Thu | Dec 13, 2018

Lennie Little-White | What gawn bad a morning ...

Published:Sunday | March 25, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Lennie Little-White
Policemen carrying out searches in Central Village, St Catherine, on March 18 following the declaration of a state of public emergency by Prime Minister Andrew Holness for the St Catherine North Police Division. The police force needs to be retooled, argues Lennie Little-White, Gleaner, guest columnist.
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Most Jamaicans grew up hearing that "what gone bad a morning cyaah come good a evening'. If this dire prediction becomes our truth, Jamaica will be headed for a premature Armageddon. Rather, as a people, we must be decisive and take corrective action now that will bear fruit - some immediately and some for future generations.

Our current social malaise is not a new phenomenon. Dr Ralph Thompson, writing in his 2004 novel View from Mount Diablo, said:

"The children slept four in a bed, sailed paper ships in dirty gutter water, rolled iron hoops down potholed lanes, failed their exams - but learned to shoot guns by 12 and by 20, were dead."

This is still the reality in 2018. Our present crime situation is a systemic problem that starts at the top and not just at the street level. To stem the growth of crime, we must look beyond the 'irredeemables' to some captains of industry and some politicians who continue to enjoy the spoils of crime but remain untouchable.

Who are the ones importing crates of illegal bullets?

Who are the benefactors of the trans-shipment drug trade?

Who are the ones importing uncustomed goods?

Who are the primary benefactors of scamming?

Who are the bogus contractors always fixing potholes?

These are the 'topanaris' Jamaicans who provide generous support for the irredeemables and both political parties who, in turn, give them an invisible shield from the law. This is the sad truth that inspired new-age reggae singer Protoje to write and sing Blood Money, which says it all:

A nuff drugs money deh a Cherry Garden

Nuff politician taking donation

So nuff criminal will never see a station

Never will see a cell, not even a courthouse

But every Sunday, we see dem taking boat out

Police cancel operation

'Cause no real bad man a go station

Now if you check the situation

A blood money run di nation.

The current crime upsurge is similar to a toothache. We can get temporary relief from a variety of painkillers, but before long, the pain returns. Use of law officers in ZOSOs or states of emergency is similar to the painkillers - they provide temporary relief but not a long-term solution.

The only way to get rid of the pain permanently is to extract the rotten tooth - even if it needs a root canal. This is not unlike what was attempted in May 2010. But because it was not a holistic extraction, the rotten elements have now manifested themselves in other locations across Jamaica.

 

SIX STEPS NEEDED NOW

 

Many Jamaicans have lost their soul, self-esteem, and their love for each other.

If we want to control crime, we must start by reclaiming our self-esteem in a systematic way.

STEP ONE is when we start to value our own lives and those of our brothers and sisters. How do we engender and sustain self-esteem among the masses of our people? Without self-esteem, we will continue to rob, rape, maim, and murder our brothers and sisters using the trigger of the Glock rather than taking refuge in the Bible, rosary, or crucifix.

Truth is, we hide behind the veil of our national motto - 'Out of Many, One People' - while devaluing the self-worth of the majority of Jamaicans. Decades ago, our first national hero, Marcus Garvey, said:

"If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life."

Is it just a coincidence that Edward Seaga - a man of Syrian lineage - was the person who brought back the remains of Marcus Garvey and caused him to be named a national hero? What did Seaga see in Marcus Garvey's philosophy that is relevant to the "new" Jamaican?

 

RASTAFARI IS THE SOLUTION

 

Emancipation Day and National Heroes Day have not fully touched the heart of the lumpen. Since there is no Marcus Garvey on the horizon, we must look to the teachings of Rastafari and the populist reggae philosophy of our artistes to trigger our spiritual renewal and self-esteem. This consciousness and empirical analysis is what led the late Professor Rex Nettleford to say:

"Rastafari is in itself a marvellous expression of the creative imagination - the creation of a whole ontology in our own terms. Rastafari is a way of knowing, of seeing ourselves, which is independent of what was given to us by the colonial masters."

