We sacrificed for the economy, what will we sacrifice to be crime-free?Thursday, July 14, 2016
Crime and violence is the major obstacle to peace and prosperity. Yet it’s in our gift to change them. We live on goodwill, suppress bad news, dissimulate and affect optimism, but it is horrendous.
We, the people, sacrificed for the economy, what about for crime?
I suggested a police state may be preferable to our criminal one, as our poor already live in one, so why not all of us?
Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte bruits the conversation and Senator Mark Golding is on to it. Marlene said some rights may be "abrogated, abridged or infringed" — big, scary words or big sacrifice for a big goal? Mark cited dangers, queried her standing; but let’s talk, as a Westminster system nuanced Ã la Singapore may work.
After years of pushback we gave up freedoms for the safety, security of seat belts, motorcycle helmets. The right to deface cars in Singapore evaporated after they thrashed a few miscreants. We pay toll to uphold the right of windshield muggers to harass us. Rights are funny things; we got them so can we repudiate, suspend, or give them back?
Murder is the peak of crime, yet it is more important to disrupt the pathways than storm the hill. So indiscipline, unbelief, antisocial conduct is how to begin. No great nation was built without war or a nuanced democracy. The second amendment held a balance of terror to tame America; Canada put citizens into wartime labour camps and survived; India hold millions of poor people in escrow so it can sit at the global top table — all nuanced democracy.
Our risk-averse Cabinets like to be liked so none takes tough decisions. We opposed family planning as a move to kill blacks; we now have great metrics. Mention hard work some yell "no slavery", so Cabinets are cagey — the fear of losing elections outweigh courage to innovate.
We are in a criminal state where miscreants call the shots. Criminals choose when the Jamaica Defence Force leaves barracks. When they wish, we have quiet; when they choose our crime stats go berserk. We underreport crime — laxity, false pride, tourism concerns, disinformation? This is a hard nation. Politicians have good security; the poor have dons; middle- and working-class people are victims. To those with no friends or family, murdered or raped, Jamaica is paradise; others here add a "but"; so would you sacrifice some rights to control crime?
We sacrifice daily. We pay for crime in lost GDP, production; dead friends and family; fear, anxiety, heart attacks. We had Venezuela days — no toilet tissue, rice, tampons, flour; hoarders; black market for decades. We borrow, sacrificed; fitful growth or none, yet the world prospered. Then in four years we sacrificed to a plan. Now economic metrics gone clear!
Fear is contagious, so we curtail social, religious and economic activity and live behind bars — verandas are redundant. We don’t invest; don’t wear our best bling in public to avoid robbers. We choose not to move around our beautiful island, we prefer to "live", or is it be alive.
Jamaica is more murderous than the USA, UK and Canada where millions of us live. We kill some 40 per 100,000; the UK two, Canada few, and America about 4. We are in the top 10 murderous nations yet feel no guilt that we put tourists in harm’s way? The USA has 280m guns and 300 million people; we have few guns but are "Top gun!"
Guns don’t kill, people do; as to kill you must have wish and desire, and we have both. More legal guns do not mean more killing. Households are a nation’s backbone and all should keep and care a legal "long gun". Our lawless environment is a crime incubator fed by indiscipline, sexualised music; grooming kids all funded by Cabinet.
The Church is also complicit as pre-porn stars migrate from pop to gospel and gain respectability for salacious acts. We default to entertainment not work. We hold dances, concerts any day, any hour; but work time is circumscribed. Cabinet promotes music, video, theatre, film, culture which glamorise violence, abuse of women, illegal enrichment, trickery, and guns and big firms support these acts which undermine good values. We plant ackee and expect mango!
Crime is result, not a prime mover. The collateral damage is major but we must tackle causes. Men kill, not women, so what went wrong? Family failed them? Loving homes anchor the nation and discipline is crucial. Why did Europe and America use corporal punishment (spanking today) when at our stage of development? Why can’t we? School is crucial — remediation, knowledge, skills — and it still takes a village. School to work transition gives identity; to earn, spend, be responsible; maturity beckons.
What right or freedom would you limit, suspend, nuance for a safe nation? What restriction in the public space, free speech, social media, finance; or like Ben Franklin, do you think those who sacrifice liberty for safety deserve neither liberty nor safety? Small matters, so sweat the small stuff, such as conduct on the road, in school, public spaces. Next, work is vital as the devil finds work for idle hands. The State must make work until private jobs flow as frustration sets in. The respect agenda must dominate all society — work, school, Church, public space; no disrespect, no race or class epithets. Public property is sacred. Gripe and cuss in your own space. Family must take responsibility for their own; parents for children; daughter, son for mother and father. The State must be a very last resort after due diligence.
What next? We just did four years’ hard graft for the economy, are we up to another four to control crime? Singapore prospered under heavy manners. Can this work for us? Cabinet and partners — business, church, parents — must consider in what areas must we yield to produce what impact on crime?
Our friends abroad and the Diaspora will help and monitor so Cabinet does not misuse our bly. Marlene (or whoever) and Mark must orchestrate this conversation; also the People’s National Party and Jamaica Labour Party. We can control crime, put criminals on the defensive, and give our security forces the upper hand. We must innovate; empower select justices of the peace and firearm holders to be off-peak district constables, special traffic or public order wardens on roads and in communities.
Get cracking, ministers Delroy Chuck and Robert Montague! Stay conscious!
Franklin Johnston, D Phil (Oxon), is a strategist and project manager. Send comments to the Observer or