Carmona launched a sustained attack on cyber-bullying as he gave the graduation address at the first day of the 2014 Presentation of Graduates at the University of the West Indies (UWI), St Augustine, where he received an honorary doctorate along with former Calypso Monarch, McCartha “Calypso Rose” Lewis.
“There is a continuous stream of opinions on governance issues, expressed daily, not only in our Parliament and in the print media, but also on talk-radio and social media.
Regrettably, in all these fora, like-minded minds tend to recycle and restate their agreed opinions. Graduates, you have a responsibility to bring more enlightened, dispassionate approach to the discourse on issues of national and regional importance,” urged Carmona.
“We have to replace our focus on personalities with a focus on ideas, so that the opinionated and self-serving pronouncements and forms of cyber-bullying are replaced by thoughtful dialogue and open-minded conversation,” he said.
“Social media websites are no longer performing an envisaged function of creating a positive communication link among friends, family and professionals. It is a veritable battleground, where insults fly from the human quiver, damaging lives, destroying self-esteem and a person’s sense of self-worth.”
He reflected on man’s inhumanity to man as he related TS Elliot’s poem, “The Wasteland” which he said speaks to our dark side.
“What are you doing about this, young graduands? Will you continue that mean streak so prevalent in our society, because, ‘you’ve got the power’, and are engrossed in that obsession that your culture calls ‘me, myself and I?’”
Carmona said he could use nice words and engage in tangled verbosity as the intelligent are prone to do, but said that instead transformation is required. He urged graduands to make a difference by sending a different message by developing a personal philosophy, so as not to be just another cog in the wheel. “You must stand for something! It does not have to be grand but it must be a positive that brings light to someone else’s darkness.”
He shared his own credo of trying to be a better person today than he was yesterday, while acknowledging his dispensability. He urged graduands to have a moral compass and to evoke standards of accountability and integrity, returning to his theme of Internet decorum.
“We can all stop being distasteful to each other, and finally be exemplars to our young people. As adults we continue to be ill-mannered, discourteous and vengeful. And remember, your future employer will go into that growing wasteland, social media, to see if you are an active participant in what should not be done. Brilliance and honours degrees will fail against that backdrop, and that litmus test called simple good manners.”
Carmona hoped for changes to legislation that debars anyone under age 25-years-old being a Senator, and hoped UWI would establish a Department of Philosophy. Topically given the diplomatic tensions between Jamaica and TT, Carmona spoke of how his days as a university student in Jamaica and Barbados had shaped his personality such that today he calls himself a “Trini-Jam-Baj” in nationality. Barbados had taught him civility, while in Jamaica he had seen unrelenting nationalism and the aspirations of democratic socialism for a just, fair and equitable society, all set against a backdrop of the splendor of the sands of Negril Beach, the climbing of the Blue Mountains and crayfish catching in Spanish Town River, plus the despair of the voiceless of Trench Town. Carmona said he was humbled by his award and he hailed Calypso Rose whose song “Tempo” he quoted to the delight of a smiling Mrs Carmona seated in the audience.