Tue | Dec 6, 2016

Consequences of a silent majority

Published:Monday | March 23, 2015 | 12:00 AM

I'm not detecting any administrative sense of concern or urgency regarding the imminent opening up of Cuba to tourists from the United States of America. And, although the USA is beginning to warn visitors to our island of crime here, I'm not getting the impression that anything innovative, substantive and sustainable is in the works to suppress crime.

Of course we can impose curfews and declare limited or widespread states of emergency to force the crime rate down with heavy police and military presence. Operationally, that will take us back several years to a time during the height of the Christopher 'Dudus' Coke fiasco, when the crime rate plummeted, but that was only short term.

I don't see any value in trying to reach the violent few with reason; generations of them have been socialised into being indisciplined, acting outside of the law and, of course, using violence to solve all their problems. We need a short-term crime-controlling plan (like intense 'policing'), concomitant with and then followed by a long-term paradigm for utilising community involvement.

I know of a typical middle-class community (no 'don', no 'informah fi dead' code and no entrenched anti-establishment culture) in which one selfish resident was committing a flagrant breach for many years. His breach not only inconvenienced most of the people living in the small community, it also compromised security.

Everyone remained silent because they did not want to create any ill feelings. The authorities eventually caught up with him and removed the violator. The selfish resident targeted one community member (his former friend who once saved his home from the auction block) and blamed him for the action of the authorities.

His target (ex-friend) heard of his anger from several others and tried to contact him in several ways in an effort to straighten things out but the selfish resident refused to respond.

His target even contacted two influential residents in a bid to convene a meeting. The selfish resident refused and continued inciting dislike for his target. His target then sought out a group of community members but none responded in any way. Although everyone is happy and relieved to see the action taken, the silent majority has left the vexing situation between the two to simmer in acrimony. In other, less civilised communities, things like this escalate into very bad feelings and violence.

I blame the silent majority for many of the horrendous crimes committed in our society. On many occasions, community residents are aware of problems within households and/or of children behaving in a wayward manner that often lead to criminality. However, the entire community keeps its silent distance until a gruesome murder takes place. Then residents congregate to whisper, sometimes grieve and gawk at the bloodied remains of victims that they could have saved if they had acted as a community to nip things in the bud.

Most Jamaicans are decent, law-abiding and peaceful but the dastardly reputation of a few is painting Jamaicans as indisciplined, volatile and quick to become violent. The silent majority is setting itself up to become victims of criminals and dooming itself to subjugation under the rule of ruthless and unconscionable psychopaths. The silent majority is allowing myopic wrongdoers to lead the country down the desolate path of international isolation and financial ruin.

It is going to take extraordinary measures to rescue Jamaica from a very dismal future. Our current course of action, our usual methods of modulating crime have always failed. Leaving individuals, families and groups up to their own devices is wreaking islandwide havoc. We need to establish large community councils. With safety in numbers, they need to be proactive whenever they see domestic trouble brewing, youth going astray or criminal activities in action.

They should act by enlisting the help of other community members or the authorities. We must do something before we can do nothing to save our beloved country.

n Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com