Columns

Worrying trends and hopeful signs — Part 2

Al Miller

Sunday, December 02, 2018

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A trend is a trend is a trend. But the question is: Will it alter its course through some unforeseen force and come to a premature end? — Alexander Cairncross

Last week I posited that “A worrying trend is a negative matter or behaviour that takes on great significance because it represents a clear and present danger that, if not halted, will increasingly harm more and more people or wider aspects of our society.” Many of our Jamaican trends need to be brought to a premature end before their proliferation brings our country to a premature end.

Contract killings and murders

One such trend which needs to be immediately halted is contract killing. Apparent contract killings are becoming too commonplace. A few weeks ago, at least five schools had parents shot and killed. Some of them had the hallmarks of a contract killing. The others just seemed senseless. The most prominent were those of a businessman Ainsley Foulkes outside Lannaman's Preparatory School, and Nadine Brown at her home in Retreat, St Thomas. These kinds of brutal slaying of our citizens have been with us for a long time, but increasing with callous ease — no fear or care of consequence by perpetrators.

These are not matters to be taken lightly, viewing them as people in 'mix up'. It is pointing to the fact that no one is safe. It give rise to the obvious question: What is producing such cold-blooded killers?

We must find answers fast and arrest the problem and negative trends. They will overturn all hope of serious growth, development and prosperity of a nation.

Foulkes for example was killed in broad daylight, not under cover of night. What emboldens these killers? Do they feel protected and untouchable? Who may be protecting them? Who possibly could give them that level of assurance that would embolden them to kill with impunity!

In addition, each time we read of murders of this sort the profile is that of an employed, gross domestic product (GDP)-contributing citizen being removed from society by an unemployed non-contributor to our national economy. For our country to prosper we must have every citizen being a producer, nation-builder and valued contributor. We cannot be allowing the systematic removal of the few citizens who are currently in that category. This should be a vital concern for our new-era prime minister and his national security chiefs.

For our country to attain the prosperity promised by our current leaders of government, our GDP 'pie' must constantly and consistently be expanded. The bigger the GDP 'pie', the more prosperous the country. Therefore, we cannot allow or take lightly the removal of our GDP contributors through deliberate contract murders and senseless killings.

I believe that one of the reason it's a growing trend is because of the belief that there is little or no consequences to the conduct. The likelihood of being caught is minimal, and if caught chance of getting off is high and punishment, if given, is bearable. No criminal should ever be allowed to think that in an ordered society.

Political decision-making

A trend that has been with us for a long time that's continuing to our detriment is that of our politicians and their partisan political decision-making, rather than decisions that seek pragmatic solutions. A recent example is reflected in the one of last week's newspaper headlines which read, 'House shoots down police request'. This headline pertained to our Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) requesting special, temporary consideration to deal with certain criminal elements; particularly as it pertains to their length of detention. They proposed that the requested extension would allow them to gather further evidence of the perpetrators criminal activity. The Senate flatly denied the request for fear of abuses of citizen's rights. This may seem like a reasonable decision, but is that their primary motivation, and is that a good decision given our current crime problem?

We must find the mature and responsible balance between the rights of our citizens when arrested and the reputation of some of those very citizens arrested. In our fight for justice we will never be successful in curtailing unbridled criminal activity, if there aren't some firm, fair and harsh consequences for citizens who have chosen a life of consistent crime.

We forget and refuse to face the fact that Jamaica's crime problem is an epidemic and must be treated as such until it is brought under control. In circumstances of an epidemic, action has to be drastic and sometimes civil liberties denied for a short time to solve a crisis. Unless in cases of false accusations, which we know the police can and have made — a mi fi tell you — where hard evidence of criminal activity is present, civil liberty cannot take precedence over necessary action to ensure order and justice. Did you notice both sides of the Senate quickly found politically expedient unity on this matter. I presume that was driven by fear of one side getting an advantage if popular opinion went against the pragmatic decision-making for which they should have called. Or could it be that they both still have “nuff fren and cronies” in the criminal gangs and garrisons?

We must understand what the police are asking and see if there is merit. If there is merit, then find a solution that works, but do not throw out what could work because of political expediency or partisanship, especially if you have nothing better with which to replace that which you have thrown out. At least, let's try to make modifications so that it works. Yes, we must be concerned that the rights of law-abiding citizens may be trampled, but which of us do not prefer a police officer trampling our rights, instead of a criminal putting out our 'lights' because he was handled with kids gloves and set free to continue his criminal activity. Surely we have parliamentarians who are bright enough to put strict qualifiers in place to minimise the abuse that may result from increasing the JCF's power to detain. Let's not discard this and other JCF requests in these times of epidemic criminal activity; that is foolhardy.

