Sat | Jan 20, 2018

Mark Wignall | United against domestic violence?

Published:Sunday | February 12, 2017 | 12:00 AM

"All him used to do is tump an box mi and kick mi. An den one day mi son tek up a piece a board an claat im cross im back. Him nuh lick mi from dat." She was outlining to me her general situation in her household five years ago.

Jen Jen has four children, three girls and, at the time of the last beating, a son aged 11. "Mi son is not fi him pickney, but tru is him a work, him believe sey because my likkle money from day's work can't match fi him, him have a right fi antagonise mi. Mi neva expect mi son fi lick him, but now is two a dem go out a day time and work pon di same site. Dem tun big fren now."

I must confess that I am not a great fan of political announcements, quite probably because I have lived through hundreds of them that have never quite caught up to what they promised. That aside, in a society where many of its basic structures are broken, not the least of which is the family unit, politicians are more forced to sell hope than workable plans.

Of course, an essential part of leadership is hearing from the leader and his team. One of the main criticisms of the last PNP Government was that Portia Simpson Miller, as prime minister, did not present herself up front as a leader in the times when matters of national crisis arose.

Politicians are 'wordy' people, and oftentimes their words run way ahead of the resources needed to implement new plans and strategies and even the plans themselves. I am not here pouring cold water on the Wednesday confab where the prime minister, the security minister, the attorney general, and the acting commissioner of police all spoke with one voice and gave many of us the impression that they were dead serious about the new zero-tolerance approach on domestic violence.

As many of us know, for years the police have basically turned a blind eye to domestic disputes that may involve a man assaulting his partner or, at the very least, laugh it off as woman-and-man business. With domestic violence accounting for just under 40 per cent of all murders islandwide in 2016 and a spate of killings of young women in 2017, the big bosses have spoken, and they have told us that it will not be business as usual.

The fact is, a man does not grow into an abusive beast in one hour. He often begins by making the household know that he is the ruler of his domain, so shouting is the first weapon in his arsenal. Then the brutal beating of the children with anything he can lay his hands on. Then the regular physical abuse of his partner.

Then one day it all goes horribly wrong and the women lies dead. The PM gets it. So does the security minister. So do the attorney general and the acting commissioner of police, both of them women. Does the abuser get it? Only time will tell.


Preventative detention needed but ...


The two Jamaicans were living abroad when the argument started. It was about money first, then because the husband was travelling most of the time, his wife had taken on a lover and, although he knew of it, he thought it best to pretend it was not happening. Denial, he said, was his attempt to maintain his sanity.

Then one day during an argument, she began to shout and rant, seemingly out of proportion to what was being disputed. "She ran into the kitchen and came back with a knife." Skilled in martial arts, he easily disarmed her, held on to her hands, and was forced to raise his own voice as he pleaded with her to calm down. She kicked out at him and he released her.

She ran back into the kitchen again, but didn't immediately return. Thinking she had calmed down, he called out her name softly and gingerly headed to the kitchen. On seeing him, she suddenly began to use her fists on her own face, blow after blow.

Not quite sure how to react, he approached her and sought to calm her. She shouted, "Murder! Murder!" as he began to laugh.

"Are you going crazy, babes?" he asked as she took up the phone from the wall. In five minutes, the police arrived and the husband was arrested. At the police station, he was given a document stating that he could not approach his wife or indeed his own house.

"It's so long ago and I don't remember if the limit was a hundred yards or a hundred feet. Until the final divorce, I could not visit my own house, and yet I did not lay a hand on her. I can laugh about it now. Of course, I just stopped paying the note on the house and we lost it."

That is, of course, a caveat in the other direction of this zero-tolerance approach in the fight again violence against women. It can be corrupted by those it was designed to protect.


Robotics and artificial intelligence


One of the great fallacies being promoted by politicians, especially Donald Trump, is that jobs lost in the Rust Belt states - Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, etc. - will be back if he has his way. Many of those old jobs in manufacturing have been lost to outsourcing, but mainly to automation.

One robotic arm can do the work of 50 skilled welders, so goodbye, welders. But if you thought that was scary, here comes AI, artificial intelligence. According to an article published in - "Deep learning is going to teach us all the lesson of our lives: Jobs are for machines" - "It's routine manual work that Henry Ford transformed by paying people middle-class wages to perform, and it's routine cognitive work that once filled US office spaces. Such jobs are now increasingly unavailable, leaving only two types of jobs with rosy outlooks; jobs that require so little thought, we pay people little to do them, and jobs that require so much thought, we pay people well to do them."

The article goes on to speak of an AI called Amelia. The machine was created over the last 16 years and it can learn in seconds what an individual would learn in months. In an experiment in a call centre, the machine successfully handled one of every 10 calls in the first week and by the end of the second month it could resolve six of 10 calls.

Now here is the shocker. The article states that because of that, it has been estimated that the machine has the potential to put 250 million people out of a job, worldwide!

That is not 20 million. It's 250 million!

Another machine Viv made from the creators of Siri will soon be our own personal assistant. It will even perform as a Facebook news feed on steroids by consuming the media it knows we like best.

"In doing all of this for us, we'll see far fewer ads, and that means the entire advertising industry - that industry the entire Internet is built upon - stands to be hugely disrupted."

None of us want to see this happen, but can we stop the advancement of technology? We can't.

The biggest question is, once all of that disruption has taken place and robots and AI have taken over the manufacturing and a wide range of service industries and people are sitting at home without employment, who will be the consumers to buy those goods and services if they have no pay cheques?

Robots and AI may well do the work, but at some stage it must dawn on all of us that machines cannot purchase goods and services.

The human need for a payday will have to be balanced with the high efficiencies of these machines on the new 'assembly lines'.

- Mark Wignall is a political and public-affairs analyst. Email feedback to and