Moving Back to Jamaica

A blog about my Move Back to Jamaica after 20+ years of living in the US. Most of the articles focus on the period from 2005-2009 when the transition was new, and at it's most challenging.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

More on the Sources of Crime in the Caribbean

In this blog I posted an earlier entry on the Sources of Crime in Jamaica. When working recently on a blog on first-person responsibility, I realized that I made a conceptual jump that put me very quickly, perhaps too quickly, into the realm of possible solutions.

I thought I'd try to illuminate some more of the issue in this blog.

I've travelled to work in a few countries in the Caribbean, and I read the Trinidadian or Barbadian papers daily.

In Trinidad in particular, a recent but steady rise in crime has Trinis asking themselves "what happened?" Listening to them complain is much like listening to us Jamaicans 20 years ago, and it's a little like looking at ourselves in the mirror. In a way, it's easier to think about what they should do differently because it's just easier to think about what someone else should in general. I'll use the Trini situation as a case study for the rest of us in the Caribbean.

It's interesting to hear the variety of responses from people, and the different levels of responsibility that they are willing to take.

As I mentioned before, Trinis are engaged themselves "What happened to get us to this place, and what is to be done to get us out of it?"

I happen to be writing this blog a couple of days after the fourth monthly bombing in Port of Spain (October) and two weeks after an acquaintance of mine was kidnapped and beheaded.

Here are the types of responses I've noticed.

1. The Avoiders
"Those criminals need to be strung up."
"There are only a few bad eggs, and once they are weeded out, things will return to normal."
"I'm leaving this country and the mess it's in."
"The government / politicians / police / army / church / Blacks / Indians / Creoles / Syrians /youth / drugs / deportees are to blame."

The common theme is that of a complete lack of ownership.

2. The Shared and Mythical ''We''
"We are all to blame''
"We must find something to do about this"
''The problem is within our society"
"The culture is at fault"
''We are too...(something) ................. as Trinis''

The common theme is a lack of individual responsibility

3. Personal Responsibility
"What can I do?"
"What am I missing / What am I not seeing?"
"How did I let this happen?''

This last set of questions are being asked by the very few. They are the ones that are able to look at the situation without any sense of blame, but with a full sense of ownership. They are able to engage themselves and others in an urgent and creative search for deep and empowering answers.

As an outsider, it's obvious to me that the current situation (with its random bombings and pre-planned kidnappings) has been caused ..... by Trini's. Something is happening (or not happening)in the following places (among others) that is producing this particular criminal phenomena:
-- families
-- churches
-- schools
-- sports
-- security forces
-- political organizations

Alternately, one may also say that something did not happen in these institutions in order to allow these things to happen.

By comparison, some things both did and did not happen in Jamaica and Barbados such that kidnappings, for example, have not happened.

Accordingly, something happened, and something did not happen, to allow murders to increase the way they have in Jamaica, which now has a murder rate that is one of the world's highest.

The interesting point here is that only those persons in the third zone -- that of personal responsibility -- will be able to create empowering avenues for action that make a difference. Only they will be able to discover the profound and poorly understood reasons why there are kidnappings and bombings.

They will also be the ones most likely to create programs that will impact society positively and turn these problems into opportunities for decisive action.

Another way of saying this is to say that they are the brave, the strong and the few who are willing to plumb the deep and dark corners of their own souls for answers. They assume that they have the power to create solutions.

The real irony here is that the assumption of "problem-solving" power carries with it a necessary flip-side. The flip-side is that it carries with it the assumption of ''problem-creating." The power of one must imply the power of the other.

Yet, we Caribbean people (among others) operate without this awareness, and give up most of our power to make a difference. The result is that we sound shrill, much like our politicians who try to solve problems by blaming others while avoiding responsibility.

No wonder our most pressing problems remain unsolved.


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