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First Response.

Jamaicans have a reputation for being an angry people. Our music, speech, and interpersonal relations are often laced with strong words and bravado attitudes. Gone are the days of "everyting irie" and "no problem". Today most problems are resolved with a war of words and threats of violence. This is not a bad thing, lets look at why not.

During a Health and Wellness session, led by motivational speaker Marcia Skervin James, the topic of "first responses" was broached. The idea was to control our stress level by devising default responses to stressors - for example annoying coworkers. A comparison was drawn between North American and Jamaican cultural approaches to handling disagreements.

In Jamaica, our first reaction is to "cuss and gwaan bad". While this may seem uncouth and inappropriate especially in work settings, compare this with the North American approach of keeping it all in. The many school and work shootings attest to the inefficacy of the later approach. How many Jamaican's have been reported to shoot up their schools and work places? We may talk about doing it while venting, but we rarely act on it. Perhaps the swaggering and posturing speeches release the tension that would otherwise be released in a hail of bullets?

This is not to say that some Jamaicans don't act on violent speech. However, more often than not violent confrontations have a deeper root in gang rivalry and politics. You don't find quiet, working class Jamaicans, described as ok persons by neighbors and fiends, suddenly getting up and shooting everyone in sight.

Granted, the lesson here isn't to cuss everyone in sight. But sometimes an assault with words may save a barrage of bullets later.

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