The loudspeaker culture, the culture of noise is an unacknowledged menace to society. Loud music blaring from speakers assaults the ears and mind of the citizens of Dominica on the streets, on the buses, and in the comfort of their home. There are no time restraints on the culture of noise. Loud music is played for the entire neighbourhood at any time of day and night.What is more there is no reasonable end time for the culture of noise. In beautiful Mero, a once peaceful haven, the hedonistic, sewo madness has been taken to an extreme. Events or bar sessions can begin as early as 12 noon or 2pm and go on until 12 midnight, 2 or 3am.At an establishment allegedly owned by a minister music can begin as early as 7pm until 4am. Worse still is to be woken up (if sleep came at all) by loud music at 7.30, 8 or 10 am, whilst still trying to recover from the previous day's disturbance. An individual does not even have time to pray before they must contend with noise.Just as disturbing are the sexually explicit lyrics that debase our women and which promotes violence as a lifestyle choice.

The loudspeaker culture has grave implications for the individual and for society. As I have stated in another article, the loudspeaker culture has a detrimental effect on health, on education, on social relations and on spiritual development. Noise creates psychological stress, which impacts negatively on mental health leading to depression and anxiety. It also contributes to health conditions such as heart and circulatory problems and a lowered immune system which lowers the ability of the body to fight infections. Noise has negative effects on childhood development and on a child's ability to learn. Continuous exposure to noise affects the body's natural rhythms and creates sluggishness, poor concentration, depressed mood and irritability.Furthermore children internalise the language and behaviour of the loudspeaker culture, the model of what is deemed acceptable in this society, thus creating more mental destabilisation and anti-social behaviour. The implications are clear for those with foresight. In the long term society will struggle to manage the burden that the loudspeaker culture has placed on it. The health and education system, social structures and the economy will all buckle under the weight of the damaging effects of the loudspeaker culture.

The loudspeaker culture is morally and legally indefensible. It stands in opposition to the human rights of the ordinary citizen as stated by the law and a violation of the human rights of an individual as given by God. It is illegal by law to abuse the human rights of others, in this instance a person's right to be at peace in their home. It is stated in the preamble to the constitution and affirmed by the Noise Abatement Act. It is also immoral and against our God-given rights to be subjected to unwarranted noise in the sacred space that is our home. It is morally and legally indefensible for a lady who suffers from high blood pressure, for man who is experiencing excruciating pain after an operation or who has had a stroke, for a woman with cancer who is trying to recover her health, or for a child trying to sleep or study to endure loud music throughout the day, night and early morning;or for a woman who has experienced a range of health complications and who experiences severe migraine to listen to loud music until 3am or 4am and to be woken up by more noise at 7.30, 8 or 10 am. What kind of society accepts such things as normal? Are the moral and legal rights of people to be at peace in their home such an alien concept to Dominicans?

The loudspeaker culture is part of the general degradation that is taking place in Dominica, part of the environmental pollution and mental abuse, such as the violation of the rights of our children and female citizens that is tainting the social and physical landscape of this gift from the almighty. And yet the passivity of people to the culture of noise and these other grave matters is quite astonishing. To condone the culture of noise is also to overlook the abuse of our women and children and the environment.

The loudspeaker culture is fundamentally about the law. It is not only the ordinary citizen who is compliant with the loudspeaker culture. The Noise Abatement Act exists to protect citizens from the actions of the perpetrators of noise, and yet law enforcement officers turn a blind eye to the noise thereby giving permission to the lawbreakers to ignore the law and make noise. The violation of the law designed to protect citizens against noise makes the infringement of the law protecting women and children and the environment acceptable.

Dominicans need to ask themselves some fundamental questions about the nature of the society they desire.They need to ask themselves whether they want a society that is peaceful and productive or a society that is dysfunctional, unproductive and lawless. Dominicans will rue the day they allowed the loudspeaker culture to take root and to proliferate. There will be an increase in psychological and physical stress and disease and social destabilisation and disintegration. As people spend more time imbibing the values and beliefs promoted by the loudspeaker culture, and less time with their families, there will be an increase incidence of alcoholism which is already an unrecognised problem, drug abuse and other criminal behaviour; an increase incidence of child abuse and abuse of our women, spiritual emptiness and educational failure and anti-social behaviour amongst the youths who emulate the values and beliefs of the loudspeaker culture. The economy will suffer as people become less productive.

I call on the Prime Minister, on the commissioner, on the ministers for health, education, the environment and tourism and our religious leaders to stop the culture of noise. And I encourage all citizens to search their conscience and defend the law. The violation of one law will inevitably lead to a society without a law.

Colton Paul The Centre For Inner Peace