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HomeOpinionCommentaryCrime: A certain perception - Part 1

Crime: A certain perception – Part 1

In a two-part series on Crime, entitled: – A Certain Perception – Dr Velon John presents his considerations, adding: “I sincerely hope that among the grains of my thoughts you will have discerned a pearl of wisdom – and of truth.”

By Dr Velon John

This paper, which in some measure is a compilation of my thoughts over a period of time, reflects my thinking on the generic issue of the breakdown of Law and Order, its linkages with relevant societal components, and its attendant consequence of the tsunami of crime that has engulfed and alarmed our society by its ubiquity, heinousness, constancy and plurality.

And so at this time and contextually speaking, this our country, as I see it, is in a state of crisis. And in consequence thereof, is the urgent and desperate need for innovative, creative, pragmatic thinking, and strategies to deal with this criminogenic scourge.

And looking at our society through the doorway of crime, I see necessity and anger woven in the fabric of our doings and un-doings. The former as we know is the mother of invention just as anger is the father.

Considering the crisis that we now face, we the movers and the shakers in this society, and on whatever level and in whatever sphere, have to be creative and proactive in the posture that we assume in the containment of crime. And it is a posture that must be holistic; for it is only in so doing that we can bring about a salubrious revolution in thought, perception, attitude and conduct of the members of the society. And when we speak of crisis, the countermeasures must be creative and creatively draconian.

It is to be noted that this alarming and disconcerting incidence and the phenomenon of crime, is not peculiar to Saint Lucia. It is a virtual feature of our vaunted Caribbean civilization – Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, St Kitts – Nevis and others, are caught up in this criminogenic pandemic. A few years back, and if I can correctly recall, Washington issued a crime emergency advisory in its region in spite of the abundance of its human, financial, psychological and technological resources. Very recently, the same obtained in New York. However, looking inward there is still a certain geographic specificity.

From this, one can see the patent need to transcend parochial, partisan and political divides; and come together as a nation to deal with the crisis of crime here in Saint Lucia. And in this context, partisan politics is woefully dysfunctional, though, and paradoxically so, crime needs to be politicised as our immanent proclivities or propensities constrain our aspiring sublimation.

To say that crime should not be politicised is inane; for the very provenance of crime is inextricably linked with (1) human conduct that has been proscribed by the various arms or organs of government and (2) the human condition that must be addressed by the body politic. Crime is an inevitable feature of every society and like education and health, it must on some level and from some perspective be a policy matter for government. Indeed and unfortunately, we are both sinners and saints: and that is indeed the fundamental ambiguity of the human condition.

The seemingly inherent or acquired need to score political points seems to be the order of the day; and this precludes the appreciation and acceptance of objective, cogent, edifying and meritorious views and suggestions which in the final analysis leave us wallowing in a mire of dysfunctional, mediocre commonality that is antithetical to the rigours of creative thought and action, that are needed to adequately deal with the crisis of our time. And anomie, hopelessness and even helplessness seem to prevail, and the country seems directionless as far as the containment of crime is concerned.

We all seem to be confused, even lost, as the shamans in the urban and rural communities rake in our hard-earned dollars as he or she prophesies on matters that cannot be prophesied. And so our son is shot, our daughters stabbed: and yet it has not dawned upon us that the pathos that surrounds us and in terms of its genesis, is of the making of the very adult society. We are all complicit. I am complicit.

A paradigm shift has to be made so that the recommendations emanating from this exercise can be embarked upon within the context of a holistic approach to the containment of crime. And this all-encompassing approach must be predicated upon two fundamental approaches that must be linked and must supplement each other. They are (1) the climate of crime; and (2) the climate for crime. A disjunction on the level of theory and practice will not cut the mustard.

As we have all noticed and experienced, the incidence of crime is alarming; hence this exercise: today’s presentation. And what has accentuated or exacerbated this alarming situation is the nefarious involvement of our youth in this scenario of vicious, mindless and sometimes deadly activity. And so, the question that arises, is what we as a society can do to paralytically address this wanton destruction of life, limb and property?

