Erica Virtue, Senior Staff Reporter
Jamaica's idyllic climate and its world-famous sun, sea and sand mask a clear and present danger of staying alive in this tropical country. Even more troubling are the reasons for some of the almost 12,000 murders recorded across the island in the past eight years.
The most simple dispute can end in death, and it does not matter if family bonds tie victim and perpetrator.
That is of concern to several Jamaicans. Studies of the causation, correction and prevention of crime, say life is never valueless, but it means more to some than others.
Well-known Baptist clergyman, the Reverend Karl Johnson, said it was not difficult for agreement and sympathy with those who say life has little value in Jamaica.
Johnson, a former president of the Jamaica Council of Churches, said many people believe the worst takes place here, but this is not true.
"What we must do as a nation is to intentionally create a life-affirming framework. Sometimes, we are unaware how much we trivialise life by the things we do and the values we embrace. We seem to be acting in anti-life ways," argued Johnson.
"We say we love life, but we glorify a gun culture and the gun is used to destroy life. It is a contradiction, but one thing is clear, there can be no valueless country and no valueless people," added Johnson.
He said many of the model persons in society are individuals who speak disparagingly of others, whether they are in church, politics or dancehall.
This, he said, does nothing more than cheapen the other person. Johnson said individuals often regard other lives as cheap, and do everything to preserve theirs while not hesitating to destroy others.
Seemingly of no value
Psychologist and University of the West Indies lecturer Christopher Charles agrees that life seems to have no value to some Jamaicans.
"Life is worth a lot to law-abiding Jamaicans, but nothing to the criminals who are committing the murders in the country," said Charles.
He believes that life has lost its value, because a majority of Jamaicans have taken a hands-off approach, allowing crimes to go unpunished.
"Life became worthless when the law-abiding majority stopped providing information to the police, so most of the murders in Jamaica go unsolved. Now, we are left with one of the highest homicide rates in the world," Charles suggested.
Johnson and Charles are supported by a former professor of criminology at York University who said while Jamaicans are rights-conscious, there was significant devaluation of life.
"We think nothing of denying other people's rights, including the right of silence in their own homes. We lost the value on life when we normalised dysfunction, and reduced to nothingness everyday relationships," said the criminologist who asked not to be named.
She said the devaluation was the cumulative effect of all degrading circumstances which have brought the nation where it is today.According to the criminologist, Jamaicans have allowed "reprehensible manifestations to take root", and the restoration of values must be the starting point.
"We need to return to a just society where there is no need to kill someone to make it to the top. For this, we need a spiritual framework for this to happen as religion may not be the most progressive vehicle. But there will be dire consequences if we squander the opportunity to turn our national disgust into something that can rescue Jamaica," the criminologist argued.
For Johnson, the conversation must begin with respect.
"Of course, there is redemption, but it begins with the acknowledgement that the conversation should begin now. That conversation should have as its objective, the affirmation of each other. Even if you and I can't agree, we can respect each other," he said.
'Living in peace'
Rev Johnson said the theme for the 2013 annual assembly is 'living in peace', and he wants every church "to become a peace and justice centre, a space for intervention and transformation".
For Charles, economic growth is critical, and while redemption is a must, prayers alone will not help.
"Praying without ceasing won't stop the mayhem if each of us doesn't take a personal decision to report the crimes we witness to the police. The churches are praying and we still have the problem, but being good citizens is more than not breaking the law. We need to get rid of the see and blind, hear and deaf syndrome in Jamaica," added Charles.
He said the lawful majority
in Jamaica must provide information to the police when a crime is
committed, but the police must work to improve its image with the public
to engender trust.
Teen killed for cellphone - Percival Crew, 14-year-old, was stabbed to death refusing to hand over his cellular phone.
Mother kills son for food? An Ensom City mother has been charged for the death of her son who is reported to have eaten food without her permission.
Phone fight leaves one dead - A fracas between a man and a male teenager over a cellular phone on Maxfield Avenue, Kingston 13, on Wednesday, left Akeino Golding, 20, of Sherlock Crescent, Kingston 20 dead, while a 19-year-old youth of South Road, Kingston 10 has been admitted to hospital.
Killed over $200 box lunch? - An argument about a $200 box lunch is said to be the reason why Tugman Ellis of Zion Hill in Portland was killed, and a man who credited the lunch at a restaurant he operated was charged for murder.
90-y-o killed for phone - Edith Morrison was stabbed to death in the early morning. Her 24-year-old grandson, Jerome Campbell, has been accused of the crime and a cellphone is said to be the reason for the attack.
Killed for a BlackBerry - Reid was murdered on March 26 after he was chased by a group of young men from the Baywest Shopping Centre in Montego Bay during a dispute over a BlackBerry phone. He was stabbed several times in the neck, chest and back and his throat slashed.
Woman shot dead in Tawes Pen - Fifty-three-year-old Donna Cowan, a higgler of Tawes Pen, St Catherine, was sprayed with bullets after allegations that one of her relatives had stolen a cellular phone.
national chased, killed by angry residents - British
national 50-year-old Indiana King was chased and killed by angry
residents in the rural community of Hermitage, Westmoreland, on Monday,
allegedly over the use of a phone charger.