There was a time when, on this little rock, the guns we carried were clearly poor and inoperable smaller replicas of the six-shooters of the Wild West. And we, as youth of the day, were quite content, when playing cowboy and crook, to tug on an unmoveable trigger and shout: “Bang! Bang!”
And when the models did come with the moving trigger, it was so that the gun’s hammer could bang itself on a narrow tape of what was referred to as caps which we inserted into the toy pistol. It didn’t give the sound we heard coming from the guns of our cinema heroes like Roy and Jill Rogers, Gene Autry and The Lone Ranger, but then we didn’t have to run, shouting “Pax, Pax!”.
The little cap gun was doing it for us.
And it did not matter that the imagery of blasts and falling victims was coming out of a place with a history of murder and mayhem, we here in Little Barbados, or Little England, as some preferred to call us, lived by our adopted mantras “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, and “Crime doesn’t pay” –– which explained why nearly all of us young folks would rather play “cowboy” than “crook”. At any rate, for us it was all make-believe.
Today, too many of our young men like the notion and feel of “crook”. Their aspirations are influenced by a compulsion to step out of the box. There is the thrill of undermining the traditional norms of good behaviour and human considerateness, and laying siege to communities in the face of our security forces.
The theme of many an American film and television episode exported to our island? Of course! The United States in more recent years has been giving us on a platter –– by satellite and cultural penetration into our local TV stations in the Caribbean –– a diet of brutal violence and gore by way of the gun, demonstrating how crime can pay, and how the Glock is the way.
But what better can we expect from a First World society that continues to be at war with itself, shutting its own government down, paralyzing the function of state, ignorantly setting the sparks for possible insurrection? What better can we hope for from a country that so engenders brutality and barbarity that every now and then a shooter takes out a number of people –– at school, at church, at sports, in the shopping mall –– for TV coverage?
What ought we to expect from a nation that takes great pleasure in exporting its violence –– through Hollywood to 2Pac? And what should we imagine will come of a place elsewhere that readily and fervently embraces all this cultural garbage?
For all the education –– free and otherwise –– that we boast as a country of providing, values do not seem to be figuring highly in it for some of us. In the brains of some of our young men, reasoning and common sense are taking a back seat.
We have lawless youth turning Barbados into a war zone with shootings in densely populated communities, with the consequent accidental slayings of innocent bystanders, their most dangerous recklessness exceeded only by their ignorance of handling firearms. Monkey shooting gun!
We once thought this macabre madness, which has been so much a feature of Kingston in Jamaica and urban and suburban spots of Trinidad, would never see the light of day in Barbados. Our youth would now prove us wrong. True, the shootings have not yet reached the dimensions of those associated with the gangsters of Jamaica and Trinidad, but that is no good cause for relief, or to sit back and thank the Almighty it is not worse.
We will not join those who accuse our law enforcement agencies broadly of having dropped the ball in the move against youth violence in this country. To date, we cannot but acknolwedge the swiftness with which our police have been responding to the rising trouble areas, and the fruitfulness of their investigations.
But the curbing of this gansgster-style shooting cannot only rest with the police. The society as a whole must take this barbarity by the scruff of its neck and banish it from our shores. As National Task Force On Crime Prevention officer Modupe Sodeyi has suggested, we have to ensure the minds of children –– in the homes and in the schools –– are cleared of any notion of breaking the rules with impunity, or committing crime in the future. We must impress upon our tiniest in the society, as Ms Sodeyi’s partner Charlie The Crime Stopper made clear to the pupils of Belmont Primary, whom they both were visiting earlier this week: “You don’t want to be a criminal, because there are three places a criminal will go and they are not fun places . . . . One, you will end up in something small, a box, you will end up in jail; two, in hospital fighting for your life; or, three, in a coffin at the cemetery.”
We must all put our hands to the plough.
It will serve well too for our police officers to visit our schools and discuss keeping the law and staying away from guns, and being a good citizen, with our young impressionable minds. It could in time cut down on having heavily armed law enforcers having to confront growing street violence, or having to scour the land in their armoured vehicles seeking out snipers.
To our very young it must be clear to see, as well, that no matter how wealthy or influential one may be, one is not above the law. The law is for all. We may warn offenders –– even forgive them –– but they must be held accountable for their actions. Keeping the law must not only be preached to our children; the abiding by it by all must be presented to them too. Follow the law –– or else . . . !