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Why are Jamaicans so bloody violent?

Published:Saturday | March 2, 2013 | 3:00 AM
Mourners view the body of Haile Selassie High School student Sheriefa Saddler, 14, at a thanksgiving service on February 24. Saddler was kidnapped, murdered and her battered body thrown from a car on Lothian Avenue, Kingston 11, on January 30. - File

Ethon Lowe, Guest Columnist

A schoolgirl on her way to school is abducted, raped and murdered, and her body dumped on the road like useless baggage. A mother's agony after her two children are brutally murdered by her ex-partner hell-bent on revenge.

One of the highest murder rates in the world? You've got to be kidding. How can that be? After all, Jamaicans are regarded as one of the friendliest people in the world. Ask any tourist. Luxuriating in the warmth and hospitality of the Jamaican people, pampered by overblown, embarrassingly servile attention to their needs, the tourist is, not surprisingly, bewitched.

Negotiating the hills and valleys of Ram Puss district, the Kingstonian, in his shiny SUV, seeks directions to Miss Dulcie's house and is greeted warmly by the villagers. Like the tourist, he shares a similar sentiment: "Bwoy, de country people dem nice, yu si." Or, so it seems.

Offend Miss Dulcie (or her goats) and the wrath of Ram Puss' assorted populace, from the mangy family dog to the village obeahman and village madman, is unleashed.

Beneath the joyful, friendly veneer of many Jamaicans lie aggression and volatility bursting to get out. Channelled in the right direction, they become world-class athletes and musicians. In the wrong direction, more skilled con artists, rapists, and cold-blooded murderers you won't find. Barring none.

In fairness, a person is to some extent a prisoner of his genes. About 50 per cent of his inherent qualities are controlled by his genes - mental qualities such as being happy, quiet, aggressive, etc., and physical qualities such as height, colour, etc. Thus, 70 per cent of Jamaican world-class athletes have the ACTN3 gene-enabling 'fast twitch' of their muscle fibres for sprinting, hence the superior performance of our athletes.

SHAPING BEHAVIOUR

About 10 per cent of the person's character and behaviour are due to life's circumstances such as economic background, single parent, etc. The remaining 40 per cent, more or less, are determined by our thoughts and actions - to make things happen, despite genetic influences and life's circumstances.

Although there may be a correlation between increased levels of testosterone and violent Jamaican males, this has not been proven. But testosterone levels among female inmates in prisons have been shown to be higher than in the general population.

While Jamaica's violence is related to its gangs, social deprivation, poverty, family dysfunction, etc., the country is also noted for its religious madness. Is violence related to the latter? In the USA, low intelligence and poverty are linked to religiosity (i.e., faith-based beliefs) and also to crime. Persons who affiliate themselves with Christianity make up almost 80 per cent of prison populations. Atheists make up about 0.2 per cent. It is safe to conclude the godless do not fill prisons.

While it may not be true to say that religion causes criminality, it at least shows that a population's adherence to a religion does not reduce levels of socially unacceptable behaviour.

Religious countries tend to have more wars, higher homicidal rates, higher levels of corruption, more AIDS, more rapes, more teenage pregnancies, and more abortions. Why? Believers may more likely resort to uncivil behaviour because of irrationality. Their beliefs are acted upon without the critical and sceptical way of judging right from wrong.

This is a vicious society where the Jamaican psyche of lewdness, loudness, rampant indiscipline and lack of respect for others predominates. It is the singer, not the song, stupid. Guns, I remind you, are not in the habit of killing people; people kill people.

So, why are Jamaicans so bloody violent? Is it because of nature or nurture? Both.

This no-problem island paradise chalked up 1,087 murders in 2012.

Alas, a meaningful life for the majority, hard-working Jamaicans, seems an unlikely prospect - whether gainfully employed in productive endeavours or a life of quiet contemplation - being constantly and tragically mindful of an early and untimely demise.

Ethon Lowe is a medical doctor. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and ethonlowe@gmail.com.