Occupation of the inner city


Sunday, March 17, 2019

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The post-World War II occupation of the empire of Japan by the United States' military was perhaps the most successful occupation ever attempted by a conquering nation, and indeed the United States.

The occupation was most difficult because it was attempting a cultural change in a country that by its very theory of existence was myopic, xenophobic and hostile to foreigners.

The Bushido code that guided this culture glorified war and, in particular, represented an almost fanatical belief in obedience to a leadership that had been now defeated.

Jamaicans in the inner-city, gang zones, or hot spots — or whatever new fancy politically correct name you want to use as a noun for slums under the virtual control of gangs — have themselves their own unique culture. They are, as I have said before, an anomaly to the general culture of our country.

Jamaica has typically been a nation with a violent history of conflict — from Maroon wars to labour riots.

However, after these conflicts, harmony returned with a common though denied acceptance that it was provoked. The 1970s is when a new culture developed in Kingston and St Catherine in the political garrisons. Killing was here introduced into daily conflicts at a rate never before seen in Jamaica's history.

Over the seven years of civil war — 1974 to 1980, conflict raged and killing became normal. This was totally contrary to the 1960s, where the troubles brought violence, but by comparison, not murders. Even the first two years of the 70s were not killing years.

By 1981 calm returned, but killing remained at a rate that never existed before 1974. This did not alarm our leaders, because it was so much better than 1980. However, none of them seemed to realise that it was still three times higher than in 1970.

Generation after generation have been born in these zones and grow up seeing killing, so much so that it has become a part of their culture. It is not a massive area geographically that the zones occupy, nor is it a major percentile of our population that are cultured this way. But unchecked, this group infected with this culture has destroyed the country.

Some blame poverty. I do not agree. We are not as poor as Haiti, but our per capita murder rate is twice as high, despite our economic superiority. Some say it is our history. I don't agree. When the cultured occupants of Europe were slaughtering each other in World War II at a rate that would make Genghis Khan envious, Jamaicans were violent, but not homicidal.

Now, let us return to the occupation of Japan by the Americans. They managed to kill the Bushido culture of Japan and convert a nation of homicidal maniacs — which aptly describes World War II Japan — to a peaceful people bent on economic progress, not on defeating neighbours. This is not to say they are sheep. Many changes made by the General McArthur-led occupation, including the restrictions on monopolies, etc, were made after 1952.

I have taken you through this history lesson because I am proposing an occupation of our inner-city killing fields; not to recover guns or apprehend wanted men, but rather to change the culture. I am suggesting that a plan be devised for a long-term occupation, where control lies in the hands of law enforcement, making killing almost impossible, or at least much more difficult.

Killing is only an acceptable norm in environments where people grow up seeing it occur around them. Occupied territories in Jamaica do not commit murder. Under occupation, such as that, even fatal shootings by the police become less.

If we can raise a generation of inner-city citizens to whom murder is as uncommon as it is in Norbrook, that generation will not see it as a norm and will therefore be less likely to practise it. If we believe this, then we can create a plan to achieve it.

The Cambodian killing fields of the 1960s and 1970s up to the fall of the Pol Pot regime, was much more brutal and murderous than our killing zones. They are not even remotely what they were then. People can change. Culture can be converted.

I honestly believe that this occupation could be achieved with the use of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) the rural police force, that is district constabulary, and the special district constabulary. The latter group in recent times is being armed and represents a new force that could be utilised at a significantly lower cost.

However, the leadership of the units must be JCF. This occupation should have encouraged participation of human rights groups to remove the possibility of abuse and should be geared at changing the culture by preventing killing. It, however, would have to be long term; minimum 10 years. Cultural change takes time.

If the gangs do not conform, the occupation will be replaced by a ZOSO and the detention powers that come with it. This will dissuade resistance. Gangsters do not like being relocated. Neither do cockroaches. Yet another similarity. Hmmm.

It may seem unaffordable, but so was free education, free health, highways and the Cricket World Cup.

Our problem is that we do not understand that the killing is anti-cultural and the exposure to it is what is causing its recurrence. The theory that we can imprison and kill all the killers is flawed. We cannot win this way because we are producing new ones like a factory in China. If that could work, their own killing of each other would result in reduced murders and that is not happening, and they're killing each other like it is a video game.

New zones are being schooled in this culture as well. Various communities in Montego Bay, if not checked, will go through cultural adaptation.

I recall that as a teenager I used to smoke cigarettes because I saw my parents smoking. In later years I started to hang out with athletes such as Robert Richards and others from badminton, who were older and would not allow me to smoke. I was, thus, forced to stop. Now my children do not smoke cigarettes. Is it because they fear me? Not at all. It is that they did not grow up around it; it is simply not their culture to smoke cigarettes.

Every great achievement began with an idea and then an investigation. Let us even look at this as a possibility.

Jason McKay is a criminologist. Feedback: jasonamckay@gmail.com

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