and tomorrow is another day.
One could wax eloquently and endlessly about this senseless abortion of human life, and offer an avalanche of condolences to parents and families and friends. That is fitting, because human nature and Christian charity dictate that we commiserate with those under the pain of tragic dispossession.
But these well-meant expressions and after-the-fact commiserations assume only sparse significance and questionable credibility if as community and as caring citizens Bahamians do not do the very best they can to forestall tragic youthful deaths and mutilations,
The weeping and gnashing of teeth are nigh hypocritical unless there is put in place all those safeguards and restrictions which make it more difficult for children to kill themselves or presume to kill others, and which in the long run can seriously impair the human resource arsenal of this country.
Some years back Algernon Allen, when he was the cabinet minister responsible for youth, coined the phrase, “Little Darlings”, and proceeded to introduce numerous programmes and projects designed to promote and to protect the best interests of young Bahamians.
Over time, others have used the phrase to acknowledge and affirm that since today’s youth are tomorrow’s leaders and movers and shakers of the Bahamas, every care must be taken to ensure that they are well-educated, well-trained, well-motivated, and, above all, protected from tragic and untimely and senseless demise.
Yet the noble efforts in both the public and private sectors seem too often to be for naught. Yet there are frequent reports of young people with lives brutally snuffed out, of young people cruelly abused – sexually and otherwise – of young women bearing children as a result of indecent assault, and of young people who are simply dysfunctional because of social neglect.
The bottom line is that too many Bahamians are not sufficiently serious about protecting the young people of this land against themselves, and protecting them from others who would mislead them, abuse them, misuse them, and lure them into unsafe and unsavoury paths.
Daily all around us there swirls a vortex of child abuse which has nothing at all to do with assaults from strangers but rather with the disregard and complacency of parents who do not do their duty.
At 3.00 a.m. many weekend nights at various nightclubs there are scores of young people having the time of their lives, which is fine, except that too many of them are under the drinking age and should not be in those places anyway.
Additionally, too many of them – particularly young ladies – have no ready transportation and have not an idea in the world by what means they will get home. Undoubtedly sometimes, driven home, they conceive.
Then there is the question of boys on motorbikes. They are not all rowdy hoodlums seeking to wreak havoc among car drivers. Many come from respectable families and have been schooled in right and wrong and self-respect.
But by now somebody must have noticed that motorbikes can be killers, especially on the condition of today;s roads and if riders do not wear protective helmets. Where and who are the parents who consent to the ownership and usage of these killing machines?
The question is painful, but cruel death is infinitely more painful. How many more young Bahamians must crash and die before parents will say an emphatic No on the use of motorcycles on roads already infested with automobile drivers who don’t give a sweet damn about the rights of others?
It is obvious that the system is slipping. True these are modern times of spontaneous combustion and compact discs and the information super- highway, but the preservation of human life cannot pale against that backdrop.
Parents who are apathetic about the care and nurture of children, who by their inefficient parenting or permissive attitudes contribute delinquency and sometimes to needless death must be called to account by the wider society.
The situation of “Deadbeat Dads” has been with us forever, and probably will persist for many moons so long as Bahamians remain the hot- blooded romantics they have always been.
However, although these irresponsible men are rightly hauled before the courts and forced to pay for past sweetness, who prosecutes the parents who by their indifference or bad example allow young Bahamian girls to roam freely and eventually over the edge of social disaster?
It is a given in the inner cities of New Providence that a majority of its young people will amount to little, will leave school before time, will appear in court at least a few times before they are 20, and before they are 20 participate in the procreation of another dysfunctional generation.
But that need not be the case if Bahamians are serious about the preservation and protection of Algernon Allen’s and the whole nation’s Little Darlings.
Each time a young Bahamian dies untimely and unceremoniously, that is a tragic and horrible commentary on the whole society, because it reflects too often an attitude of national complacency and dereliction which mitigates against serious nation building.
As thousands of happy, gaily-attired young Bahamians paraded proudly through the streets of New Providence during the 2010 National Youth March and on to the rally at Clifford Park, no doubt thousands of other Bahamians, especially parents, observing from the sidelines experienced pride.
But will that pride be translated into a new and invigorated attitude of care and attention to the welfare of young Bahamians? As a result of watching that march will more parents now be moved to restrict the movements of their teenagers, especially after dark?
Will more parents now put hard questions to their teenagers about the source of money and expensive gifts coming into their possession, and take firm steps to cut off the source if it proves unsavoury, and especially if the source is criminal?
The bitter bottom line is that unless parents take a hard line and buckle down to their responsibilities towards their children, no matter how proudly citizens may lift their heads to the rising sun, the future of The Bahamas will be as bleak as hell . . . for what it’s worth.