Sunday, March 3, 2013

Rage driving violent crime - the Peter O'Connor commentary

There is a powerful undercurrent of rage sweeping our society. And it has been there for several years now, inexorably flowing beneath the deceptive distractions of Carnival and political bacchanal.

And this rage is erupting almost daily in fiery protests and lawlessness. And surely this seething rage is behind much of the violent crime we see. 
As violent crime becomes more entrenched everywhere in Trinidad and Tobago, the more fearful and suspicious we all become, and therefore we become more reactive to everything, whether it is shooting someone who bumps into us at a fete, or storming out of our neighbourhoods to block roads, burn tyres and shout down the police and the government. 

Those of us who are not burning tyres or shooting people expect to be robbed in mall car parks, at traffic lights, liming in bars or at our homes.

This crime wave, well into its 11th year, shows no sign of abatement. Indeed, we should not expect any significant easing of its turmoil and grief, for that is not going to happen, not without significant and long-term corrective action by the society as a whole. 

In simple terms, it is us, we the people, who have brought ourselves to this dreadful state. And we know nothing about how we might turn this undercurrent back, and begin to rescue our neighbourhoods and our country from the hatred, lawlessness and violence sweeping over us. 

And “we” means everyone, the PNM, the UNC, the PP, the police, the business communities, religious bodies, various “anti-crime” organisations — everyone.

Everything we have done, and everything which we currently plan to do has but one goal. And that is the forced suppression of what we fear most of all — gun and violent crime.

We fool ourselves (and governments encourage us to believe) that the source of our problem is violence and murders.

However, that is the fruit of our problem. The source lies elsewhere — much deeper. The source of the violence we so fear is the basic lawlessness which has swept our land.

The murders and the growing violent anarchy are spawned by the cancer of lawlessness, selfishness and greed which now rule our lives.

You cannot cap a volcano, no more than you can turn back the tide, and all of our initiatives on crime are directed at suppression, trying to prevent the eruptions which have their genesis in far more remote settings than a hail of bullets in someone’s bedroom or a severed head left in a bar.

Do we understand anything about the people who operate at these levels of violence? What drives them? What can be done, if anything, to redirect them? 

And if we do not understand them, then what about their children, who will grow in their molds and who will continue the life of taking what they want, killing those who get in their way and totally disregarding every law of the land and every rule of a supposedly civilized society?

What we are seeing today is much worse than what we were seeing in 2003, when I began writing about the crime wave as it was then. We understood nothing about the roots of crime then, and we know even less today. We want to bring back hanging, flogging in schools and even the criminal “Flying Squad”.

In 2003 we were using soldiers to patrol with the police, and in 2013 we are trying that again. And in August 2003 I wrote in this space “Coming — A Citizens’ Consultation on Crime” in which I called for a meaningful dialogue and study on the roots of crime. 

I had based that call upon a document produced earlier that year by The Elders of Laventille. These Elders had held their own consultation and produced a document “Strategies for the eradication of crime in Laventille and Environs”.

It was a meaningful analysis of the causes of crime and recommendations for crime reduction. But for ten years this study has been ignored.

Yes, we need to stop the violent crime. But this cannot be done by just squeezing the violent and the dispossessed back into their ghettoes, or into jails. Indeed to get them into jails we need to drastically improve our policing and our courts. 

But we need to understand the roots of crime in our society, and work to raise children to have understanding of discipline, loyalty, ethics and morality — traits which have disappeared.

The reduction — as opposed to the suppression — of crime is a massive and long-term task. And because we do not understand the scope of what we face, I call again for a meaningful National Consultation on Crime and Lawlessness, in the hope that we the people, who allowed the situation to reach this stage, may find solutions in a nation-wide dialogue.

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai