Wed | Aug 16, 2017

Murder music part of a violent mix

Published:Thursday | May 5, 2016 | 5:01 AMMel Cooke
Tanya Stephens
Capleton
Little Hero
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No, I am not talking about anti-homosexual lyrics, as the headline may immediately bring to mind. This time around the term was not actually used, but the implication was there when Police Commissioner Dr Car Williams recently stated that there is a connection between dancehall music and violence. As he was quoted in the press recently, "If you speak about violence, sing about violence, and you are violent, then there must be some correlation there."

Williams said the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) would be willing to support research into this link that they are sure exists - which means the lawmen would pay for research to support a project with findings supporting their viewpoint. What the police want is a rubber stamp on their opinion, which is not how genuine research works.

I am not going to give the knee-jerk dancehall enthusiast (which I am) reaction and dismiss the policeman's belief as foolishness and dancehall being given the standard 'fight'. However, the music which the police - and I - find problematic is part of a much more complicated, interconnected web, a few of which I will attempt to outline.

1. Availability of firearms. The Get the Guns campaign is in full swing, but as Tanya Stephens said in, The Other Cheek, "the youths dem a get 2000 guns fi every one oonu seize/Instead of treating the symptoms why don't you cure the disease?" The countries in which the firearms used for murders in Jamaica are ordered from do not care about staunching the influx of weapons - and that includes the US, despite their support of our border patrols by boat gifts and air/sea surveillance. From Austria and Germany to Russia and many stops in between, they make very good money from weapons manufacturing, and who really cares if some little people from Jamaica bleed to help keep the weapons factories open and jobs secure? Little Hero said "no gun no make dung deh, dung inna de ghetto."

2. Political heritage. I remember the 1980 election clearly. I was not exposed personally to the violence, but I recall the body counts on the radio broadcasts. With over 800 people dead, it fully established the template for murder as ordinary in Jamaica. It was outright, though undeclared, civil war between the JLP and PNP, marshalled by people called Honourable and after some of whom public spaces are named, some living, some dead. There was no flood of dancehall gun tunes then. Capleton deejayed "a de leaders dem a let the people down/An a blame it pon de dancehall an de deejay an de soun'." Serious thing.

3. Education system. We have practised academic apartheid for a long time in this country, trumpeted as Common Entrance and GSAT grades, as well as traditional and non-traditional high schools. If we tell the majority of the youth population that they are inherently unworthy, where will they get the sense of self-worth and dignity which is a basic human need? A gun which can bring in quick money and instill fear - mistakenly called respect - is an option.

4. Corrupt police. There are police who provide criminals with weapons and ammunition, there are police who have committed robberies. This has been reported in the press. Further, with the number of policemen who 'hustle' on traffic duty, it is easier to have illegal weapons and get by a policeman who is more interested in "whe yu can do fi yuhself?" than anything else. Anthony B deejayed that "yu have good cop, bad cop/nuff a boost crime and nuff want it stop."

5. Road network and car imports. New highways and more cars are great for general ease of mobility, but that also makes it easier for criminals to strike far from their home base. The hustling police don't make the situation any better.

6. Unequal regard for life. It is amazing how quickly the murders of persons considered important are investigated and progress made (the current case of the America missionaries in St Mary is a striking current example). The same effort and expertise does not eem to be put into probing the killings of those not considered as that significant - which is the majority, I dare say.

There are other factors, including family breakdown (Tanya Stephens says in What a Day "teenage mother saying, leave my babies alone/In 20 years the kid could be robbing my home"), socioeconomic disparity and economic weaknesses. Do we really believe that if we address violence in dancehall lyrics, it will solve the problem?

Me nuh really tink so, y'nuh, Dr Williams, research or no research.

melville.cooke@gleanerjm.com