The root of all problems

MANY individuals have been critical of the tenure of the United States in Vietnam between 1965 and 1973. They say that the US should never have been there.

Well, how many times have we looked into the reason they were there?

Most who say the US shouldn't have been there don't even realise that the French were there before. So was it the French who started the conflict?

Not really. It was a colony of France that for many years was known as French Indochina. In World War II it was invaded after France fell to Germany by Japan, who was an ally of Germany during that era.

The Vietnamese resistance was led by Ho Chi Minh, who was the US's man on the ground during World War II. When the war ended, Vietnam wanted their independence from France and the Americans couldn't assist them as France was their ally. So Vietnam turned to the Soviet Union.

France fled after receiving a sound flogging at the garrison at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, and America joined in 1965 to prevent the spread of communism and the Vietnam war began for them.

So my point is that, although many say the Americans were at fault for being in Vietnam, it really started with Japan. Everything has a root, and in hindsight many tragedies could have been avoided.

I speak often of the 70s civil war being the root of our gang culture, and we can only assume or dream of what life would have been like for us if it didn't happen.

So let's go back to before 2010 when lottery scamming first started. We didn't realise the depth of the contribution to the improved quality and quantity of assault rifles and handguns in Jamaica that would have resulted.

Lottery scamming has destroyed Montego Bay, resulting in an increase in murders that doubled the pre-scamming era one year.

Can you imagine if St Andrew, Kingston, and Spanish Town and Portmore had followed Montego Bay? And, yes, this is all because of lottery scamming.

I think that most considered it a victimless crime because it really began as some moron putting on an accent telling a vulnerable person that they won the lottery and need to send processing fees.

The individual losses weren't considered that significant and it seemed simplistic.

What also wasn't considered is how lucrative it could be and what the money would be used for. Well, fast-forward a dozen years and the underworld is the best armed it has ever been — and scamming has become a part of our culture.

What could we have done differently?

Well, we could have enacted the laws that were needed to combat it earlier and not waited until the Americans forced us to act.

Going forward, we have to find a way to kill the culture.

By this I don't mean kill the scammers but to instead make the practice one with which no one wants to be affiliated.

Currently, songs are being sung about it and it has an image that reflects it being 'cool'.

Stamping it out can be done in three ways. First, make it easier for persons to be charged for it; currently it is too limited in its application. Second, introduce long sentences for the crime; ensure that each person convicted gets a 10-year sentence. Thirdly, market the effects — bring the victims to the surface, expose their suffering.

Let this generation of young persons who aren't directly involved realise that the money and cars are paid for by the suffering of elderly persons. The disdain will discourage the practice.

Over the last 30 years I have seen a shift in the way domestic violence is treated. Men who beat women are viewed as pariahs, cowards, and low lifes.

It wasn't always so. It was actually a part of our culture that men ran their homes with an iron fist, and the use of violence was accepted. It has changed.

You can't acquire a gun permit if your partner indicates that you strike her. If you're a gun owner and the Firearm Licensing Authority gets a hint that you have been reported for domestic abuse, your gun is gone. Police response used to be slow and ineffective. This also has changed.

When I was a teenager everyone smoked cigarettes. I was an athlete, and I smoked. You could smoke on planes, in cinemas, in restaurants. Try that now. If you are a smoker it's as if you have leprosy; people don't want to associate with you. Trust me, marketing is king.

Marketing made racism in the United States appear as a behavioural characteristic associated with stupidity. It wasn't always so.

Our problem is that we didn't realise how damaging this new crime would be to our crime environment — we still don't realise how damaging scamming is to us now. Young men who are not engaged in it and who are not criminals view it as acceptable conduct — that is a real problem. Because it's acceptable it continues at an epidemic rate and is steadily arming the gangs to a level where they can challenge the armed forces. This is a crisis.

Only remand, long sentences, and an easy road to arrest and charge can fight any crime that has become an epidemic. It's that simple.

The anti-gang legislation is doing a lot but could do much more if it were easier to lay charges and easier to prosecute.

We need to treat this with the importance it deserves.

One in three thugs I talk to admits to scamming during casual conversation. They do so because they sense the acceptance. They, however, never admit to being in a gang.

The fall of every nation, people, or Government is usually synonymous with signs that were ignored. If this culture is not destroyed and this pipeline of money does not stop it will eventually arm Jamaica's gangs to a point of no return.


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