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A culture of crime and violence

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The discovery of two dead bodies at the Sion Hill Bay last week Thursday has reopened our concerns about the spate of criminal activity that seems to have captured our society. Many had hoped that with the advent of the new year we would have left a lot of that behind.

The news that the victims were brothers and that, as appears obvious, even to the untrained mind, the crime was committed elsewhere, have awakened new fears that we are on a path of no return. As is to be expected, there is a lot of speculation and rumours floating around about the reasons behind these latest murders. If there is any semblance of truth to these, then it confirms my belief that we are developing a culture of violence and crime. The fact that these are even mentioned as possible causes shows that we have gone beyond the pale.

As I have said on numerous occasions, our country is one where anger reigns supreme. You could see it everywhere. If you are around where any little dispute or scuffle occurs, the talk moves to shooting or killing, as if there is no meaning to life. Violence appears to be the only means of resolving any conflict. It is macho to talk loud and threaten to kill. Having taken that position upfront, to back away will be to question that very machismo and to appear to be a ‘sissy’.

Obviously, each criminal activity or violent outburst has its genesis and spark that triggered it, but we should look beyond this. More attention must be paid to conflict resolution, starting with the schools, where signs of this criminal and violent behaviour are manifesting themselves. Discussions on these issues tend to focus on comparisons of the number of murders over different years.

But, let us look closely at what is happening in our society. I have long argued that what we are having is an outgrowth from an ill-disciplined society where anything goes, where the idea of order is detested and common decency is under attack. We have not been doing a good job in successfully prosecuting persons charged for criminal activity. Cases taken to court often end up being dismissed, because of inadequate or badly presented evidence. It might even be argued that failure to get successful prosecutions has given confidence to those who are moving along that path. But what is driving all of this? What is feeding it? Why is there so much anger?

Our attitude is that this is something which cannot be stopped; that all we can do is to find and prosecute the offenders and ensure that the death penalty prevails. While we count and talk about the number of murders, we pay little attention to the almost daily cases of burglaries and to instances where people are badly wounded, though not killed. Do we check on the number of conflicts that happen daily around Kingstown? Any conflict is resolved by a call to arms and a search for anything that can be used as a weapon.

There are still too many of us who are unconcerned once the victims are not family or friends. The issue is more than comparing the number of homicides over the years. A society is a holistic entity and is more than its individual parts. When there is a breakdown in any area, it affects the functioning of the whole. So, we cannot isolate the spate of crimes, for all parts of the society must function in a way that will make the society vibrant and satisfying to all its members. I often wonder if we are taking this matter as seriously as we should!

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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