The germ that infects and weakens JamaicaThursday, December 02, 2021
The horrific cultic events that transpired on October 17 at Kevin Smith's Pathways International Kingdom Restoration Ministries compound in Albion, St James, and the blood-curdling testimonies emanating from the courts in the Klansman gang trial have exposed a deeper problem which has prevented Jamaica from achieving its potential as a nation. When the two are juxtaposed and examined together one sees a common germ that infects and weakens the Jamaican body politic.
There is, it seems, a fatal attraction between Jamaicans and those things that degrade and divide us. Ours is a gullible populace, easily led astray into 'badness' and self-destructive behaviour by every new or strange thing — be that fake news, a rumour, a lie, or a personality.
The feeling, especially among the underclass, of needing a saviour, deliverer, or protector opens pathways (pun intended) for the likes of Kevin Smith (now deceased) to divide, rule, and conquer. We are easily swayed by both messenger and message, principalities, powers, and rulers of darkness so that we turn away from collective responsibility and on each other in an orgy of blame-finding, finger-pointing, backbiting, back-stabbing, in-fighting, and self-annihilation. Ours is a society turned against itself in rage. Who can deny it?
There are causative factors to the internecine warfare that has come to characterise our relationships. Some commentators have pointed to the slavery experience and the so-called Willie Lynch syndrome, a form of mental conditioning used by planters to cause slaves to be at perpetual war among themselves instead of against the common enemy. Others, me included, go back to more recent history to the tribal politics following universal adult suffrage, especially the 1960s and 1970s, and the emergence of political garrisons and the associated subculture of donmanship, badmanism, and crassness.
The necessary research to determine where the national psychosis and resulting abhorrent behaviour began is incomplete and inconclusive. But there is no gainsaying the fact that efforts by successive administrations, backed by resources from bilateral and multilateral agencies, to solve the crime problem and create a harmonious and prosperous society — the society of the national pledge and vision 2030 — have largely failed.
In an October 15, 2019 Jamaica Observer article titled 'A litmus test on social intervention programmes in Jamaica', National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang stirred up controversy by admitting to the failure of traditional social intervention programmes to stop the scourge of hopelessness, mayhem, and murder: “The project-based manner in which social intervention programmes have been traditionally carried out in Montego Bay, and undoubtedly across the wider Jamaica, are not appropriately designed to ensure continuity and longevity at the community level. As a result, these programmes have not generated the kind of impact that would sustainably undermine the work of crime and violence producers in these communities.”
So what's the solution? Certainly not states of emergency (SOEs) in which the minister and the Administration of which he is a part, out of desperation, have placed faith. This stop-gap measure is like applying a tourniquet to stop the bleeding from a punctured artery. Necessary at first, but keep it in place as a permanent or curative fixture and the affected limb becomes dysfunctional. Like that wounded limb in need of a permanent fix, Jamaica has become a dysfunctional society.
In attempting to eliminate the demons of antisocial behaviour and crime — especially rampant murder, which at close to 46 per 100,000 exceeds, by far, the regional and world averages of about 15 and seven per 100,00 people in the populace, respectively — we have been focusing on the tip of the iceberg — the symptoms – and not the root causes.
Left untreated, the disease that started in urbanised communities within 12 or so political constituencies has metastasised to affect much of the country and corrupted the culture, making it resistant to the kind of Band-Aid treatment we see with security forces posted in an increasing number of communities.
In an October 29, 2021 editorial, the Observer advanced the following recommendation, ostensibly to attack the problem at the root: “There needs to be culture change. That requires unrelenting education from the cradle onwards to stimulate civic pride and responsibility. Beyond school, embedding of that take-charge, responsible quality which will help to minimise antisocial behaviour and crime – and ultimately lead to a more progressive, united, prosperous Jamaica – requires thorough organisation, socialisation, and training at the grass-roots, community level. The aim must be to help people to help themselves, their community, and society in every respect.”
Like the response to a public health crisis, solving a problem this deep-seated and of this magnitude requires joined-up action by every agency of government and segment of the society. The best minds in the nation need to come together to chart a course of action involving cognitive behavioural therapy, community renewal, and sustained activity towards creating a more inclusive and equitable economy and a harmonious and united society. Nothing less than a concerted national effort backed by resources and political will can stem the tide and return the society to civilised co-existence.
Looking at the atrocities committed over recent months against man, woman, and child; against the environment, including beaches, vegetation, and mangroves; against national assets such as Jamaica Urban Transit Company buses; and against our very way of life, one wonders whether the mental, spiritual, moral, social, economic, and cultural decomposition in the society has reached a point of no return. It's a problem begging for a solution.