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Are we fiddling while ‘Rome’ burns?

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I happened to have been away at that frightening time when the country bore witness to eight murders and incidents of wounding. It appears to have a much more chilling effect on you when you are not around, but get updates on the horrors. We often go through periods of quiet, then news of one murder spirals others. They come not in single, but multiple doses. As alarm grows, there is much praying and the churches become more visible. But what does it all mean?  A statement by the Seventh-Day Adventists called upon everyone “to halt the spate of assaults and stop the spike of criminality in our country.” Maybe it is necessary to say something and of course, there were other issues raised in the statement. But what does calling on persons to halt the spate of assaults mean? For one, those so inclined are unlikely to be reading that statement or to be influenced by it. We have all been calling on the Church to be one of the principal actors, but this must be on-going, touching especially the young in ways that reach them.

Prayer is important, but is not by itself the answer. God provided us with a mind and with certain tools to be used for the betterment of our society. These we squander and often use for ill-gotten gains. The approach to confronting the evil forces that have taken hold of our society must be multifaceted, involving bringing everyone on board. Moreover, we should be prepared to be in it for the long haul, while seeking in the short term to start nipping this monster before it completely overpowers us.

As we confront the beast, we will realize that our other problems will not automatically disappear, for they feed on each other. Getting together as a nation on this matter might provide the space and opportunity to begin to address others. The Searchlight, in its Midweek editorial, reminds us that “for long-term effectiveness in reducing crime, we must consider and deal with economic, social, psychological, cultural and other factors”. The Vincentian goes further and makes a bold call for a non-partisan national response that will involve having the Opposition on board. But while we focus on the long term, the short -term situation must be addressed and here is where the first responders are critical. Relevant authorities within the police service have indicated that they are unable to provide information on the details of their in-house workings, for fear of alerting the criminals and potential criminals. It is necessary, however, for them to look at their crime fighting apparatus, the way it is organized and functions. It is our hope that the police establishment will adequately prepare itself to handle the challenges facing us.

We are into the month of our Independence anniversary. As I write, I hear of another murder, the second for the month. I have always said that this is a month when we need to reflect on where we are going. The approach must be holistic, with everything being brought under scrutiny.  Crime, violence, and disorder impact on our development efforts and will destroy the environment that is so critical. On these occasions we applaud ourselves as we dress in national colours and profess patriotism. Let our period of Independence be one in which we provide a searching analysis of who we really are and where we are going. To highlight our cultural achievement in the real way culture should be understood must take account of all these sordid developments. Culture, after all, is more than song and dance. But our effort must be a national one. We cannot continue to fiddle, while ‘Rome’ burns.   

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian

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