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Our violence, our problems, our solutions

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Had all ten persons shot at Diamond last weekend succumbed to their injuries, the headlines would have been vastly different, and the shock throughout the society would have been earth-shaking. We would have been talking of “mass murder”, “massacre” and the like.

Where would that have put us? In the category of the Las Vegas bloodbath where innocent citizens were slaughtered? Or in the company of cities in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan or Somalia, whose citizens have to live with such tragedy? It is only because those unfortunate, but lucky, victims in Diamond survived that we are not asking ourselves those questions.

We have serious questions to ask ourselves though, not only in relation to the Diamond shootings, but to the whole rash of gun-related murders over the past several weeks. The latest ones occurred, not just in Diamond, but in Kingstown in broad daylight, last Sunday morning. These came after we had vented all our anxieties publicly, had collectively condemned such behaviour. We even had a Day of Prayer, with all the mass supplications asking for an end to our misery.

Clearly, more of those actions are needed, but we have even greater responsibilities and must face up to the stark reality. This is OUR PROBLEM; all of us must acknowledge it and every one of us has a responsibility to look for solutions. It is true that in the first place, the Government and the police have the primary responsibility, but it does not stop there. There is no one solution; it must be on all fronts and at all levels. Little things that we can do can help.

For instance, we must let our politicians know that they must stop playing ‘footsie’ with us and the state of fear in the country. It seems as though both the Governing ULP and the Opposition NDP are striving to convince us which party is better equipped to handle the situation and hence, which one deserves our support. It leads almost to self-incrimination, as in the NDP saying that only when it is voted into power will the gun violence cease. Does its leadership understand the implication of such a statement?

It reminds one of the 1998 threats of the then Opposition ULP to make the country “ungovernable”, following its narrow election defeat, a statement which the Opposition insists in invoking on every possible occasion. The governing NDP of the time was blamed for what was termed a breakdown of law and order and the recipe offered was for a new government. That we have had, but the murders have reached unprecedented levels. The Government itself, whatever laudable measures it has taken, must admit that there are failings, stop reacting to the Opposition, and seek to engage the entire population in the search for solutions.

After all, those who commit the murders are OUR sons and brothers, OUR friends and neighbours. Similarly, the victims come from among us, belong to us. We can talk about only those involved in illegal activities being affected, but the reality is that others are being shot, innocently. Worse, it has created this climate of fear in the entire society.

This is not just an overnight phenomenon; it has grown with our acceptance, or at least tolerance of indiscipline and lawlessness. The most alarming has been the growth of the drug trade and our hypocritical attitudes towards it. We shun the drug-users, condemn the small ‘pushers’, but those who make a success of it are accepted in society, become ‘respected’ businessmen, have social links with politicians, lawyers, police officers etc. Is that not true?

But we can go further, not just in the manifestation of violence, but in the roots of it. From small, children are rebuked with the threat of violence: “Boy, yo’ want me do so and so?” As adults, when confronted with differences, or even when we hear of transgressions, our ready response is, “Dem does want somebody kill one ah dem,” or such comment. “If was me ah woulda …..” is another typical reaction, all implying violence.

There is more. It resides in our acceptance of an underground violent culture, in the music dominating our recreation time, in our acceptance of threats of violence against people of different sexual orientation, in the violent overtones in our political discourse, even the tones in which our political leaders speak of their opponents.

The roots are deep. We will not find solutions by just chopping the branches. We have to dig deep, and begin with US.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.

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