What can we the people do to contain this scourge? And by people, I mean the body politic, civil society, the churches, the schools, the homes. What is it that we the people can do to realistically face on an individual and collective basis the mirror on the wall of our lives? We have been here all this time, doing or undoing what?

In terms of the aetiology of crime, we have heard mentioned these factors: unemployment, dysfunctional homes, ubiquitous and continuous texting, genetic endowments, TV influence, absence of discipline in school and the homes, sibling rivalry, characterological disposition, poverty, and even the internet. From this one can conclude that crime and in particular youthful crime is a multifaceted phenomenon as far as its provenance is concerned. No one factor can be taken out of this miasma of causation as being the main cause of crime in our society.

And since these elements of causation are linked in varying degrees then the conclusion that can be arrived at, is that the genesis of crime reposes in our individual and collective sins of commission and omission. We are all responsible. From the sinner to the priest and from the beggar to the prince.

In the context of “youth crime” there has been a perverse metamorphosis from the mid-seventies among those generations of youth, to now: and which has metastasised throughout the societal corpus. One event during that block of time that was significantly instrumental in bringing about this perverse, noisome metamorphosis was the 25-year-old shift system in a distressing number of our primary schools. And that system if I can correctly recall was terminated in 2021.

It was a period of time when school children in their formative years were left unsupervised at a critical point in their lives and development. What did the shift students, who are now parents and grandparents do, during those unsupervised periods of time and endeavouring to cope with their pubertal libidinous propensities?

This shift period devoid of parental supervision and guidance replicated itself day after day for twenty-fiver years. Can you imagine the damage in terms of character, attitude, morality and deportment? Like rudderless ships, they crashed against the rocks and subterranean reefs of an increasingly materialistic and individualistic world. Respect for self and others disappeared or was sacrificed on the altar of a rather secular, hedonistic society.

Can you imagine the mass psychological carnage with youthful needs and quasi adult wants in a melange of uncontrolled exuberance? The incandescent passions of youth, given venereal expression in a bacchanalian environment. And that situation of juvenile depravity and decadence was further compounded by the society transforming itself into a tourist economy, where the exigencies of this economic activity necessitated the introduction of another commercially oriented shift system which still exists today.

Isn’t then hypocritical to blame, at this time our youth, since we created their world? And are you surprised that at this time we are indeed reaping the whirlwind?

I think that it would be interesting and instructive if a socio-economic, generational and demographic study were to be carried out to determine where those who formed and are forming the shift cohort are presently positioned in this society; and then compare them and their children with those we did not experience the shift or effect generationally. So much that was crucial, critical and indispensable were denied the “shift children”, in terms of their wholesome development. A virtual storm was created in their lives and that of their children, and now we are embracing that storm with trepidation. And so to you, the seemingly untouched, unblemished, pristine and even righteous ones: you the adults before me I pose three questions.

  • How can you undo what has not been done?
  • How can you reform what has not been reformed?
  • How can you rehabilitate he or she who has not been habilitated?

As stated earlier, I have discerned a perverse metamorphosis among the youth of this country. At this time and in this era, the youth have a cognitive discernment of what is wrong and what is right: what is good and what is evil: and what is vicious, virulent and what is benign. But they do not have a moral sensitivity to that which is criminal and that which is not. There is a certain characterological dissonance between their moral sensibilities and their knowledge of good and evil… They have the intelligence but not the morality. And as I have said in times past intelligence and morals are ethical and an ethical being can make choices but among the choices are the things he or she will not do.

And so, when a boy of 19-years shoots another within the comfort of his home, or a girl of 16-years stabs her friend, that is not a matter of immorality. When a secondary school girl shoplifts along the Micoud Street promenade that is not a matter of immorality. When a young man shoots his partner in the drug trade, that is not a matter of immorality. When a schoolgirl joins the prostitution ring in the CDC that is not a matter of immorality. When a young man shoots from the window of a moving car at a crowded rum shop, and in consequence thereof a patron is coerced into surrendering, rather untimely, his mortality, that is not a matter of immorality. And when a 17-year-old student sits in the front of her class with her thighs apart and smilingly gives her male teacher an unobstructed view of her titillating, fascinating possibilities, that is not immorality. At this time, in this era, in this age, these are not incidents of immorality.

