We can destroy this giant of crime and violence
REV AL MILLER
Why do people kill…?
I think they do it when… nothing in their lives is good enough to balance out the bad….
— Mary Beth Miller
The Jamaica Observer editorial of Monday, August 27 echoes sentiments that are strongly held by myself and others — sentiments which I have voiced from various angles in my weekly column. The editor's headline read, in part ...Face down crime... there is no other way! The editorial went on to build a case regarding the importance of communities to organise to help fight and defeat the criminal elements in their areas. It said:
“... if Jamaica is to stop criminals, there will have to be systematic and sustainable organisation of communities to assist the police in every shape and form, always within the ambit of the law.”
The issue of crime and its heinous nature is of such importance to the welfare of every citizen that it is worthy of continuous clamouring — clamouring for action until the requisite responses come forth from all who can impact it until the change comes. Constant and increased pressure must be placed on Government, security forces, politicians, church and citizens. Greater collaborative action is urgently needed along with the application of different approaches.
Let me address some important points raised in the editorial for discussion:
“...it's full time for Jamaicans to draw a line. The Government, with prime minister and opposition leader taking the lead, should seek to galvanise political representatives, church leaders, business leaders and so-called civil society.”
There can be no new Jamaica, progress and prosperity without defeating the giant of crime. It cannot play second fiddle to any other area of national development at this time. It has to be the Government's priority and every citizen's problem to be solved! I have no doubt that for some leaders and citizens that is so. But I question whether the problem is correctly diagnosed, correct treatment prescribed and more so, are enough of us concerned and taking action?
When will we get serious about the problem to do what it will take? Or is it that we genuinely do not know what it will take or where this problem will take us if it's not solved in short order? These are real possibilities! Many failed attempts have been made for decades, therefore ignorance of best wisdom might really be the problem.
I will therefore publicly offer a word of wisdom towards a solution at the end of this column. The country cannot afford to wander in the wilderness and circle this mountain one more year. Deal with it now. I am calling it now and demanding a public response from my political and pastoral leaders and peers! This nation must be transformed and by God's grace it will be transformed in my lifetime. I am compelled to call for what it is, pressure for action and do all I can to help produce the change, even if it has to make some uncomfortable. The interest of the nation and the people takes priority .
If the current leaders are not prepared, able or willing to accept counsel and help to deal with it, then they must move out of the way and allow others to do so.
Leaders let's be courageous!
Yes, I am addressing leaders politically and pastorally, leaders of garrison and garrison-type constituencies (which is now nearly all constituencies) as the tentacles of the crime octopus have spread widely. I am addressing the political party leaders in particular, for a response and action and I ask the prime minister to lead on this one in the new era style, as he has been doing in other important areas.
He has shown that he is willing to take some tough decisions. This will be his toughest, for it is essential to our national survival in this time. History has shown that there comes a time when special transformational leaders must face a great challenge of their leadership. I am reminded of the words of Harry S Truman, former president of the USA:
“Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skilful leaders seize the opportunity to change things.”
However, history has shown that there is always going to be a price to pay. Often it's the few who have to make the sacrifice for the good of the many.
I have carried a heavy burden for this nation in my heart. I feel the pain of it in my belly. I have suffered the wounds and bear the scars for it. I certainly will not sit back and watch it wither away into complete chaos or anarchy. Neither am I running away and leaving it nor will I allow my voice to be silenced by those who have tried to silence it. I will work tirelessly to help build the new Jamaica.
There are thousands at home and abroad who share my sentiments. Men and women willing to work for the transformation and restoration of civility, justice and peace, so Jamaica can prosper and play her part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race.
The editorial also said: “Criminals must be made to know that the entire community is against them.”
The time is now. It cannot wait for another season. Our situation is at crisis proportions. All serious God-loving, nation-loving Jamaicans must stand up now, commit and engage to do all we can to build this potentially great nation into actualised greatness. Proverbs 14 verse 23 says, “Hard work brings profit, more talk leads to poverty.”
Destroy the roots of crime
As I wrote a few weeks ago, 'We cannot call ourselves a civilised society and be content to allow these senseless murders to continue.' The crime problem has to be resolved now and from its various roots.
Some roots like poverty, injustice and destructive mindsets require a more long-term solution, but one primary root is totally in our power. I will call it the artificial root, a root planted by a negatively shaped political culture and its derivatives. Just as by our deliberate actions we created it, so we can choose by action to cancel it. All inner-city gun-related crime can find connectivity to the donmanship culture and by extension the political leadership. Consequently, the political leadership can have transforming influence on it.
The garrison system that allowed the rape, murder and burning of the body of 14-year-old Yetanya Francis in Arnett Gardens late Thursday night August 23 or early Friday morning, by wicked and evil men, must cease now. This type of violence is not new as some are suggesting.
Let me say again as I did a few weeks ago, 'Murders and wanton violence have become so commonplace that more of us are becoming numb to them. We are no longer moved, we no longer shed a tear. No longer are we angry; we are instead beaten down to a mute acceptance; a posture that says, “Just another one, me cyaan do nutten 'bout it.” This must be transformed.
This gruesome expression of lack of reverence for life is an example of what has become commonplace and part of the normal life of oppression suffered by the residents of the inner city. Who feels and carries their daily pain? No one. Except when the case hits the front page of our newspapers. But what you see when it occasionally appears on the front page or the seven o'clock news is the daily reality of too many of our precious citizens.
Rise up! Take a stand!
