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Crime overwhelms us, but who cares!

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The shocking news of six murders in 72 hours, four of them in six hours, has driven me to give vent to my feelings through my pen. On Monday morning, I was sitting in my car near to the market square branch of BOSVG when two young men passed by.

One was informing the other about what were, at that time, four murders. His answer: “Once it’s nobody for me, I ain’t concern.” His attitude is not unique. Many of us try to divorce ourselves from problems in the society, even as our society continues to sink to the point of disintegration. Fear is stalking the land. {{more}}The attempt by the police to convince us that SVG is still a safe place, does little to remove that fear. We need to find ways of rebuilding harmony and removing fear. The police have their role, but need resources. We also must assume our responsibility.

We are now into the 37th year of the recovery of our Independence, having celebrated the anniversary on October 27. The hope and expectations that greeted our people on that day have faded, as our nation confronts severe challenges and mishaps. Crime, although only one of them, is nevertheless a significant one. What is sad is that we do not give it the attention and urgency it demands. We chat among ourselves about the causes of the spiralling crime situation. There are, of course, many, but underlying all of this is the breakdown of our society’s norms, replaced by a widespread sense of irresponsibility, vicious selfishness and disrespect, an erosion of community spirit and a remoteness and disconnection amid increasing unemployment and frustration, especially among school leavers. Do they feel they have a stake in the society?

But where is our society going? At Independence, we dress in national colours and profess patriotism. At school, students are exposed to symbols of nationalism; but there is a disconnect. As an example, they are told that the national dish is jackfish and breadfruit, but how many have seen or eaten jack fish? The dressing up is a mere fashion parade, as each attempts to outdo the other. But what is this professed patriotism? Patriotism is love, support and dedication to one’s country. Country is more than the physical space. What is there to inspire us? Our national anthem sounds largely like a piece from a tourist brochure, verses 2 and 3 highlighting the physical beauty, with little to drive us.

Let us see the direction taken by others – Belize: “Land of the Free by the Carib Sea,

Our manhood we pledge to thy liberty!

No tyrants here linger, despots must flee

This tranquil haven of democracy

The blood of our sires which hallows the sod,

Brought freedom from slavery oppression’s rod,

By the might of truth and the grace of God,

No longer shall we be hewers of wood.”

Antigua and Barbuda

We thy sons and daughters stand

Strong and firm in peace or danger,

To safeguard our native land:

We commit ourselves to building

A true nation, brave and free!

Ever striving, ever seeking

Dwell in love and unity.”

These stress building, commitment and the struggles of the people. They go beyond physical beauty and focus on the people, the sons and daughters. In our national anthem, the Grenadines are treated not as central to nation, but as little sister isles. Regardless of the occasion, we find it necessary to use the whole anthem, in fact, even when an instrumental version is being played. This is contrary to what happens in many other nations. Apparently, lustily singing the national anthem is supposed to reflect patriotism. Patriotism, you say! This is only skin deep.

Our problems and challenges cannot be seen in isolation. The number of murders so far appears to be about 33, in a country of roughly 100,000 people. If this does not send out alarm bells, what else will? Not only does crime drive fear in the society, but it breaks up our national rhythm and sense of being. Crime is the high point, but the way we behave and react with each other sends certain signals that feed crime. What appears to be minor hiccups adds up to something ultimately uncontrollable. The minivan driver who does a U-turn on the main road; the driver who stops in the middle of the road to speak to someone in a vehicle moving in the opposite direction; the vendor who takes over a parking spot to sell her wares; and the prevailing lack of respect are symbols of a breakdown. They feed on each other and reflect a society in disarray. Crime is an offshoot of behaviour that we condone and rationalize, on the ground that man must live. Carried to its logical conclusion, we should therefore excuse the persons who steal the produce of hardworking farmers; for, after all, they must live. We make no attempt to learn. The problem we face with rivers overflowing their banks and creating havoc cannot be isolated from the regularity with which we toss things into the rivers and drains. This is part of our irresponsible behaviour. We obviously do not see the interconnectedness in these things. What appears to us to be harmless activity has serious consequences that will not come out in the wash.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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