Cultural identity is important to the security of citizens in the context of life in the countries in which they reside. While culture is largely shared by populations, within its general trends lie sub-cultures and citizens who, because of moral, religious and personal taste, will opt out of involvement and participation in some practices while more readily accepting and embracing others. What is viewed, as a cultural norm by many may still not be the practice of individuals within that same culture.
We see this if we visit residents from house to house and sample the foods that are prepared and enjoyed. We also see this in the religious practices adhered to. Sometimes, even within the same home there are different preferences for cultural festivities and practices.
What happens when we have no freedom within our cultures to choose what aspects of life to be a part of? The result is discomfort, a sense of infringement and a sense of threat to identity and freedom.
There are citizens of St. Vincent and the Grenadines suffering at the hands of their fellow countrymen? It is one thing to point out the atrocities in our past history. But there are violations of rights mounting before our eyes and ears right now. The incidences of antisocial and criminal behaviours do not mount in societies overnight. What is brewing if not curbed will lead to what we hope Vincentian society will never become for us, or our children.
In the arena of entertainment, many Vincentians are yet to respect the rights of their fellow citizens to choose not to be a part of what other citizens enjoy. This infringement has come to an extreme level in the music in our minivans and when carnival events are held.
It seems that citizens are living in fear of van drivers, conductors and fellow passengers who enjoy music that is played at uncomfortably high volumes with explicit lyrics and profanity. These song lyrics often glorify antisocial behaviour, sexual acts and violence. “Bad words” have become the normal language of many. This many citizens find entertaining. They welcome it. They find pleasure in it. How about the rights of other Vincentians who find this offensive, uncomfortable, a nuisance and a violation of the moral values they want in their children and society?
Carnival is promoted more than any other of our cultural elements. It seems that the common thinking is that every Vincentian thinks what this festival involves is embraced by every other Vincentian citizen. Surely, this festival and its containing musical elements are not the only thing we call cultural in this land.
When there are carnival shows, wet fetes and other such events, many citizens of St. Vincent residing in close proximities have no choice but to suffer through the hours of the night without sleep. Some Vincentians argue that St. Vincent lacks entertainment and the place is boring so why do others complain. However, we all have equal rights and freedoms in our country. If there is something one Vincentian finds culturally normal and entertaining, they have the right to enjoy it without infringing upon the right of fellow Vincentians who do not find it a part of their cultural norm or list of chosen forms of entertainment.
Other nearby islands are learning tough lessons when it is too late. Some have had to outlaw music on public transportation when the damage was already done. What are we waiting for in St. Vincent and the Grenadines?
There is a gross lack of tolerance presently in Vincentian society. While there is freedom to choose something, the Vincentian who is educated, open minded and tolerant also understands that his or her fellow citizen has the right to not choose that same thing.
Our television sets have on and off switches and volume control and channel options. Our computers have similar navigating options. Are we education our children to exercise wise choices on these devices?
Our local television channels feature a very narrow set of musical offerings. What kind of society are we breeding? A violent and sexually excessive one is what seems to be the norm right now. What we see on a screen is glorified in the mind and is acted out. No matter if it is good or bad, by beholding Vincentians have and are becoming changed.
If we develop as a society in terms of infrastructure, finances and formal education but neglect morality and the rights of every citizen, we are breeding oppression and criminals and our anti-social behaviour statistics will continue to rise. Respect your fellow Vincentian and his or her right to choose too. See comfortable citizenship for all as a valid right. Allow cultural choices of others as your gesture of respect and tolerance for a society of peace and love.
The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected]
The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].