Mark Wignall | Escaping our tragic reality
As a child, reading was an exceptional passion of mine. I can remember at 10 being consumed by all of the adventures, horrors, tragedies and redemption in Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo but, engrossed as I was with the book, I had the option of returning to the real world that was a peaceful Jamaica then.
No such luck now. With St. James operating inside a State of Emergency (SOE), the murderers have expanded their geographic reach and in doing so, it appears that they are in the specific business of thumbing their noses at the national security apparatus and daring them to do their worst.
There are not many of us now who are prepared to empathise with the tragedies driving the murders and the young men involved broken homes, a brutal childhood, poor education, economic hopelessness. Because there is now no safe place left for us to retreat to as we try to shield ourselves from the fear in our very real horror story, we simply want them all dispatched to the gates of the nearest cemetery.
In time, something will give among those of us who still subscribe to the fanciful notion that it is best that people making up a society learn and practise the basic rudiments of peaceful coexistence. We will eventually become as hardened and disconnected from one another as the youthful marauders among us caring little if they live or die tomorrow.
One of the certainties arising out of the early 'successes' of the SOE in St James is that, like the failed ZOSO before, concentration of security forces in a troubled community or parish can never lead to social peace and economic advancement. It is merely a method of lessening the immediate bloodletting and at that stage, it is the only option.
Soon, the troops must return to barracks, and in time, the murderers will reclaim the turf they have stolen from the people. I suspect that Security Minister Bobby Montague knows this, too, so as he engages us at many levels, jokes about obeah and paints a picture of criminals making their way to the altar of Satan; in his heart he is just as confused as the rest of the people as they sing hymns to God in church on Saturdays and Sundays.
The great societal fix and containing the misguided energies of the murderers, seem not to enjoy an ideal fit on the same page. For those of us who have met some of these irredeemable criminal beings, if they can be so loosely called, the great societal fix that includes showering the misguided with love and compassion must now be put on hold until the population of vermin is reduced.
As we harden our hearts and withdraw more into our close family circles, we want the security forces to do what we are either too scared to do or lack the means to properly effect. We want them to go on a killing spree and pit superior violence against violence.
"I will take a bet with you that the vast majority of those boys they have scraped up in the inner city communities in St James will be let go in time because at this stage, the police is net fishing," said a retired senior policeman to me who asked that I not call his name.
"The other thing is although many are calling for a SOE island wide, much has changed since 1976.
The society is more mobile, the criminal elements are fully in touch with each other in this age of high-tech, and I doubt that the police have the resources to deal with more than two parishes. The fact is, we are now seeing the end result of all of the bad politics, the encouragement of squatter settlements, and bad policing of the last 40 years."
It is not the least comforting for the poorest and most at risk among us to be assured that our foreign visitors are 100 per cent safe in their resort paradise. We are glad for them and wish them well, but where must the rest of us who live here go to escape our tragic reality?
Church? A Satanic altar? The obeah man?