I’m sure it comes as no surprise that many people think that Jamaica is as near to a living Hell as anyone would wish to encounter. Our reputation for murdering each other precedes us with a huge banner saying ‘ENTER AT YOUR PERIL’. So, I should not have been shocked when an American woman sated that Jamaica was so dangerous that her ‘important’, ‘high profile’, ‘big family’ friend, whom I ‘must know’, couldn’t go out jogging. She didn’t say where her friend lived in Jamaica.
I asked her whether her friend was tied up in her home and unable to break her shackles to escape the obvious phalanx of bodyguards who were keeping constant watch for the marauding villains were ready to assault her person. she said no.
I talked about the fact that The Bahamas in which this lady was so moving so casually, albeit with friends who tended to live in a largely expatriate enclave, was fast approaching if not exceeding Jamaica on murders per person.
The woman’s blind faith in her vision of Jamaica was what bothered me most. Our country carried the ‘THIS IS A WARZONE’ banner. I imagined she’d never dared take a visit. What, and be killed, raped, robbed, and more?
I did not go to the images that the world has of her homeland, despite its motto of ‘land of the free, home of the brave’. Police brutality against black people. Rampaging youths, killing masses of innocent people in schools or public places. The astonishing number of accidental deaths because people were careless with loaded weapons, to the extent that little children were being both killed and killers.
Somehow, her view of Jamaica was not tempered by a view of her own country that suggested ‘We’re pretty terrible ourselves’.
I guess that’s what really ticked me off.
The recent flippity flop that has been official reaction to crime data bothers me more because of people like this woman, stated is as pejorative a way as I can muster for that term. Our minister of national security is not a fool. He is not someone who has no clue about how others perceive him. I suspect that none of his predecessors were much different in those regards.
Why do I have to defend our record? Because we have ineffective police? Because we have accommodating politicians, who have let tolerance of criminal behaviour become part of what they do at least implicitly? You can’t counter anything you don’t truly oppose.
Wally British says it best: I am tyyrrrrddd of a clear unwillingness to take this wretched bull by its horn. If you let insects bite you, you must run the risk of getting infected. So, you do your best to ward off the insects, or some swat them, or some just stay away from them, or we take away their breeding grounds and habitats. We’ve gotten into this problem with crime.
We have not made full efforts to take this approach to crime, except largely with statements that don’t have substance as good as their words.
We can’t ward off criminals with a justice system that has a low rate of clearing up reported crimes.
We can’t swat them with courts that are do overloaded with cases as to warrant 24-hour sittings.
So, we stay away or try to do so, in gated communities, by limiting our public appearances, by not venturing into certain areas, by staying away from the country.
We can’t take away breeding grounds and habitats with an economy that is so emaciated as to look like a starving person, with bones jutting through wafer thing cracking skin. People without work or the realistic prospect of it, have few realistic options to make money that don’t involve crime. So, save the platitudes such as ‘go and get a job’ or ‘be productive’, as some intelligent people toss at young people or those hustling in some way.
The jutting bones are the creaky public services that most have to tolerate, after years of wasted spending or underspending. That includes the public infrastructure that reminds me of countries that went through wars, rather than a country that has never had a true war on its soil (no disrespect to the Maroon Wars).
In truth, politicians can’t save the country from its criminal reputation, and it can’t happen quickly unless we scoop up everyone and dump them all into the Caribbean deep. People have to take more chances to tackle it themselves. But, they need to get beyond their fears, including the irrational ones uttered by that woman.