Fri | Feb 22, 2019

Garth Rattray | Same old, new year

Published:Monday | December 31, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Although all the negative things being experienced by our little country make me want to acquiesce and just 'hold my corner', I continue hoping that some sort of nationwide epiphany will occur and open the eyes of my fellow Jamaicans to the realisation that things need not be as they are and that we are living in a potential paradise.

The Government took extraordinary measures to try to get a handle on our runaway crime and murder rates. Between the zones of special operations and regionalised states of emergency, the presence of the security forces and their legal ability to search and detain outside of the normal parameters have been squelching criminal activities.

The real solution to crime lies in social reform. There are existing programmes aimed at improving the lot of the less fortunate and, therefore, at reducing crime. Evidently, these are not widespread or far reaching enough. To date, what is in play is mostly plain old crime suppression and not very much crime prevention.

 

SUPPRESSING CRIME

 

We can prevent crime, to some extent, by suppressing the ability of potential perpetrators to carry out criminal activities. Or, we can prevent crime, to a far greater extent, by providing the type of social environment that does not encourage or facilitate criminality.

In fact, the most powerful 'weapon' that mankind has ever possessed is the mind. We can't shoot and/or detain and/or arrest our way out of our crime situation. Similarly, we can't prosecute our way out of our high number of road fatalities. We must employ psychology in order to prevail on both fronts.

Certainly, we need temporary, suppressive methods to get a handle on the runaway crime. But we can't keep this up forever without being labelled a police or military state. All we are doing is using the same old methods more extensively. This will not bring about the social changes needed to achieve long-term peace and safety.

It's glaringly obvious to me that successive administrations have a habit of being mostly hands-off when it comes to depressed/poor communities. Perhaps the powers that be don't want to dedicate that much financial resources to places that are so needy. Or, perhaps they feel that making certain that the laws, rules and regulations are obeyed, within those communities, will make them unpopular.

There are obvious and serious flaws to that kind of reasoning. We are going to have to pay in one way and at some time or the other. We can spend early in the 'continuum of criminality' by inculcating, monitoring and enforcing good parenting in mothers and fathers, or spend even more later in endless pain, suffering, blood, lives, lost revenues, damaged international image, extensive security measures, lock-ups, detention centres and prisons.

Additionally, whenever a subset of any society evolves its own set of values and attitudes, disaster takes place. The survivalist mentality can be, inherently, paranoid, amoral, selfish and extremely violent. Societies always seem to make the same old mistake of thinking that the 'jungle' mentality will remain confined to the jungle (disenfranchised inner-city communities) ... it will not. Sooner than they think, the jungle mentality leeches out into the wider community, permeates it, and eventually usurps it, because morality and decency are hindrances in a society riddled with jungle, survivalist mentation.

And so, as we embark on a new year, we find ourselves doing the same old things but, perhaps, in a bigger way. However, if we want different results, we need to resolve to change the way that we tackle corruption, indiscipline, crime and violence within our society. We must tackle our problems by using psychological intervention to improve core values, or continue along the same old path in another brand new year.

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