Economic priority trend

Our world is becoming more and more an economic, financially driven place as sure it takes pride of place over all other considerations. It is economics over principles, economics over people, economics over standards, and every good and righteous thing. So, “'it's all about the bottom line” has become the popular statement.

Most people are watching the bottom line, and to hell with everything else. There is no question that economics, finances, profits are important to life, but life is not economics. Therefore, economics is not the most important thing in life. We have to take care to remember that economic wealth is made, not lived. Life is lived and so what is necessary to be lived must take the priority, such as relationships, beliefs and values.

When economics begin to override these factors people will get hurt and society will be destroyed. The evidence of this is all around us, and whether consciously or unconsciously, it is determining our behaviour and guiding the decision-making process at all levels of society. In the corporate world a major manifestation is the massive lay-off of workers not because of need owing to losses incurred, but to satisfy the greed of making more money (at the expense of those who enabled them to have made the money to where they are today).

Examples of corporate doing this are the banks, large corporations and multinational corporations. They show huge profits, yet do lay-offs for more profits. In the new world losses are no longer real losses. Losses are deemed to be how much more could have been made. The clear message being sent is that astronomical economic profits are more important than people. Whereas there are those who will quickly say that the purpose of business is to make profits, I leave you with the words of successful USA entrepreneur Ray Anderson (July 28, 1934 – August 8, 2011): “For those who think business exists to make a profit, I suggest they think again. Business makes a profit to exist. Surely it must exist for some higher, nobler purpose than that.”

The economic priority trend not only increases unemployment on society, and puts families out of income sources, but the increased workload on the few who remain employed causes more time on the job and less time for family; the bedrock of society.

The increased work burden on the few creates much stress with its attendant problems, but they in agony bear it in order to keep the job. The long-term effects of this economic priority trend will be devastating on Jamaican society if not halted ASAP.

However, the real bigger danger to society is when Government and civil servants thinks this way. They ought to strike the right balance and should always be tilted in favour of the people, because they exist to empower and facilitate the people's wealth creation and not ensure their poverty. This means Government has to be committed to efficiency, reducing waste, giving value for money, as well as minimal and only necessary taxation for better service. Governments driven by economic intake, inefficiency, waste, and greed above service to people will be oppressive.

This has been a developing political trend that has to be transformed in building the new Jamaica. An area of its subtle manifestation is in many of the appointees to boards, committees and even many parliamentarians who do not think people first but economics. Hence, the best interest of the people are not served; this is very evident in the manner and the timing in which things are done. Economics is to be a servant not a master.

A case in point is reflected in a report carried in The Gleaner of Monday, November 26 informing the of the plight of 30 vendors operating on the beach property in Runaway Bay Owned by Urban Development Corporation (UDC), a government entity. It is alleged they were forcefully removed, stalls destroyed, and goods confiscated. Although some notice was given, no alternatives were considered after being allowed to occupy the property for 30 years. Their livelihood is now lost. Who cares? Come on, UDC, you can do better than that. This is economics-driven action above the human interest factor. Was due consideration and best support given? I hope our new-era prime minister would have seen this report and offer the kind of meaningful help to alleviate their plight as this is what sensitive caring governance is about.

Hopeful signs

While we must halt our worrying trends, we must recognise and applaud the hopeful signs around us that may be indicative that we can overcome the issues that have been setting us back as a nation.

Are you aware of the decline in our national debt from 141 per cent of GDP five years ago to less than 100 per cent today and the Government's commitment to further reduce it to 60 per cent is commendable. I hope we don't, at any point, start resting on our laurels. For real prosperity to take effect we must wipe out our national debt and not leave it for our children to pay.

Did you notice the mature non-cass-cass approach of our new-era prime minister, in his keynote speech at the 75th convention of his party. This is commendable! It was void of criticism, attack, tear down , and the empty hype to which we have grown accustomed. It was a sober presentation of where we are and the hope of where we need to be, despite the many challenges ahead to get there. I hope we will see more of this approach from both parties even when they are in campaign mode closer to elections.

Then I am excited to see some parts of the church publicly engaging in challenging and addressing some of the critical issues in society that are causing problems. There is evidence of increased collaborating with other groups to work for solutions and address even Government to seek correction of maladies. The leadership guards are changing, bringing new attitudes and approaches from some younger emerging leaders who are now taking first-level leadership.

These are hopeful indicators that we can build the new Jamaica that we all want to see; a truly prosperous society and place to live, work, raise families and do business. So let's do our part to halt the worrying trends and increase the hopeful signs every chance we get.

Rev Al Miller is pastor of Fellowship Tabernacle. Send comments to the Observer or pastormilleroffice@gmail.com

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