For immorality implies a certain grounding in moral values, morals, dogmas, moral teaching that has become warped or tainted because of the negative vicissitudes of life: because of the struggles and conflict between good and evil in a domestic, personal and thespian environment: the stage of life. Immorality is the breakdown of one’s moral edifice, one’s super-ego as they combat the values-in-action of the society. It connotes the struggle, passive or otherwise with a residual consciousness of that which is good, positive, wholesome and normative in one’s social environment.

But then what we are faced with at this time and in this place, and since the shift-system days, is not immorality but …” amorality”. Amorality among the children, the youth and even the elderly of this nation. 25 years plus is a long time.  And so a patent lack of conscience, be it social, spiritual or otherwise now defines the shift and quasi shift cohorts and the ensuing generations.

At this time there is no latent, passive or actual abhorrence by the previous and this generation to the commission of any offence: be it murder, rape, robbery, assault and so forth. These terms form part of the lexicon of the 12-year old now sitting on a school bench or chair of a primary school. They commit … and nothing registers. And so good and bad, pristine and vile, wicked and evil obtain their dubious legitimacy in a context of criminal acquisition and murderous disposition. A conscious and sub-conscious hedonistic impulse provides the justification and even the raison d’etre for the course of criminal activity embarked upon.

And so when a 19-year old boy snatches from the neck of an unsuspecting female octogenarian her gold chain of a hundred years and then speeds off into the bowels of the ghetto, all that matters to him is acquisition and the joy of acquisition. Her pain, her fright, her anger, her loss, her frustration and disappointment do not matter to him on any level. By the morrow, the incident will have been forgotten by him and life continues rather placidly in the ghetto as the proceeds of the sale are used to purchase drugs or grotesquely so, purchasing sustenance for his three year old already crawling into the arena of crime and violence.

And so the murders, the rapes, the robberies with the shootings continue. And the youth moves on, oblivious or indifferent to the personal, human, social and domestic dislocation and trauma that he has authored. And in a macabre and paradoxical fashion, he feels empowered among the denizens of his block. There is no conscience and a putrid, alarming contagion spreads.

What can we do, individually and collectively? And so the previous question comes to the fore. How can we rehabilitate he or she, who has not been rehabilitated? That is contextually speaking. What can the government do? What can the nation do? What can you do? The “amoral” elements need to be contained and the regression of self, of budding personalities and character, must be stopped. As I see it the shift and shifting generations are watching and they are in some measure lost. They are increasing perhaps not exponentially, but they are.

And so what needs to be done very urgently and for the survival of the society is the focusing of therapeutic, remedial attention on the homes and schools of the nation. The saving process of the child of five years must begin immediately. Structures must need to be put in place to ventilate the dysfunctionalities that exist in the many homes and schools of this society. School curricula must be changed and expanded to embrace elements of conflict resolution, etiquette, critical thinking, team building, crucial conversations, leadership skills, ego-building, spiritualorientation, and of course patriotism.

Also, neighbourhoods need to be socially sanitised. There has to be a curricula change that will produce better educated, well adjusted and balanced young girls and boys. From the homes and schools, a youth population must emerge that is in dynamic equilibrium with the salubrious norms of the society. And so intrusive or invasive measures will have to be taken so that the domestic environment is in conformity with the rules, regulations and laws of the nation in its diverse institutional format.

The discharge of parental responsibilities must become a direct concern of government and parents must position themselves in a way that is conducive to the proper development of their children. But then a certain problem arises when the parents are themselves, children.

Children are raised in the home and that imports the element of morality in great measure. For it is in this crucible of juvenile activity that the nascent nexus to that which is spiritual in its genesis, is given at least civil expression and not a certain moral obliquity. Children are educated in schools and that imports the element of intelligence. And as I have previously stated, intelligence and morals are ethical and an ethical being can make choices but among the choices are the things they will not do.

To be continued…

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