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As we face 2018

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As the old year gave way to the new, there would have been, as customary, many pledges and resolutions.Everyone hopes that 2018 will be more satisfying and prosperous for themselves and country. We do this every year and act as though a change of years would automatically make things better. We seem never to consider that unless we put things in place and become more proactive, there is no magic that comes with the change of year that would transform things. When we made our resolutions did we first reflect on 2017, the challenges, the positives, and the negatives? Do we see ourselves as having a role that can determine the shape and content of 2018, or do we simply hope that God or the earthly gods we create can fix things for us?

For me, the most challenging and frightening thing about 2017 was the crime situation. We broke another record and reached 42 homicides.  During the last days of 2017, I received some crime statistics for a few other countries and have been able mentally to put things in perspective. These figures would have reflected the situation about a week before the end of the year.

New York – population 8.5 million, 285 homicides; Toronto 2.8 million, homicides 61; St Lucia – 170,000, 52; Trinidad – 1.37 million, 487; Jamaica – 2.89 million, 1005; Grenada – 108,339 – (my source was getting some conflicting figures, but assured me that it was between 8 and 10); SVG 110,000 – 42. 

What this means is that on a per capita basis our rate is high, certainly higher than our immediate neighbours and very high compared to New York and Toronto.  I am raising this issue because we do not treat this matter with the seriousness it deserves. Some questions must be asked. Why is our murder rate about four times that of Grenada? What can be responsible for that difference? St Lucia beats us slightly in numbers, but then their population is much larger.

There are other aspects to be looked at: the number of people who were victims of gun shots, but managed to survive; the number of break-ins and attempted rapes. The human factor must not be forgotten.

There is no exaggeration to say that an element of fear is stalking the land. I was told recently of an elderly lady, who even when at home during the day, keeps on her alarm, so scared is she! We cannot sit back and hope that 2018 will not be a repetition of 2017. We often pray for the nation and occasionally hold rallies denouncing violence, making appeals to those so inclined to stop, but it must be part of a package, for the criminally inclined are, by and large, not open to such appeals. 

My plea is for those who are concerned to become more proactive, not only as regards criminal matters, but generally, for the criminal mind feeds on small misdeeds that we tolerate and for which we find excuses. This sets a pattern until things get totally out of control. We must wield the power we have, but seem to underestimate. We have to ensure that those to whom we give a mandate create a safe and enabling atmosphere, respect our wishes and work on our behalf. In fact, we have to help to provide a climate that will allow us to be active participants in the governance of our state. We must aim to be part of the solution and not of the problem.

Let me end by wishing a happy and satisfying year to all readers of my column.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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