Columns

Crunch time in gangster land

Barbara GLOUDON

Friday, February 21, 2014    

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WHY is the matter of gangs being treated as some cartoon joke -- zoot suit, broad-brimmed hat, two-toned shoes? We haven't seen such a costume since 1930s black and white movies. Granted, we are entering a new criminal age, but that shouldn't prevent us from taking our situation seriously. Are we prepared for the implications of a new group among us with deviant intentions?

The anti-gang Bill has made its way through Parliament and has been voted on. It was preceded by doubts, in some quarters, that the Bill and its intentions are little more than another act of oppression and repression aimed at "poor black people". Apparently only one section of our society does bad stuff. (Get serious!) If that is all that it is, then "wi corner dark". Even now that the Bill has made its way into the system, there will be persons who will remain sceptical.

The thorny issue of whether certain kinds of music are synonymus with violence was one of the earliest points of disagreement while the Bill was being debated. After much talk, the lawmakers came to the conclusion that "music and other art forms will mirror the best and worst in society and will be provocative. The proposed Section 15 (1) can easily be interpreted to mean censorship of the art form, as judges would have to determine how a song promotes or facilitates a gang's criminal activity". This advice was taken and the controversial clause was deleted.

I'm no fan of crude and coarse lyrics, but I have to agree that it would be difficult to pin the misdeeds of a criminal on his fondness for "dutty music". The argument is bound to continue, but now there are other issues to consider. While I had my own doubts as to whether violent lyrics, in and of themselves, could incite people to go criminal, I happen to believe that serious harm could be inflicted on the cultural psyche by fool-fool lyrics -- not to mention out-of-tune singing. A criminal doesn't need to be influenced by an idiot with a microphone and enough money to gain access to a recording studio to turn him off the straight and narrow. The society has to remain vigilant to protect conscious lyrics. 'Wha yuh seh?'

For real, though, we cannot afford to make even the slightest joke about the vicious violence and those who make our lives hell. It is not funny to hear the reports of a beheading, the torching of someone's house, the vicious taking of lives of children and the aged. And for what? There has to be more to it than what we hear in police reports. We can't continue this way, can we? If the police have evidence that this is gang activity, then we urge them to go after wrongdoers. It is crunch time in gangster land.

Talking with a "top cop" quite recently, he spoke of the horrendous behaviour of some young persons in their late teens and early 20s. They know no fear, have no mercy, and are contributing to the mayhem in which we find ourselves. Some work for seasoned gangsters. Some are "self-employed", young though they are. Some would say this is evidence of schoolboys and girls who are couriers of contraband and lethal weapons. The gang connection is not unknown. For the doubters, he offered the advice: "Pray you don't run into them. If you do, then you'll know why we don't take gangs for joke. Big people are bad enough. Bad youths, you don't want to cross."

It was not the first time that I was hearing from a police source that there are some young people who are well-entrenched in a criminal life. I was particularly interested in the role which girls play. More often they are couriers and can be lured quite easily into being sex workers, aka prostitutes. We need to get more serious about them -- gang or no gang. The passing of the anti-gang legislation is not all that has to be done. The wider community has to be involved in strategies which can be redemptive, bringing about character changes and providing an escape route away from the criminal way.

The slick solution being tossed about now features the magic words "social intervention". We seem to be relying on it almost completely to bring about the change we so desperately need, but change needs more than that. It means training in personal development from early. The attention being given to the gang issue cannot be seen in isolation. We the people have to demonstrate a willingness to go deeper and put more effort into helping our young people to change gears before it's too late.

SAY WHAT? I heard that a photo is floating around online of an unfortunate woman who suffered beheading in one of the nasty husband and wife break-ups which ended in violence. I couldn't believe the original report of the horrible crime. As for the photo, I didn't see it and do not want to. When I asked a colleague if he knew of it, he responded that he was one of those unfortunate enough to have had it sent to him. It made him sick, he said. What was hard to understand was, what in Heaven's name could motivate anyone to acquire such an offensive image, much less pass it on to others? When did we get so morbid and callous? Is this what the Internet was invented for? Worse yet, it is said that the offending photo was sent to a child of the deceased woman. If it's really true, then we're in serious, serious trouble.

The other Jamaica

The Jamaica which has little patience for those who are not winners, is up to insensitivity again. Once again, the rest of the world looks at us differently, treating us with more respect than we do ourselves. Media reports from Sochi, Russia, the scene of the Winter Olympics, tell of the admiration which the sporting world has for the two-man Jamaican bobsled team. They just missed making it into the finals but won the affection of the other competitors who saluted their classiness. Their courage, dedication, and spirit of fight to the end made them heroes, with fans flocking to pay homage. The Jamaican colours went on show once more.

Back home, the silence has been deafening. We don't understand medal-less victory. The guys took Jamaica into the limelight again in a different environment, but we seem to see it as "ah nuh nutten". They earned no medals, so what's the fuss about? 'You see how we stay?' Say after me: "It matters not if you win or lose, but how you played the game". Winston Watts and Marvin Dixon should be acknowledged for their spirit, if nothing else.

Mighty Jamaican woman Dorrit Bent

"Good friends we had/Good friends we lost along the way," sang Mr Marley. Through his now-immortal lyrics we salute good friend Dorrit Bent who has gone along the way. She came from a line of indefatigable Jamaican women who never gave up on this place. She was teacher, social activist, patriot, and a dedicated country woman who also worked in 'town' when the need arose. It would take all day to praise her enough, so with respect we say "Walk good, Dorrit Bent," another mighty Jamaican woman.

gloudonb@yahoo.com

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