This leads me to contend that the Rastafari philosophy is the only belief system that can foster self-esteem for the Jamaican majority, most of whom no longer practise or celebrate Christianity - with its promise of life hereafter. Before the daggers are drawn, celebrating the tenets of Rastafari philosophy does not mean an espousal of cosmetic dreadlocks or the deity of Haile Selassie. Remember Morgan Heritage's song:

"You don't haffi dread to be Rasta

This is not a dreadlocks thing

Divine conception of the heart."

So what else must we do now to effect change in social behaviour so that Jamaica can really become "the place of choice to live, work, raise families, and do business"? Enlightened educators agree that STEP TWO must be the entrenchment of early childhood education across the board. It was Dr Ralph Thompson who wrote:

"Failure to go back to the starting blocks of education will ensure that another generation will mature in a crucible of human failure, which guarantees that the values of spiritual aspiration and peaceful civilisation cannot survive."

Early childhood education must be the stepping stone to interventions directed at improving a child's cognitive skills. This is expected to decrease the likelihood of aggressive behaviour in the child and later in life. Dr Freddie Hickling, professor emeritus of psychiatry at UWI, says:

"If the child is not reading by age eight, aggressive behaviour increases significantly in adulthood. The obverse is also true. If we teach children to read by age eight, violence and aggression in them as adults decreases significantly."

A recent report that the majority of teachers in early childhood education are not trained is frightening, and this needs accelerated corrective action.

STEP 3 - Simultaneously, we must redesign our educational curricula - at all levels - to prepare our students for work in modern Jamaica. The jobs that will multiply in the future need a different kind of graduate who is ready for the changing job market. If school leavers have no tangible skills to offer, they will not be able to enter the workforce. When this occurs, the only alternative for the 'yute-man' is to find a hustle on the corner.

"When I was a bwoy", those of us who could not get formal training to become a policeman, teacher, or nurse had to learn a trade. Young boys and girls became apprentices to carpenters, dressmakers, tailors, masons, electricians, mechanics, barbers, hairdressers, developing skills that equipped them to earn a living without certification. To generate more jobs with a living wage, we must reintroduce a formal apprenticeship system, which was envisioned by the late minister of labour, Robert Lightbourne.

STEP 4 is to fix the justice system. 'Justice delayed is justice denied' is a legal maxim meaning that if legal redress does not occur in a timely manner, it is effectively the same as having no redress at all.

Until Government upgrades the courts, delayed punishment will not be a deterrent to criminals - high-brow or low-brow. We cannot give the new chief justice and his fellow judges 'basket to carry water'.

STEP 5 is to re-educate and retool our police force. Our force is not equipped with modern technology and the complementary resources to be one step ahead of the criminals. No wonder that recently there has only been a six per cent conviction rate of those who actually go to trial.

Make community policing the mantra of the force so that the man in the street will feel connected and comfortable to provide information to help the investigative process in solving crimes.

Finally, pay the police properly to support themselves and their families. If you "pay peanuts, you will get monkeys" who are easily corrupted. Why should the police put their lives on the line to 'serve and protect'?

STEP 6 must address the lack of basic amenities across the social divide that are mandatory for the well-being of our brothers and sisters and for the building of their self-esteem. Jesus said in John 12:8: "The poor you will always have among you." However, it is incumbent on all of us to find practical ways to empower ordinary people before 'di pipe buss'.

These are six basic objectives that we can start with to counteract the negative side effects of urbanisation. Government must stop thinking in terms of five-year election cycles and embrace a generational perspective. In that regard, we must forget about achieving all this for Vision 2030 and move the goal post to Vision 2040.

Despite the current crime ogre, we must not wallow in the slough of despair. Most of us 'born ya and cyaan leave ya fi go a 'merica', so if we want things to 'come good a evening', we must start making Jamaica better now and for generations to come.

- Lennie Little-White is a Jamaican filmmaker and writer. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and lennielittle.white@gmail.com.