Crime, poverty and an indifferent society

Crime, poverty and an indifferent society


Sunday, May 17, 2020

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I was recently searching the squatter settlement on the train line in Gregory Park for a wanted man; one more time, for one more man, for one more murder — a drill I have done a thousand times.

Some years ago, I had also searched for the father of the man I was now seeking. I thought to myself, as I navigated between the ugly zinc, the old boards, and the ever present 'chimmy' pot, that it was very likely I will one day search for this man's son.

I pondered the hopelessness of my chosen quest of bringing about change because what I was seeing was not just generational poverty, but generational criminality.

I asked my colleague, as he also ploughed his way through our daily ritual, how he would feel about the Government demolishing this mangle of ugliness and squalor to build houses like those in Tivoli Gardens and Payne Land and giving the same occupants the new structure to live in.

He replied: “In a year it would be a slum again, just a concrete one.”

I asked him why he said that. He told me to go look at the homes in Tivoli Gardens, Payne Land, and “Back To”.

This got me thinking as I have seen this, to be honest in some of the concrete slums I have raided.

So, I reflected on my time spent, for short periods, in British social housing in relatively recent years. They are called “estates” and are mainly occupied by poor minorities and poor whites. I did not see the slum conditions there. I did, however, see slum culture.

So I decided to look deeper into what they had done. I quickly realised that the missing element was money. The British did not just give the people housing for little or nothing. They also gave them money to live and to be frank live relatively well; a welfare state in effect.

Now, 'well' is relative. They are a First World country, so expectation of quality of life is greater. But I noticed that even their children live a lifestyle that we here would consider middle class. They have all their basic needs met, free education, and they even participate in extra-curricular activities that, in our country, are enjoyed by our most fortunate.

The effect on crime?

Well, they have a crime rate 10 times lower than ours. Of course, you cannot look at that in isolation, but human suffering, shame, and that blasted chimmy are non-existent there.

So I went back to my colleague and said that we could reverse the likelihood of the concrete housing becoming slums if, like the British, we gave the dwellers money to live, and live decently.

He replied: “Why should I work every day to take care of people who can take care of themselves?”

So, let me ask you the same question that I asked him: “Would you be willing to have your taxes pay for free housing, welfare cheques, and the end of shanty living?” I bet you wouldn't either.

Let's dig deeper. The children who grow up in these conditions are victims, not creators of their own reality. I think we can all agree on that. So, social welfare would improve their lives. Does this alter your thinking? Would it curb the killing?

Well, I don't think poverty in itself causes violence, or people in rural Jamaica would kill more. However, this squalor is not helping it either.

I know from my own study that 90 per cent of all murder suspects in Portmore come from squatter settlements, yet these types of communities only represent 10 per cent of the housing in the municipality and 50 per cent of Portmore murders take place in these squatter settlements.

All citizens in our country are taxpayers, whether it is income tax or consumption tax. So why is it so bad to expect that the Government will provide a basic standard of human existence?

You pay for it every time you buy food, and everybody buys food. Everybody consumes to live even my noted train line dweller.

Could we fix this issue? After all, Britain did it. Yes, the country with the greatest contribution to human suffering on the planet up to about 1938 made a turnaround and currently represents the best possible treatment of any person in need, in numbers unmatched by any nation.

Has it made all people equal? No, it has not. It's very hard to matriculate upward if you are born in those estates.

Are the crime rates there high? Yes, far too high. But I would argue that if you moved those same people to my train line with no assistance from the Government, the crime rates would be damn higher.

Can Jamaica afford it? Most would say no. I would ask: “How much was just spent by the Police Federation and INDECOM for a bunch of white men in England to tell us who gets to lay charges against the police?”

If we can blow millions on that rubbish, we can take people out of squalor.

Generational crime will only end when generational poverty ends. Social welfare will encourage our people to become dependent and will be abused. It will cost a fortune. It may reduce the killing. But quite frankly, I don't care about the many details. Nobody in our country should be living like that.

No child should be born into those conditions. If it becomes a priority to end it we will find a way to afford it. We got rid of national ignorance with free education. We have given our citizens free health care. Don't tell me we can't get rid of that damn chimmy pot.

It took one man named Clement Attlee to create England's welfare state when he, in 1942, realised the hopelessness of England's poor and the unacceptability of its continuance due to publication of the Beveridge report.

I am in no way suggesting that the freeness culture of a welfare state is one I encourage. I find it abhorrent that people should live without working. However, I would prefer that than seeing one more child being raised like a pig in a sty. And I wonder, is there really not a middle ground? Hmmm!

Michael Manley started the process, but the nation was destroyed as a result of it. Good ideas, needed solutions, but maybe poor implementation. Or maybe the country just wasn't ready to share.

One man in England ended the squalor of Britain's poor.

Who will be the leader to end ours?


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