By Michael Aiken, Guest Columnist
"THAT'S MURDER. That's murder. Mob, vigilante killings are not justice, they are murder. We have got to stop this!" This was the impassioned plea by Dr Carolyn Gomes of Jamaicans for Justice on national television, after the brutal killing of Donovan Hazley, a 43-year-old street cleaner, who was chopped to death by persons searching for his stepson who they suspected sexually violated and killed two boys.
But how can we "stop this" when we do not understand it (the murder of the boys and Hazley, and also the violation of our children)? And will we ever understand it if we keep ignoring the realities of the psycosocial condition of our people? If we keep ignoring, will we ever "stop this" and embrace the positive social transformation needed to ensure we avoid the way of Rwanda, Eritrea, Somalia and Ethiopia? Yes, we can "stop this", and here is how.
First, we must face the current Jamaican reality that too many persons are capable of the murders and sexual violations we are all lamenting right now. This may be every person from age 12 to 35 years old and a small number above that age range. It matters not if they are peanut sellers, parliamentarians, policemen or politicans, or even if we put the word 'Christian' before any of those professions, the reality remains the same - many do not respect and reverence life enough to resolve issues or restrain themselves. They instead resort to conflict, murder, rape and mayhem.
Facing the reality
Facing the current Jamaican reality means we will find the solutions to fix the issues no matter the political divide, religious differences or cost. One solution is a social transformation programme authorised by the State, approved by the private sector, accepted by civil society and appropriately tied to our Vision 2030 National Development Plan.
Second, we must realise that we may be at a tipping point that marks the change of a collective belief and behaviour. Malcolm Gladwell in his book Tipping Point defines that point as "the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point that causes the 'mysterious' sociological changes which mark everyday life".
We have always had good and evil tendencies and good and bad cultural practices in us and among us. But there comes a time when the evil is embraced and expressed by so many, in all areas of our stratified society, that it creates a tipping point and the 'good' becomes unpopular.
Evil becomes accepted
In some cases in history, the evil even becomes the accepted 'law' and the political and priestly leadership of the land upholds it and forces the evil on all. This can happen to the extent that the expectation of the eventual victory of 'good over evil' becomes lost and hopeless in the minds of all.
A tipping point can cause a nation to go from isolated and sporadic incidents of community-sanctioned murder to national genocide and social implosion. This will happen when there are enough citizens throughout each stratum of society who give explicit or implicit approval.
Realising we are at a tipping point means we will respond to the issue like doctors respond to an epidemic, even when we seem to have only a few isolated cases. The response should be a social transformation programme housed by the State, helped by the private sector, honed by civil society and approptiately tied to our Vision 2030 National Development Plan.
Then, third, we must understand that if we are to avoid a social implosion and become a failed state, we cannot look to our politicians, pastors or police officers to lead the positive transformation. For true transformation begins with you and me.
Yes, our national leaders, pastors and police officers must facilitate the transformation. But even if our prime minister or police commissioner was in that firebombed house two nights ago they would have been victims. Someone in the mob should have said "No, I won't do this"! "NO! WE WON'T DO THIS!" Positive change takes place and right cultural values are established when enough 'someones' do what's right even in a temptingly wrong situation.
When right cultural values are established, a nation heading towards failed state status will instead begin to prosper and become the place to live, work, raise families and do business. That's how we "stop this", and stop it we must if that's the Jamaica we all want!
Michael Aiken is an educator and social transformation advocate. Send comments to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org