I write to echo and expand upon the concerns raised by Kristen Gyles in her insightful column, The Epidemic of Heartlessness, published on Friday, November 17, 2023, regarding the escalating culture of cruelty in parallel with the alarming increase in murder-for-hire cases in Jamaica.
In examining the prevailing societal landscape with eyes also accustomed to observe how such panoramas unfold elsewhere, it is evident that the Jamaican issue extends beyond conventional criminal stereotypes, permeating various layers of our community. It is not merely a matter of economic desperation but, rather, a deeper moral dearth ingrained in our cultural fabric. The inclination towards murder, as the article highlights, has become a disconcertingly normalised aspect of our society, with acts of extreme violence being touted as symbols of civil standing and “ranking”.
To address this profound societal crisis, I propose a comprehensive and collaborative initiative involving the ministries of culture, education, and security. While celebrating achievements is significant, shaping the character of individuals through a formalised curriculum focused on “Kindness and Compassion” is equally essential. Not less by even one iota than for “Civics”, I advocate for the development and urgent deployment of a 5-year core curriculum, in collaboration with other “people ministries,” that makes “Kindness and Compassion” a prime requirement for high school graduation in Jamaica.
This proposed curriculum should not only germinate in high schools but should also blossom throughout tertiary institutions. By integrating these values into the education system, including high school entry and leaving examinations such as PEP, CSEC, and CAPE, we can foster a generation that values empathy and compassion as much as academic achievement. Additionally, college students can be imaginatively incentivized to engage in “Kindness and Compassion” capstone projects, further instilling these values.
The collaboration between the ministries of culture, education, and security is imperative to create a multifaceted strategic policy that addresses the root causes of this epidemic of heartlessness and cruelty. Psychological factors, as rightly pointed out in the article, should be given due attention but should not detain the implementation of the curricula of which I write. Thus, a robust approach to mental health awareness and support is necessary but not precursory. Identifying and addressing psychopathic tendencies early on through childhood interventions, including counseling and mentorship programmes, can also be instrumental in preventing individuals from falling into a life of crime.
In advocating for this “agri-cultural” approach, my intention is to emphasise the importance of creating a society that not only applauds academic, financial, sporting, and sundry achievements but also values kindness, compassion, and mental well-being. I urge the relevant authorities to consider and implement measures that actively seed, tend, and fertilise these values within a nurturing cultural-ducational/training system and broader life-abundant Jamaican space.