Bifurcating about it

I commented to some friends earlier in the week that part of the problem with dealing with major social issues in Jamaica seems to be a sort of social bifurcation. One aspect of that is middle- and upper-class people do not see action on crime reduction as ‘their’ problem, and the ‘system’ seems to allow them to do that, freely.

I read an article today where the judge in the Vybz Kartel case lamented that only ‘poor’ people are being summoned for jury service; i.e. those least able to afford to attend. This, to me, is a perfect example of social bifurcation. Better-off people can remove themselves from civic services with little impunity or cost to their general activities. This is a tendency that has been noted in both the USA and UK.

Of course, Jamaica has been witnessing this separation of ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ for some time, most notably with the spread of gated communities. The spread of violent crime encouraged the development of ‘fortifications’. Criminals feel alienated? Then watch this: we’re going to alienate ourselves behind walls and with security guards–no guarantee of safety, but a clear enough signal that people want to be no part of the encroaching madness.

Data suggest that those who don’t have to rely on the petty favours of politicians have decided to bother less with voting: turnover has been declining steadily at national elections, since the mid-1970s (from about 85 percent to around 53 percent) after rising steadily from 1949). This seems like a strong rejection of national politicians, who seem unable to be credible and offer good solutions to the nation’s major issues. As economic growth has stagnated, ‘Let them squabble over the scraps’ could be a good view of what this means for those who have means.

A failing economy has little to redistribute, and if you don’t need government social spending to support you, then why waste time on a bunch of craven politicians? So, the crabs voted in can watch the crabs who voted for them fighting over what little remains in the barrel. The violent crime is a manifestation of how the struggle to get some of the scraps has become an ‘occupation’ for some. But, the ‘haves’ don’t want any part of the criminals, who prey more on their own inner city communities. The cynic may argue that, left to themselves, the inner cities will self-destruct.

So, withdraw whenever possible is the order of the day for those who have such options.

The burden of change is, therefore, not being shared equally.