Notes from a small island
A weblog by Jonathan Ali

Tuesday, January 14, 2003  

All you need is love.

We can reform the education system. We can clean up the criminal justice system, even abolish the death penalty. We can stamp out druge abuse and poverty.

But none of this means anything without love.

So says Dr David Bratt in his Guardian column today, as he adds his voice to the debate on country's unspeakably horrific crime situation.

"The violence we are seeing around us is mainly due to the violence which children experience growing up. The first act of violence being the violence of rejection. To be unloved by your mother or father, or both, and not to find someone to love you, is violence with robbery. The robbery occurring is the theft of love and the inability to live a simple, loving life."

Flowery, new-agey flakiness? Not at all. According to Bratt:

"In order for the brain to grow and to develop, it needs to be stimulated. A rich array of sensory stimuli, of all the senses, maximises development of the brain.

"If we do not get the sensory stimulation we equate with love, bonding and intimacy during the formative periods of brain development, ie the first three years of life, we’re going to be impaired, if not crippled, in our ability to experience and express this 'language of love' later in life.

"Put in other words, when young children are not touched, held or surrounded with affection, the neural systems required to experience pleasure are not developed. This leads to an individual and a culture that is self-centred and violent."

And quoting Fr Gerard Pantin he notes our society is rife with the “conditions for the emergence of a male warrior class, viz: 1) children reared apart from their mothers, 2) male status determined by combat and sexual conquest, and 3) economic gain separated from what is needed to support one’s family and made into an end in itself.”

If this is all true, then the question that arises, as I see it, is this: considering that many of our economically disadvantaged children become criminals, is there a connection between the ability to fulfil the physiological needs and the emotional needs of a child? If the primary concern of a group or society is in seeking to ensure its physical survivial more than anything else, will the time and effort needed to provide and nurture the love, bonding and intimacy Bratt talks about be lost? Is love a function of economics? Simply: can the rich afford to love their children more than the poor can?

Bratt himself is wary of such thinking, saying that it is "a disservice, if not an insult, to poor people who strive to bring up their children properly."

Why, then, are we not giving our children the love they need? Bratt mentions mothers "for whatever reason" not being able to give their children love and security. Surely economics is a major reason. The single mother unable to provide for her child, leaving the child in the care of others, often with disastrous results is sadly a scenario that plays itself out too often in this country, and the Caribbean as a whole.

I don't pretend to have answers here, and the more I think about it the more questions I come up with. It seems we're as far away from unravelling this knot as we ever were.

posted by Jonathan | 1:03 PM 0 comments


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