Letter of the Day | Reducing violent crime in Jamaica
THE EDITOR, Sir:
The management of violent crime in Jamaica is certainly difficult. We have been trying, unsuccessfully so, for as long as I can remember. A lot of our violent crime occurs spontaneously, anywhere and at anytime. This usually results from hot-headedness and short fuses. We are quick to argue, and a lot of us are ready to maim, kill or burn down someone's house. Gross judgement and overreaction are commonplace. Woe betide anyone accused of dissing, whether or not they are aware of the alleged offence.
Why do simple disagreements so often trigger altercations? Unfortunately, many who attack do not seek clarity through reasoning, and even if they asked, they may not have waited for an answer. Let us not forget that in Jamaica, violence often begets reprisal violence.
Are our emotions out of hand? Can individual management of emotions be smarter? Domestic violence is rife, and many of us handle our emotions with overt aggression. In fact, there are more people than we realise carrying knives or (illegal) guns which they will be quick to use. Official crime figures, which feature only the tip of the crime iceberg show that resorting to violence is an islandwide scourge.
There appears to be no magic fix, and certainly, we do not need gimmicks. Can our aggression towards each other, including on children, be suppressed? At the same time, can minds be taught to become less judgemental and more astute?
Clearly, we need to control our emotions, i.e., be instilled with emotional control to enable us to better deal with interpersonal matters. Emotional intelligence is defined as "the capacity to be aware of, to control, and to express one's emotions so as to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically". Studies have shown that people with high emotional intelligence have greater mental health, better leadership skills, and enjoy greater professional success.
My recommendation is that emotional intelligence be taught in primary schools. It need not be more than one 20-minute session each week. This can go a long way towards fixing socio-economic ills that are stifling the country.
Continuous training sessions are necessary to prevent this important aptitude, which Daniel Goleman says can matter more than IQ, from falling by the wayside. If we launch this as a project, which is a glaring requirement, it should cut down most of our crime while producing a more law-abiding, effective populace. The project can be reinforced with coverage on local television, which will have a more far-reaching effect and will touch adults.
Everyone stands to benefit from smarter emotions. We will have better managers and leaders. Teachers, parents and professionals, including the police, will handle situations more thoughtfully with a foundation of emotional intelligence. When children equipped with emotional intelligence become parents, their own children will emulate the good qualities displayed by their parents.
In other words, this is a long-term solution to awaken the ability in our children's minds to control emotions judiciously, instead of reverting to violence as the only solution. This solution is in sharp contrast to the other short-term proposals and gimmicks that have not been sustainable.
The well-being of the nation, currently stifled by crime and violence, depends on it. We only need the will to launch this programme.