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When decency and respect no longer matter

Speaking out of turn: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump stunned many people with his remarks about a female reporter, which were deemed inappropriate and distasteful (Photograph by Charles Krupa via AP)

Behavioural standards in Bermuda have been declining for decades and much of it has to do with crumbling values in family life and the rules that govern basic instincts for not only what we say to each other, but how we treat one another.

Many of our seniors who toiled under extraordinary circumstances to build a family, and indeed a home, would probably testify that back then, there was an acute awareness that respect and decency, no matter what type of social injustice system prevailed, was essential in learning to cope and become stronger as citizens in the land which is our Bermuda.

A key factor in the slide from decency and respect began when discipline throughout our schools and in much of our family life dissipated, and the door opened for behaviour that was laced with rudeness, disrespect and sometimes outright contempt for any sense of order.

Despite a slow invasion of negative elements that affected many parts of the world, many Bermudians do their best to keep decency and respect alive — and that struggle continues today.

The difference in the old days was we had blankets of support that crossed racial lines when it came to basic rules for everyday living. In other words, whether you were black or white, when you stepped out of line in expected family behaviour, something very heavy went down to bring you back into the fold and the message was clear. There are rules of life that must be obeyed or else.

Victor Scott, the former principal of The Central School, now known as Victor Scott, was truly a giant when it came to the value of discipline. He knew that life in its many forms required a good sense of discipline. Although he was small in stature, he was a huge spirit in helping to keep youngsters on course. I can still hear his voice when he wanted the attention of a particular pupil. “Hello, boy” was the call and the response was usually without question.

Let us be clear here that, even back then, there were some who felt rules were not for them, and they would step out of line in behaviour on the school grounds.

When details of an offence became known, the culprit was dealt with in no uncertain terms. The good, old-fashioned cane was used to send a clear message that there are consequences for unacceptable behaviour, both at school and in life.

Although in today’s climate such punishment is frowned upon, there were many success stories from people who were quick to point out that, after a good caning, there was no desire to walk a negative path.

The important factor here is that there must be some type of discipline throughout society which forms a thread that pulls together values that enhance respect and decency towards others.

A great deal of respect and decency boils down to common sense because anyone using poorly chosen and distasteful words towards another, for whatever reason, opens the door for similar treatment. People should think carefully before embarking on that journey, which, of course, is a two-way street.

In the world of politics where words could make or break someone holding, or striving for, high office, the price can be high for bad choices. No one is more aware of that than the powerful Donald Trump, who is leading the GOP field in his quest to secure the Republican nomination in the US presidential race.

The nation was stunned by remarks he made about a female reporter, whom he felt had been unfair in questioning him during a recent debate. Although he was adamant that he did nothing wrong, others felt his comments were inappropriate and distasteful. The full impact of this is to yet fully play out. Words pushed out are not easily swallowed back.

Decency and respect should never be thrown under the bus under any circumstances. Many things have changed over the years in Bermuda, and that is to be expected, but keeping decency and respect alive will not only benefit today’s generation, but it will provide future generations with something to build on.