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Home Features A lesson from an anti-SOTB nephew

A lesson from an anti-SOTB nephew

Some years ago, while one of my Camalote nieces and I were chatting about this and that, I guess the conversation must have turned to real men and responsibility and that kind of thing, for she put in that guys in our village mature late. I didn’t disagree with her.

Yap, Camalote guys are like daam Italians, at least that was so some years back. I saw this documentary about an Italian guy, all of thirty-five, lounging on his mom’s couch, watching his mom’s television, while mom was in the washroom washing his clothes. The Italian mom said she loved having her boy living with her.

A recent story in The Local, a European magazine in Italy, says the average age for a guy to leave the nest in Italy is 31.3, and for the young ladies it is 29. According to the story, a bad economy is partly behind the slowness to cut the navel strings, and a Eurostat report was shared which noted that in 2016 less than a third of under-35s had left home. However, some economists said that “clingy” Italian parents had a big share of the blame.

Guys in Camalote didn’t settle down until real late, definitely in the first two decades I lived there. I can’t swear about how the girls in the village behave now, but earlier on they were very serious, so the guys had to travel out of the village to look for companionship. The fellows slept out at times, but they were invariably present at the dinner table.

Camalote wasn’t very paper-educated before the turn of the century, so all the guys, young and old, earned their keep through hard physical labor. In the old days the men used to work at the mahogany camps, and after the mahogany bush was depleted they turned to working as farm labor and in the construction industry. Pauling in Belmopan was a godsend, because at that building site many of them became highly skilled masons, plumbers and machine operators.

Regular jobs have never been common in Belize, and the young men didn’t seem to be too interested in holding on to a steady job either. Now and then they got an end, and this sustained them for quite a while, because they had no house rent or utility bills to pay, and their ma always had dinner for them when they were hungry. I must put in that they did assist in the milpa, now and then. My niece and I agreed that around the age of twenty-eight Camalote guys started getting serious.

If I remember correctly, my former boss, Natividad Obando, told me that the age of twenty-eight is true adulthood. Really, it is only because crazed old men keep sending eighteen-year-old young men off to war that youth got the right to vote. I guess that’s fair. If you think I’m old enough to fight on the battlefield, well, I should have a choice in who is sending me off to war.

Bah, 18-year-olds don’t know much of anything, but they’re physically strong and capable of toting a gun and pulling the trigger. And they usually don’t have any children, so they are prime fodder for war.

My nephew – still waiting for him to mature — he got into trouble after he started messing around with heavy drugs, and he let me down thrice. Twice he walked off my jobs, one time at a very critical moment. Those two strikes, they weren’t foul balls, they were complete swings and misses, so, twice shy, I wasn’t about to get left high and dry again. But, family, if you don’t have a soft spot for family you can’t have a soft spot for anybody, so here we go again.

Well, not so fast. I’m off to pick him up, to take him to camp, when a police truck passes and he’s in the pan with a couple officers. He shouts for me when he sees me, and when I look in my rearview mirror, I can see him pleading with the officers. I know he’s telling them that I am in town to pick him up, to take him to a job, so he won’t be causing them any more trouble.

I’m thinking that he’s going to swing and miss for me again. I am thinking, maybe I should just carry on, maybe I should leave him in the custody, maybe that anti-SOTB (sweat of thy brow) so and so should go to jail. Maybe after a sojourn da bak he’ll be grateful and not swing and miss when he works with me again. I wavered quite a bit before I went to the police station to get him.

When we got a solar panel and I tried to hook it up to a battery so he could have radio and television, he didn’t try to assist, no matter how I tried to prompt him. Before he went off on drugs he studied electricity and refrigeration at CET, and did well, but he said he forgot everything. I got tired of my trial and error and went away for the weekend. When I returned he was watching Bonanza.

After the project collapsed, he stayed on at the farm, collecting a much reduced chum, and gradually all that was there went to bush. I’ve challenged him a few times about it. I stopped challenging him when he said: “I know why they send a flip for me every week. It’s so that I stay out of trouble.”

Ah, young men in the village took a while to mature, and they stayed out of trouble because they went home to eat dinner. I think Italian moms give bed and board to their sons too, so they stay out of trouble. The Local says that the Mafia poisons everything in Naples; they even took control of a hospital.

Certainly, “clingy” parents don’t want their children to ever become too desperate. When girls become desperate, they stop guarding their bodies, and when boys become desperate they sell drugs. Italian moms can be grateful that over there young men aren’t certain to die or become killers when they join a gang. They don’t have anywhere near the horrific murder rate we have. In fact, Italy is tame when it comes to violence.

Ah, the anti-SOTB says the little chum is given so he stays out of trouble, and put aside feelings, he is right. Really, trouble is also out there for young men who want work, and can’t find a job. It’s bad in a village and worse in a town or city. The capitalist country that isn’t generating a lot of revenue is hell for a lot of people, especially those unemployed ones who live in urban areas. We were failing long before Covid-19.

Our leaders really have to operate smarter. It doesn’t take a lot to release some of the pressure. For beginners, every unemployed youth living in a city or town should qualify for a stipend of $20 each week. If there are 10,000 unemployed persons, that would cost $200,000 each week, and if you multiply that by 52 weeks, the grand total for the stipend would amount to a not-so- costly $10.4 million per year.

In this age especially, parents should stick with their children as long as they can. Parents must not stop advising them, and they must devise and discuss cooperative/joint family initiatives to ease the strain. They should never put undue pressure on young family members, because there are many snares out there.

Every effort must be made to stop young men from picking up the gun to earn their living, because the moment they pick up the gun they have limited their ceiling, their potential in this world. Only the church can wash the scarlet out of sins, make them white as snow.

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