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Letter Of The Day - Vigilantism: victors, victims, and villains

Published:Saturday | October 20, 2012 | 12:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

How and when is the wave of vigilante killings going to end? Jamaica, we cannot continue executing people like this! As Dr Garth Rattray remarked in his Gleaner column of October 1, 2012, mob justice is one of the greatest oxymorons known to Jamaica; there is no "justice" in mob justice.

According to Wikipedia, "Vigilante justice is rationalised by the idea that adequate legal mechanisms for criminal punishment are either non-existent or insufficient. Vigilantes typically see government as ineffective in enforcing the law; and ... persons alleged to be 'escaping the law' are sometimes the victims of vigilantism."

But this is a frightening philosophy. When ordinary citizens, often imbued with raw emotions, decide to become judge, jury and executioner, society - you, me and everyone else - descends perilously closer to mayhem and destruction.

There are no victors in mob justice. Well, Madden's, Dovecot, the mannish water man, et al may emerge victors, but is this the preferred enrichment that a society seeks?

So, yes, I'm hearing my naysayers saying, "Mek him stay there with him philosophy, 'cause him don't know what a gwaan." Bear with me. If it becomes okay to take the law into our hands, we are not much better than cold-blooded killers. Civil society, we've got to make our voices heard; our silence is tantamount to consent. For every victim that suffers at the hand of a mob, each of us becomes a victim - imprisoned by a vicious system that is self-perpetuating.

not truly free

Russian philosopher Bakunin posits: "I am truly free only when all human beings, men and women, are equally free." Until we purge ourselves of this scourge called vigilante justice, until we bite the bullet and stand up for order and true justice, none of us will ever be truly free.

If Dr Rattray could have been cornered by a taxi driver and a cab full of passengers hell-bent on hacking him to death, save for the vigorous intervention of the police, who else can be truly safe from such idiocy?

Sadly, oftentimes the actual victims are indeed innocent. Consider Mr Donovan Hazley, the gentleman who was hacked to death in Trelawny because the mob was unable to apprehend the 'real culprit' - a suspected child molester.

Consider Damon Thibodeaux, the Louisiana man who spent 15 years on death row for a murder he did not commit, then finally released after the real culprit confessed. Suppose vigilantes had earlier 'taken care of' Mr Thibodeaux? The point is that even when it appears to be a solid case, we dare not take the law into our own hands.

Who then are the villains? Can I dare suggest that there are many outwardly upright, rational citizens who are just as villainous in their desires and thoughts? Responsibility for these heinous acts does not rest with the machete-wielders only - it rests with every Jamaican who embraces the concept of self-justice, who gives implicit approval to mob killings.

Yes, our justice system may be fraught with imperfections, but a half-system is always better than no system at all, and certainly superior to vigilantism.

My fellow citizens, I appeal to your conscience; please, for heaven's sake, let good sense prevail.

EDWARD A. MORRIS

emorris@ncu.edu.jm

Mandeville, Manchester