“When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to observe man’s labour on earth – his eyes not seeing sleep day or night – then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning. Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend it” – Ecclesiastes 8: 16 – 17.
Over the last two weeks this column has focused on the people’s manifesto, which states what the people’s needs are. People were deemed to be our most important asset and we concluded that agriculture is paramount and we are best advised to “grow what we eat and eat what we grow”. Other needs relate to education, housing, health, energy, transportation and other service functions which are most efficiently provided centrally by Government, with support from the Private Sector.
I recall that in the 1950s and 60s one could safely leave one’s doors open without fear of intrusion by unwelcome guests. Then came the 70s and wrought iron burglar bars became a necessary part of the design of most upper and middle income housing projects. In the 90s and beyond all housing projects, irrespective of the value of the house, included burglar protection in the design. Today electronic security systems are commonplace in many houses and we have now even graduated to gated communities with sentries monitoring the “to and fro”. Indeed people are now becoming prisoners in their own homes.
This is indicative of an imbalance in the socio economic welfare in the society which has deteriorated to such an extent that a segment of the less well off , from a socio- economic perspective, find it necessary to take the property of those who have, in an attempt to redress this imbalance. This phenomenon in society has now reached the despicable heights where one is very fortunate to escape with one’s life after a burglary attempt. It is even worse because there is a segment of the community, reportedly of relatively tender age, who now place no value on life and many tragic incidents have been reported where lives are taken for no apparent reason. Why is this happening?
Some people are quick to point to the advent of the drug culture and hardened criminals who have been deported from overseas, without any attempt at rehabilitation. We seem to have forgotten that, analogous with human health care strategies, “prevention is better than cure” and that instead of expecting those in charge of public safety to perform wonders we should focus on preventing the problem in the first place. As the late E.F. Schumacher articulated “Small is Beautiful” and Barbados is naturally small and should therefore set an example to the world in finding a solution to the problem.
We have observed some relatively new phenomena such as the “boys on the block” and the “ZR transportation culture”, both of which are only marginally addressed at the source, if at all.
The source of the problem is to be found at the conclusion of the compulsory school system when those students who end up at the bottom of the heap are left on their own to survive resulting in a negative impact on public safety which affects us all. An obvious solution to this problem is to establish a compulsory national service system, focused on inculcating an ethos of discipline, for those who reach school leaving age and have no opportunity to further their education or to be employed. Another obvious solution is to be aggressive in insisting on a congenial public transportation environment which mitigates the deleterious effect on school children, in particular.
It seems to be fashionable for our leaders to be satisfied with the fact that there are other countries in the Caribbean worse off than we are. I would suggest that the People’s Manifesto would call for our leaders to focus on promoting Barbados as a Crime Watch centre of excellence to be showcased throughout the world. We can be pioneers in search of innovative solutions and effect change.
Just over a week ago a Rotarian colleague, Kenrick Hutson, was seemingly senselessly gunned down in what one would normally describe as the safety of his home. Here is a man who was a former police Assistant Superintendant and Chief Immigration Officer in Barbados and from my own personal dealings with him, not only a gentleman but also a genteel man. This was corroborated at the Rotary Club of Barbados South meeting last Wednesday by all those who paid tributes to him. No one can so far “comprehend what has gone on under the sun” in the context of the untimely demise of this son of the soil.
Reports indicate that very young people are committing these heinous crimes. It is not good enough for us to apprehend them and put them in jail to be further negatively influenced by hardened criminals. Rather, we should be doing all in power to ensure that these crimes are not committed in the first place. In capturing the uncommitted voters, the People’s Manifesto calls for a Crime Watch, a creative and innovative strategy, to stem the tide of increasing crime.