Fri | Sep 21, 2018

The root cause of violence

Published:Monday | June 8, 2015 | 12:00 AM

In a recent Gleaner editorial published Saturday, May 30, 2015, titled 'Turn outrage into action, Dr Williams', the piece cited several cases of multiple murders and went on to state: "It is hard to define and explain what causes this level of brutality. But it is agreed by our local experts that the root causes of violence run deep in our society, tapping into such issues as poverty, hopelessness, joblessness and greed."

Many horrified people try fruitlessly to understand how it is that a sane human being can murder another human being (a baby, a child, a male, a female, an elderly person, the sick, the helpless, the innocent, any human being) with such cold-bloodied cruelty and then just go on with life as if nothing out of the ordinary happened.

Some people speculate that perpetrators of heinous crimes get themselves high on some sort of psychotropic drug in order to carry out their evil acts. But, the truth is that most killers are high on unquantifiable, unquenchable hate.

My sister's daughter, Savannah, recently graduated from Adelphi University in New York, where they live. One of the speakers at the graduation ceremony made an extremely profound statement. He said, "Violence is what we do when we don't know what to do with our pain."

I want to include 'anger' in that statement, because pain often leads to anger, and anger, in turn, leads to violence. I'm not for one moment saying that one's personal pain can ever justify any form of violence. And, sometimes we are the architects of our own pain; however, in general, I agree with his perspicacious statement.


justifiable Violence


Violence against others in self-defence or to protect an innocent life is seen as justifiable. The violence of war or any legal activities during state-sanctioned combat is also seen as justified. However, when violence falls outside those criteria, we call it 'senseless violence', which cannot be justified.

Most of the violence seen in Jamaica is 'senseless'. Many of our citizens are in some sort of severe (emotional) pain and quite a few are angry/hateful because of it. This pain-anger-hate triad may lead to violence directed inward - to suicide. But, most pain-anger-hate-driven violence will be directed outward at family members (even children), spouses, the community or the entire society.

Given the large number of physical conflicts and violent crimes that we have, there must be a whole lot of major emotional pain in our society. Therefore, calling upon the police to do even more to prevent, suppress and solve crime has significant limitations when it comes to solving and not just temporarily ameliorating our crime problem. They can do so much and no more.

We need to get to the root cause of violent crime. We need to stop the pain that people are experiencing. We need urgent and major social intervention, which should begin once a woman is pregnant. We need increased 'good parenting' educational programmes in the media and at medical facilities, especially those that see obstetric cases.

From birth, every child should be closely tracked and monitored to ensure that their formative years are spent in nurturing environments.

Violence begets violence, and we have generations of violent socialisation confronting us.

We can no longer just leave some citizens to fend for themselves without the requisite tools for survival. Worry, fear, frustration and hunger all lead to pain - the kind of pain that ends in violence against you and against me. The struggles of daily life in marginalised communities are not abstract anecdotes; their sad reality becomes our nightmare sooner or later.

Aside from policing, our underprivileged communities require proper amenities, far more social monitoring, schools and production facilities to increase employment. We must make the sacrifice to assuage the pain that leads to anger and violence. But as usual, I feel that no one is listening.

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to and