Whole Person Healing, Spiritual Realism and Social Disintegration a Caribbean Case Study in Faith, Health and Healing

Article excerpt

E. ANTHONY ALLEN [*]

Introduction

This paper seeks to address the issue of emphasis, experience and needs in relation to health, faith and healing in the Caribbean context.

I will seek to use a case study approach involving Jamaica. This approach should give an in-depth cross-sectional perspective that is largely typical of most Caribbean territories. Also, Jamaica is where the author has had most of his experience.

Where social implosion meets "symbolic verbalism"

The island society of the Caribbean is a place of paradox. While tourists enjoy her world famous sun, sand and sea, cricket, coffee, calypso and carnivals, most of her people experience a different reality. For example, one of her territories, Jamaica, can be said to be a society on the path to implosion. Here, almost every aspect of the social order is disintegrating. It is caught in a vice-like grip. One arm of the vice is the historical determinism of the old global mercantilism of colonialism and plantation slavery. The other arm is made up of the contemporary global mercantilism of borderless transnational conglomerates, an ever shifting money market, the structural adjustment of mega-loan banks, as well as satellite television and the Internet.

The Caribbean, including Anglophone, Francophone and Latin peoples, has a population of 39.2 million people. [1] We are the only geographical entity in the world where entire societies were brought into being and sustained by the destruction of an indigenous population and the mass relocation, by force, of an ethnic group from its native land -- all this in order to achieve the commercial ends of outside metropolitan landlords. [2] Given the accompanying systematic efforts at eradication of family systems and cultural norms, this "Great Commercial Experiment" began a process of social disintegration. [3]

In Jamaica, despite its black and poor majority, impressive physical health indices such as infant mortality, inoculation rate and life expectancy in this comparatively small population of 2.5 million, [4] have put us in a "second world" category. Nevertheless certain other indices of social wellbeing are pathetic. Over 70 percent of children are bom in homes without fathers. Close to 45 percent of Jamaican households are headed by women. [5] Most of them have no spouse or steady partner living with them. Approximately 30 percent of children leave the primary school system functionally illiterate. [6] The majority of our young men are unskilled. Since 1970, approximately 30 percent of the island's births are by teenagers, [7] many of whom are largely unemployed and undereducated. In the inner city, and increasingly in rural areas, the majority of these young men and women are seen by the "brown" (coloured), white and black upper and middle class elite as constituting the "subhuman masses". Police brutality an d killings keep us under the watchful eyes of human rights organizations such as Amnesty International. Our murder rate of over 800 persons, or 35 per 10,000,8 annually in recent years (1996-1999), places us among the highest per capita murder rates in the world.9 In the inner city, whole geographical areas, called "garrison" political constituencies, are run by alternative social orders of drug gangs fuelled by the patronage of competing politicians.

The prevalence rate of HIV in the Caribbean is reported to be the second highest in the world. It is second to Sub-Saharan Africa, [10] a region which was destabilized by the uprooting of millions of our ancestors. Evidence of family decay, such as domestic murder-suicides, "barrel children", street children, and child abuse are on the increase in Jamaica. (Barrel children are those whose material and sole caregiver have migrated leaving them under inadequate supervision. The only parental link is often the regular barrel of designer clothes and other "goodies.") We have one of the highest rates of deforestation. …