EDITOR: The following letter, dated December, 6 was addressed to the Prime Minister and copied to other officials.
The abuses taking place on minivans in St Vincent have become too great and to egregious to be ignored any longer, and these abuses centre around the music played on the vans.
The music played on many minivans is so loud it is deafening even when a person is standing 30-40 ft away. Consider the damage being done to the hearing of persons who are sitting in the vans with their ears 3-4 inches away from these speakers at times. Human hearing works because of cells called hair cells in the inner ear that convert sound in electrical signals that can be interpreted by the brain. We are born with about 14,000 hair cells in total. Hair cells cannot be replaced; once they are gone they don’t come back. Listening to loud music is one certain way to lose hair cells.
Every time a person listens to loud music they lose hair cells. This means that every time a person is exposed to loud music they suffer PERMANENT HEARING LOSS.
St Vincent [and the Grenadines] is fast developing a public health crisis in hearing loss. A large portion of our population has to travel by van where many operators absolutely refuse to turn down the music. In fact many become angry and abusive if asked to turn down the music. Many Vincentians are now quietly enduring van rides in which the music is so loud it is hurting their ears. They are accepting it because they have limited options, don’t want confrontation with van operators or they know the operators simply won’t cooperate with them.
While they quietly accept this, they secretly wonder how these vans can pass in front of police stations in the out-districts and never be challenged about the loud music? We have a Noise Act, but for some inexplicable reason the police have simply stopped enforcing it, or is it that The Act has been repealed? When in the area of Calliaqua to Kingstown many operators turn the music down especially when they see police officers, after they have passed these areas they turn it way up again to painfully uncomfortable levels.
I am asking that we think of children who have travelled by van since they were infants. Even when the elderly and children are present, the operators refuse to turn the music down. So a child travelling by van from infancy up through college age is guaranteed hearing loss. These are the young people whom we look to, to go on for further studies and who need their hearing for the whole of their educational careers and beyond. A person who wants to go on to become a doctor for example can ill afford hearing loss. There are many heart sounds that can mean the difference between a good life and progressive heart failure if missed by a doctor.
I have spoken to teachers who tell you openly that the children they teach seem to have greater, and greater difficulty hearing the lesson and so the teachers must speak more and more loudly to be heard, they wonder why? It would appear that not even the teachers nor the Ministry of Education are putting the apparent progressive hearing loss observed in the class rooms, together with the loud music in the vans bringing children to the schools. Parents who many times ride the same vans with their children seem to be quite content to pay the vans to damage their children’s hearing. It begs the question, if it could be demonstrated that a child has hearing loss due to the exposure they have had on certain vans, could the parents successfully bring a law suit against the van owners and operators for damages? It is a question I would certainly like an answer to.
When asked why such abuse is necessary, the argument is put forward that the music is necessary to attract people to the vans. It is essentially being argued that if they don’t play the music loudly the average Vincentian will not know that they have to get themselves to work or to school or back home at the end of the day.
Anyone who has travelled to Trinidad or Barbados will observe that the vans there have been without music systems for the better part of 20 years and
the people in those countries seem to manage quite well. I believe the real answer to the question “Why?”, lies in the fact that many of the operators in SVG have already suffered significant hearing loss. These operators can no longer hear the music unless it is deafening to everyone else. The very people insisting on playing this loud music are the ones most frequently exposed to it for long periods. This means that van operators are the ones most likely to have greatest hearing loss.
Should people who are functionally/legally deaf operate motor vehicles under Vincentian law? The failure to enforce the Noise Act is doing no one any good, not even the van operators.
If the only problem with the music was that it is deafeningly loud, we would be lucky, but much of the music is either violent, pornographic or deeply disrespectful to women. I have ridden on vans where songs with the words “open your leg for a suck” was being blared at the highest volume.
Just this Friday I looked on in disbelief as a van drove past a police station overloaded with school children and playing the Words “I want to F… you tonight” over and over again at a volume that could be easily heard 50-100 ft from the van. Many times while these obscene offerings are being played on the vans, teachers, nurses and police officers are riding on the vans along with the children, without raising a single objection. When these things are played in the presence of adults these children are supposed to respect and the adults raise no objection, it can easily appear to the children that the adults in question approve. If the boys in a class begin approaching the girls inappropriately later on how can that teacher who sat quietly while the pornography was being played now be expected to offer guidance to the boys in the face of his or her failure to object?
Few years ago the nation was thrown into shock when we discovered that a group of school boys had raped a school girl on school premises. We all wondered how school boys could have become like that? Recently an incidence of an adult male approaching a school girl for sex was filmed and posted on the internet, everyone was up in arms wondering how things could get this bad? We tolerate daily pornography on the vans as the songs describe in detail every imaginable sex act, and nothing is done about it. The result is a large number of young boys who think this should be their approach to all females and females who think that they cannot expect anything better from men.
In addition to appealing to you, I am also appealing to the Minister of Health, the Chief Medical Officer, the Minister of Education, the Chief Education Officer, and the Commissioner of Police, to please work together to remove “ALL” sound systems from public transport vehicles In St Vincent and the Grenadines. The instances of serious abuse of the Vincentian public have become too widespread, far too egregious, and too flagrantly damaging to health and to public morality to continue unchecked.
Jason Young MD