We must find a way to stimulate the residents of our communities to rise up and take a stand against the criminal elements in their areas. Many of the perpetrators are the very sons and daughters of the communities in which they are a scourge! Let's return to the time when it was not just a single mother, single dad or couple raising a child, but the whole village.
But it's not just the village community that must take a stand; we all must. Creation of the new Jamaica means we have to uproot and destroy the bed that causes crime to flourish. Yetanya Francis' blood and the blood of numerous others cry out to us, not just for justice but to 'stop the madness now'! As I said in the last column, my spirit is angry so I am going for the jugular of the crime giant. Join with mi nuh?
The kind of crime we have been seeing — decades of murderous rampages — will not come to an end until it is thoroughly and completely rejected by our systems, structures and the powers that be. The political representatives must not only say that it must stop; they must mean it and act accordingly. Every representative of garrison communities can significantly impact the crime in his or her constituency. Why has it not been done to date? There is an answer for that question.
Whoever is responsible for such wicked acts in a garrison community is known by the people. Who did it can easily be known by the MP. Whether he/she wants to know or can do anything with what they know is the question. If they can't, why? There is an answer to the question.
All must be ready to fight this horrendous scourge of criminal activity. Political representatives can find out who is responsible. If not, they aren't worth their salt or they are liars or just don't want to know, and that is a possibility. There would be reasons for either of the positions stated above. The question is why? There is also a clear answer for that question.
Answers to the whys #1 & 2
Here is why I believe we have not been able to uproot the crime giant, and here's what renders our leaders seemingly powerless. There can be no real freedom from enslaving, oppressive conditions without truth. We must acknowledge the truth of the situation and find the courage to act accordingly.
The truth is, we devolved into a political tribal culture that has created divisions, which have produced the now known garrison phenomenon. Garrisons offer sure seats in an election and provide the secure crowd base for political rallies and the 'strong arm man' for political intimidation to bolster support and compliance in other constituencies, as is considered necessary to secure votes.
In order to maintain these conclaves of support, the political leaders must be willing to 'see and blind' and 'hear and deaf'. They are often forced by the situation to endure what they neither like nor approve. Before long, it becomes normal and often used. This morphed into the perceived necessity to defend and protect the turf and control territory by the use of guns on behalf of the tribe.
Since nothing that has life remains static, the tribal culture grows its own leadership called dons. These dons are sometimes benevolent dictators and sometimes cruel and autocratic. They feel an obligation to generate income by extortion and other often nefarious means to support a welfare system and weapons purchases without having to lean on the creators of the tribal culture — our politicians and their supporting business class.
The whole scenario becomes a culture ruled by fear and engulfs even the political system in a web from which it is difficult for anyone to extricate self. The price to disturb it becomes too high as the playing field is far from level with its many nuances. The reality is that the hands of the political representatives are systematically tied. This makes them individually incapable and fearful for varying reasons to effectively speak to wrongdoing or surrender criminals to the police.
Answers to the why #3
The communities are gripped in fear, so no one will speak. In addition, low trust levels in the police for confidentiality and protection worsen the problem. The result is heightened criminality and the increased wickedness of evil men. The heightened criminality and increased wickedness drive fear into the hearts of even political representatives whose job is to lead their communities rightly. Fear causes them to cower and do nothing or compromise and pretend that they are doing something by speaking out against crime on television or in the press, while coddling criminals.
This is why we cannot sustainably defeat the giant. In such situations no one political side can easily break the nexus to bring about real change. The solution has to be one that addresses the system and levels the playing field for all.
Word of wisdom towards a solution
I will boldly state that the only way to accomplish stemming the problem in an equitable way is for the political leadership and their parties to agree and commit to a fresh start approach. An approach that levels the playing field for both political parties. An approach that helps them solve the problem they want solved without losing ground to the other side. Let's not argue about who created the problem, what we need urgently is a workable solution. I posit that we draw a line in the sand by a fresh start approach.
A fresh start requires that the law must be upheld going forward. This will require three vital action steps:
1. Party leadership must unequivocally declare publicly that what has been and the system that now exists is wrong, evil, negative and cannot produce progress and prosperity.
2. Party leadership must make a call to their supporters to abandon the gun and criminal lifestyle; call for peace and unity and tell them to turn from a criminal lifestyle. They must demand that their supporters put down the guns — the war, real or imagined, is over.
3. The leadership of both parties must set a common date and declare to their party faithful that after that date, any and all who engage in criminality in its various expressions will be severely dealt with by the rule of law and will not be shielded but rather exposed by the political parties and their representatives at all levels.
Please do not even think about saying that it can't work, it can, if the will is present. We know how inner city run! Man follow the leader, it is the basis on which donmanship culture works. The few with rebellious tendencies could easily be dealt with by law enforcement. With this approach our political parties would then be able to dissociate from the negatives of the past and do politics differently.
Fourth important Fresh Start Step
A fourth step to support the process and bridge this new era scenario is in the hand of the prime minister and his Government. Appoint and help resource a National Social and Mobilisation Team of persons who are able to communicate with the masses to prepare the communities and nation for a fresh start approach; a team able to inspire and motivate citizens from all walks of life.
It's time to really get serious. It's time to find a way out of this dreadful conundrum.
I have provided a fresh start solution above. Is there a better idea? Let's put it on the table for dialogue and action. If no, then let's work with this.
What is for sure, we cannot continue to do what we have been doing, and not to do anything is to show contentment with the conundrum. It is critical that we destroy this giant of crime and violence. We must stop perpetuating it! We must stop vacillating about it! We must...before it destroys us all. What say you?