Following Tuesday’s tragedy in which a van overturned with several young people on board, attorney-at-law Arthur Holder is warning about the criminal impact of the ZR culture on this island’s young people.
Holder, who specializes in criminal law, was one of the panelists addressing a Probation Department-sponsored discussion on ‘Societal Response to the Glamorization of Delinquency and Crime”.
Moderated by former magistrate Emerson Graham, the other panelists were UWI Sociology Lecturer Dr Joan Phillips, Human Resources Consultant Toney Olton and Assistant Commissioner of Police Erwin Boyce.
In their presentations, Phillips and Boyce spoke of the glamorization of crime through mass media reports focusing on accused criminals, but Holder countered that view, contending instead that newspapers, television and radios were highlighting the truly emerging society.
“I do not see it as glamorization. What the news media is doing is highlighting what exists. That is a carbon-copy of our society. So I do not think the mere reporting of a person in a newspaper and [that individual] being acclaimed, I do not see it as glamorization,” he said to an audience that included Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite.
“It is actually portraying the existence of what is taking place in our society,” he said, adding: “We need to understand that music is an important vehicle”.
“Why is it, for example, that our young people prefer to drive on the ZRs than take the free bus? Because of the music. That is a source of inspiration and a drive, as it relates to the transition of delinquency to crime.”
He dismissed as “a lot of theoretical perspectives that do not hold fast to what exists in our current society”, assumptions that media reports on criminal court yard jubilation when accused criminals were brought to trial, glorify a life of crime.
“Our value systems have changed and part of the change has to do with the importation of culture,” argued Holder, who, in addition to being a practising attorney for 15 years, possesses a Master’s Degree in Social Work focusing on juvenile and youth advocacy.
He said that in this class-based Barbados society, the disenfranchised and marginalized resort to the commission of crime to sustain not just themselves, but the community in which they live.
“So the people who we see in the newspapers on a daily basis that are deemed by all and sundry to be violent, within the community they are seen as heroes, because they are providing social service and that is a reality we need to face.
“They send you to school, they provide bus fare, provide lunch money.”
Holder, who is currently involved in the high profile murder trial in which he is representing Andre “Lord Evil” Jackman, spoke of the circus-like behaviour outside the law courts when some criminals appear for trial as a notable point in the “transition from anti-social behaviour to the criminal intent” of young people.
Holder referred to the crowds at court awaiting the arrival of detainees as people waiting “to acclaim their hero”.
“This is from a juvenile perspective . . . we do not recognize what it says. They have become heroes there and then . . . because there are failures within the system.
“There is a gravitation towards the block, how do we reach there, because the block is the nurturing figure in these people’s lives. The block becomes the mother and father.”
He said there was an added “intimate and integral” dimension that was often overlooked.
“We talk about glamorization and we’ve left out the females.
“That same hero status that we speak of, when you go to Dodds and return, you are a ‘hard seed’, you have made it, you have attracted more females to you. And that has nothing to do with the media.”
He said this provides an added motivation for young men. “If you are crime-oriented, you are attractive. You are a force to be reckoned with.
“And you are also a provider so that you have an incentive not to beat the system, but to commit crime because there is a reward awaiting you.”