Ricochet: Quietly, many are seeing parts of the Caribbean’s fractured landscape continue to erode as it looks for a clear path in managing economic decay, politics, crime, and policing. Several communities known for their beautiful sunsets beaming off the warm Caribbean Sea have been plagued with the proliferation of violence. These atrocities do not discriminate – from law enforcement officers, young and old to anyone else in its path.
A few decades ago, along these shores few people owned a licensed gun. It was the local business owner, and law enforcement. Today, even your taxi drivers to the grocery baggers are armed. The death toll each year consistently outnumbers the calendar days. This mayhem combined with poor economic conditions has created a complexity in balancing personal freedom, crime, and perception. Playing the lottery has become the only hope for many out of poverty and, silently, it is creating more poverty while lives are being lost more frequent than the daily games being played.
Downtrodden, corruptions, inadequacies, inequality, and crime, whether self-inflicted or not, is ubiquitous, and a propensity to compare to other nations is understandable. No one community is immune from violence or poverty. Even in Washington, DC, the US capital, the Washington Post reported poverty has increased from 2007 to 2014. It is also not unique to see police unions overwhelmingly frustrated in the confidence of their leadership.
Recently Baltimore, Maryland mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, announced that she would not seek re-election, stemming from ongoing uptick in crimes, and the wounds of an unarmed black male who died in police custody.
Unfortunately, this is not about Baltimore: These issues are closer than you might have noticed.
In countries like Trinidad, Jamaica, Bahamas, Guyana and others, it is not about the ethnic, religious, or cultural differences that forever link from the slave trades. The recent headlines are depressing. For some looking in and others inside looking out, a paradigm shift is needed.
The consequential revolving door that continues to call for past leaders or current to quit or force a quick election as the solution has never solved crimes and economic stagnation. These frustrated strategies only deflect the true systematic social decay being kicked down the road for the next generation.
If you continue to do the same thing and expect different results, you are bound to fail.
For many years, I have traveled north and played on an old soccer team despite knowing I was not ready. My connection guaranteed me a spot even over others who were more qualified. After the last whistle, I left broken arm, toe, strain, or other serious pain and even contributed to a few losses, when I could have enjoyed the same success on the sidelines.
Public Safety and Policing: It seems pride and power outweigh intelligence when a fundamental crime control policy is lacking. The struggle between policing and politics is not a new paradigm. Studies have shown that this institution always had close ties to politicians since the early 18th century when it was formed in Metropolitan London.
Although some argue that the concept of policing was to used to keep slaves from running away from their masters, policing, whether political, reform, and community era, continues plays a vital role in societies’ public safety.
The fact is, regardless of the community, it is tough being a police officer. They consistently see the worst of people and, yet, the expectation is to stay calm. They take on tasks most of us would not even fathom, from death, to mentally ill, intoxicated, to rude people, while balancing reality from perception. At the end of each shift, they simply want to get back home safely to their families.
In any system, there are some bad cops, just as there are bad businesspersons, doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc., but they cannot do it alone. Tough on crime perception strategies without resources and community support only allow criminal enterprises to thrive.
Sadly, some business owners who tried to make remittances more accessible through a Western Union are now being robbed few yards from a police station. Today, some major money transfer companies have placed limits on funds due to fraud, and the inability to curtail perpetrators.
Crime: Although we are not decoupling the data, recent statistics show that the murder rates in most of these English-speaking Caribbean countries are at or above 30 per 100,000 people. These rates are six times US levels and 15-30 times those of most European countries.
Personal responsibility: Blaming your government for lack of business opportunities as criminals kill and rob stores that serve the community needs a rethinking. This is not much different from an unemployed student who parades the community streets with the latest model car, fashion and technology gadget without legitimate source of income and is later killed in a police shoot-out. Rather than blaming the police, one should take an assessment of parenting, or the lack thereof. Sure, you can question due process.
These criminal mentality, and criminogenic needs cannot be managed with the same old political ploys or and law enforcement bullets. This firmware may create a bounce in the polls while crime remains unmanageable. Moreover, selling an election as the solutions only benefits the concept of absolute power and that only corrupts absolutely as many have argued. Same as political divides, criminals use the same tactics to their advantage. On many of our shores politics is like a contact sport. After the votes are counted, the wounded are sidelined for decades. The leftover fragments are simple not the failure of law enforcement.
The Politics: In 2014, British Prime Minister David Carmon gave a speech on the Century of World War I. He highlighted his willingness and the importance to merge local ideas and not just national initiative and government actions. Although some might argue this could be due to the lack of assimilation by some groups.
The Caribbean should considers this idea, or build on some it core argument.
Out of Many, One People” should remind leaders of what is important. Politics should not be a sport of allies and aristocrats as believed to be the roots of its origin. It is critical to make it serve people, reduce complexities between the society as who, what, when and how they fit in.
However, this is not about revising the colonial period that some blame when today’s crime and poverty are difficult to reverse. Subconsciously, the British footprints are still clear in parts of the region, and quietly some are debating what if the British Pound was still the official currency.
The region’s criminal and political decay seems like the past enslaved period when colonial rulers judged the inhabitants by race, class and gender, as many studies have noted, to maintain their own identity. The idea of policy, “politics” as many have argued, should be about prosperity, and happiness. Ongoing erosion cannot be about political bickering. It is time to rebuild the middle class to address crime.
The Complexities: The lack of opportunity and a fundamental decay in government, education, combined with unqualified teachers have left the youth especially leaving school undereducated without hope. Several are now roaming the streets asking for handouts and not an innovative mind.
These images only drive fear in visitors and working class. It takes more than curfew to create a perception of safety. Like the ocean without a levee to sustain overflow, many of these communities are just bouncing around while getting both criminal and political hits. As a result, the society has eroded and scattered. It should not be about class, race, gender, and sexuality. Focus should be on attracting investments, and creating an environment where returning residents can feel comfortable
These conflicts, poverty and crime of opportunity complied with destructive adversarial relationships requires detailed contextual analysis of the community and its relations. It is time to develop solid economic systems to deter crimes. Despite opposition, one has to move from bureaucratic and dysfunctional power conflicts.
Holding perpetrators accountable while helping the poor is essential. However, upward mobility starts with The Man in the Mirror, a song by the late pop star Michael Jackson. You do not have to be the Pope to lead your people to prosperity.
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