Sun | Aug 19, 2018

Letter of the Day | Dancehall scapegoat for crime and violence

Published:Tuesday | February 28, 2017 | 12:00 AM


In light of the comments made by former Minister of Culture Lisa Hanna, the age-old argument surrounding dancehall and its effects on violence and crime is again back in the cross hairs.

I will not address the concerns as to whether Vybz Kartel should be allowed to record music behind bars as I think that that argument must be guided by the facts of the written law and not by morality or emotion.

My issue lies, however, with this growing notion that dancehall music, or any art form, for that matter, is in full, or in part, to be judged as a cause of crime and violence in any society.

History has shown that a society's art forms have always been adopted to express the values of that society and the realities of its people. Today, dancehall music comes under attack, but a hundred years ago, painters who refused to paint within the lines were criticised for encouraging vulgarity and lewdness in their paintings.

Fauvism, as an art form, grew out of a need to express and embrace change. Fauves such as Matisse were described as 'wild beasts' because their art colours were too loud and expressive and against mainstream dictates of the time.

But even then, it cannot be said that it was deviant art that caused deviant behaviour. No, it is society that came first, and it is society that produces art. It must be that art is an effect of whatever maladies or virtues that society holds.




In other words, one cannot blame the product as the cause of a process when by the very nature of it being a product, it must have been subsequent to that which produced it.

As such, this is not your quintessential chicken-and-egg situation. Dancehall music is a product of society and reflects increasing violence because our society has grown increasingly violent.

Any talk about banning dancehall music in its current form because it is a causality of crime should be rubbished as unintelligible syllogism and distracts time and effort that could be better used to expose the true causes of crime in our society.

I do not find the accusations against dancehall surprising, however, as history has also shown that the ills of society have always been blamed on the tools that the underprivileged and disenfranchised use for their survival.