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Hot air no value

We wonder if Ralph Boyce, the head of Men’s Educational Support Association, had any idea his comment that all newborn babies should be DNA tested for future paternity purposes would have generated such heat, if he would have kept his idea to himself.

We are left to wonder because we continue to be amazed at the way some individuals have reacted to the comment. Let’s first accept that it is hardly likely that Boyce was looking for “cheap” publicity. After all, he is no “little boy in de yard”. He is a respected retired senior public servant who for years led our education system with distinction as Chief Education Officer.

Persons who know him and his record of public service would know that he is not one who seeks the limelight, but at the same time is not afraid to have his say when he deems it necessary.

Let’s be clear, in the vast majority of cases of children born in Barbados there has never been and there probably never will be any dispute about who is the father. But at the same time there can be no doubt that the “concept” of “ready-made jackets” that is so much a part of Bajan folklore did not drop out of the sky. There has been more than enough anecdotal and proven evidence of men being identified as fathers when they were not.

As far as we are concerned, to draw attention to this is not an attack on women, but a focus on the conduct of too many in our society that must be rooted out. Women don’t impregnate themselves — it takes two to cheat and for conception to occur one must be male.

We do not know if it is even practical, but if universal DNA testing at birth can be done, then the fact that all “benefit” means that when there is a dispute later in the life of the child then the affected is spared any embarrassment since the system would be dealing with a record rather than a personality. We see nothing wrong with such a principle.

What we find offensive, however, is that even if the idea is impractical, unworkable or even too expensive to contemplate, then dismiss it on its merits, or lack thereof, rather than attacking the individual who proposed it. Are we so blind that we can’t recognise so much of society’s advancement has come from the discussion of ideas that at the time were considered “hair brained”? Even if universal DNA testing never becomes a reality, it is still possible that out of the discussion some more practical approach may be arrived at.

While we take the Attorney General’s almost personal attack on Boyce as “to be expected” from a politician who is expected in the course of his day to play to his audience, we are flabbergasted by the reaction of the National Organisation of Women.

In their supposed matriarchal role in today’s Barbados, when spokeswoman after spokeswoman screams about family values, what’s the benefit of attacking MESA? Emotional gobbledegook like “MESA will not set the agenda for NOW” serves what purpose?

NOW has every right to speak out against violence against women, and MESA has a moral duty to support them, but emotive language that comes across like “verbal bullying” does not help the cause. If men believe they have an issue with too many women lying about who the real father of their children might be, what’s wrong with speaking out about it and — proposing a solution?

How does that lessen or detract from the genuine issue NOW has with domestic violence in Barbados?

It is time we stop putting up walls in our society and fighting each other, and instead start working together. We are not experts, but if NOW believes its members will end domestic violence without embracing men as sincere and serious partners in the struggle, they had better be prepared to be on the war front for a long, long time.

We are of this view because we sincerely believe that what shows up in too many of our homes as domestic violence is a reflection of a much larger, and growing societal intolerance. Too many in our society don’t know how to walk away from trouble, how to say sorry, how to admit they were wrong, how to accept that they will not always get their way — and it applies to men and women, adults and children, employed and unemployed, and yes leaders of organisations as well as foot soldiers.

Any attack by MESA on NOW, or NOW on MESA will do nothing to heal the disease that is sweeping across our society; and we really do need to ask ourselves whether verbal intolerance does not fuel the physical intolerance that manifests itself in violence in our homes.

We accept that perhaps it should be part of the MESA agenda that never, ever should one of its executive members speak in a public forum unless he denounces violence in our society, regardless of the subject, particularly because it can’t be denied that men are the greater perpetrators of violence.

But at the same time, NOW must understand that men and the men’s organisation must be treated as partners and not straw houses on which they can feel free to vent every time a woman suffers at the hand of some Neanderthal version of today’s man.

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