The Making of Savages

Only one thing provokes more outrage in me than Jamaica’s runaway murder rate, and it’s the pathetic hand-wringing and pseudo self-examination that usually follows a murder rampage of epic proportions.

Over the past three weeks, the pressure has been unrelenting. Report after report of fresh kills have bombarded the public, pushing the envelope past criminality into the world of the insane.

After I processed in my mind the gruesome discovery of eleven year-old Ananda Dean, that was when I felt I was bordering on saturation. So when the news of the nine month-old and the shooting of the fourteen-year old surfaced, I merely withdrew. I had overspent my emotional capital and only felt numbness.

Well, imagine what has happened to the population of Jamaica, facing every day the reports of murder and abuse, the reality of injustice, the realization that the majority of these crimes will go unsolved and that the perpetrators are left free to stalk and eliminate witnesses, while the law-abiding have to cower and hide. Imagine the panic when the little ones don’t come home from school within the time allotted, amid reports of over 700 children missing and 68 murdered since January. Imagine the stress levels.

How did we get here? Where have these savages come from? Where is the Jamaica we once knew? Can the whine and give me a break.

Jamaicans seem to be the only ones who are still fumbling about blindfolded, asking these haunting rhetorical questions.  Blind, because our track from there to here is so remarkably distinct, that a twelve year-old youth toting a highly compact, blowback operated, selective-fire submachine gun on the tough inner-city streets of Kingston could probably spell it out as plain as day.

He could tell us things we’d probably prefer not to hear, for somehow, somewhere in the society’s trajectory to this war-zone, the entire population has been complicit. Nostra culpa. A fi wi faalt. We remained silent, so many of us, sequestered in our security-enhanced enclaves, never dreaming that the down-town menace stalking the ghetto could penetrate our armor-plated existence.

How did we get here? Where have these savages come from? Where is the Jamaica we once knew?

The society is a perfect breeding ground for savages (shoot me if you don’t like what I am saying) considering the prevailing conditions. Take away a people’s hope by keeping them illiterate; rob them of their pride by neglecting to install proper sanitation commensurate with the growing population in the inner-city, so they dispose of their body waste in little bags and throw them in gullies where there is nothing but decay and vermin; allow security to be so eroded by corruption, citizens have to resort to protecting themselves, engaging in acts of vigilante killings, becoming murderers themselves.

How did we get here? Where have these savages come from? Where is the Jamaica we once knew?

Ignore the fact that under normal circumstances adolescence is a turbulent period, so just leave hordes of young energetic school-leavers idle, bored and resentful of the finery and the good life they see out of their reach except for through the barrel of a MAC 10;  neglect to implement any vigorous family planning program to help lower the production of unwanted pregnancies among said hordes of energetic adolescents, so that the vicious cycle of children begetting children is perpetuated ad infinitum; render assistance in the initial formation of gangs and provide them with the tools of their trade; abdicate the responsibility of being the people’s representative in the constituency, leaving the leadership open to gangleaders whom the people turn to for justice. In the meantime allow citizens across the board, in the inner-city, the business community and even a church or two, to “tief” light and water as they see fit, and triple-charge those law-abiding idiots who insist on procuring utilities through legal means.

Then I heard about the unemployed mother of six who had to make a lottery of who went to school and for how many days of the week. The choice is either school, water, which is bought in a drum, for all domestic purposes, or food. Think how attractive the offer must be from the predator who decides to have her thirteen year-old as his live-in love.

Add to that poor parenting skills, absentee parents, parents themselves part of the thriving criminal enterprise; laugh at judges who slap sex offenders on the wrist and send them back to molest more minors; blink at corruption in high places– even the twelve year-old in the inner city knows that though it’s not the big man who pulls the trigger, it is he who reaps the rewards.  We have seen this happening before our eyes for years, and we did what self-respecting survivors –even rats — would do if they realized they were on a sinking ship: Run for the exits! Man the lifeboats!  Or just pretend it isn’t happening.

Those who didn’t run insulated themselves with Kevlar, canines, guards and gated communities, and those who couldn’t run, turned and faced the enemy and soon they became one in spirit.

Where is the Jamaica we once knew? Gone. Long time ago. Same place where all the flowers went.

Those who dared to prognosticate the nation’s future based on the facts were labeled “negative”, and on the main menu of action were more positive affirmations of hope and fervent prayer than practical solutions. Even in the garrisons they laughed and danced at their misfortunes, the Gully Creeper emerging triumphant as far away as Beijing, from all the vermin and decay that birthed it.

And I won’t be silly or unrealistic enough to believe there is any political will to end the drug trade, for I have seen the evidence of those nations where some effort is being made to stem if not halt the activites. I have on occasion filled out immigration forms that were not discrete about informing me, in letters bold and red, that DRUG TRAFFICKING IS PUNISHABLE BY DEATH. We won’t be going that route, since we’re not sure we want to end the trade, but will continue to wring our hands and mutter to ourselves, “how did we get here?”

I’ll be damned if I don’t end this with hope though, since way, way up ahead, far into the next generation, there is a wee glimmer. The nation is maybe going through adolescence itself, as it struggles to establish real independence – my take. We were probably what you call force-ripe, declaring independence before we could really handle it, then squandering our birthright, and now reduced to a state of utter profligacy. We have become selfish, restless, bored and illiterate, with no invading forces threatening our borders, so we heighten our differences, neglect our duties and turn on each other. We were so busy trying to make money – some to survive, others just to have what they have – we pretended not to see the looters helping themselves to the nation’s treasures.

Anyway, while we search ourselves, transitional measures should be implemented, and there are several things to consider. Any society where testosterone-driven young men are left restless and idle will see an increase in the birth rate and in crime.  Many nations have used some form of national service to include military conscription, where if their young are not securely ensconced in tertiary institutions, they must enter into an apprenticeship program or serve in the military for at least two years. Aside from the discipline the environment imparts, skills training and civic awareness afford alumni a greater sense of purpose and achievement. Also, the period spent in national service would reduce the time left to them to engage in the manufacture of more unwanted children, as family planning as a viable option could be reinforced through repeated presentations.

While the Education Ministry sets up the national service program with the private sector and the army, some strong purgative could be administered to the police force. Those well-known of the upper crust who sponsor crime need to be flushed, since they are not in hiding and continue to gloat over society’s lesser beings from their lofty perches. Catch me if you can.

Our Prime Minister should be applying himself and his cabinet to systematically addressing this monumental task at hand. Unfortunately the last report on him found him with his foot in his mouth as usual, offending our Caribbean neighbors by calling them names I thought should be reserved for our own country, and further alienating us into the bargain. Perhaps like everybody else he’s at saturation point, and the numbing process is complete. Perfect for breeding savages.

     

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