Albert Einstein is widely credited with the definition of insanity as being doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.
It seems that here in Barbados we are perfecting our own practice of madness, for we keep doing the same thing again and again, and, sadly, this insanity is costing lives. Too many lives!
Like the life of 23-year-old Jamal Worrell who on Friday was going about his daily business, playing his part in feeding the nation. Then the madness took over, as gunmen, with all the daring and audaciousness in the world, opened fire and stole another young life.
Jamal, along with his older brother Michael, worked with their father on a chicken farm at The Bleak in St Peter.
According to the reports, they had just completed their day’s work and were outside chatting when they heard voices coming from a nearby area. When they went to check, the intruders opened fire, killing the young man.
Government MP James Paul lamented Jamal’s killing and argued that it could hurt the agricultural sector by scaring away current and potential farmers who are unwilling to protect their farms from thieves at the expense of their lives.
Herein lies another form of madness: saying the same thing again and again and expecting the problem to go away. Another violent death has prompted another utterance of outrage, another Editorial and soon, regrettably, another forgotten victim. And the cycle continues.
Following a shooting at a college in Roseburg, Oregon, United States, last Thursday, President Barack Obama, in offering condolences, and clearly upset over the number of shootings, stated that “our thoughts and prayers are not enough”, and called on voters to demand changes to America’s gun laws.
Like Mr Obama, we wish to insist that our thoughts and concerns are not enough; our tough talking and our promises are no longer enough. Not for the family of Jamal Worrell who got there in time to see him die; not for the families of Stanley Michelini, Malanese Eversley, Dwight Holder or the many who have died violently this year, and who we might have already forgotten. And it’s no longer enough for Barbadians who must be looking over their shoulders whenever they venture out by day or night.
How many Editorials must we write? How many more lives must be snatched so cavalierly before the madness ends?
It is all right for the authorities to condemn such acts; it is fine for leaders like Paul to speak out. But condemnation after the fact is not enough. Our country appears to be locked into a death spiral, placing our very freedom is under assault. And action to prevent the killings is what’s needed.
Last week, Trinidad and Tobago’s Acting Commissioner Of Police Stephen Williams reported that September was the most violent month of 2015 so far, with 50 murders. He did not say if it was a record; but 50 murders in one month seem incomprehensible.
We are not there yet; nowhere near. But it doesn’t take a genius to figure out it could happen to us if we don’t stem the tide.
While the killers keep prowling with malice in their eyes, callousness, greed, envy and hate in their hearts and murder on their minds, our nation is on the brink of fear –– or maybe we have fallen into such paralyzing fear that we have become numb to the killings and helpless to act.
The people who attack, intimidate, murder, terrify and terrorize cannot be allowed to continue on this path. We have recommended in previous Editorials that the authorities examine and consider adopting some of the measures that worked in other jurisdictions, such as stop and frisk. We have recommended that the police be given adequate resources and training to cope.
We now wish to add that an urgent assessment be made to determine the cause of this deviance, and strategies adopted to change behaviour.
In his call for a clampdown on crime, as reported in a local newspaper, Mr Paul promised to do “all in his power” to encourage Government to institute realistic penalties for crimes committed here. He also warned that if we did not enforce modes of punishment befitting the crimes and which acted as an effective deterrent, nothing would change.
Based on the calls for resumption of hanging and other forms of punishment, some of which we will not risk repeating here, it is clear Barbadians are fed up and want an end to the violence and killings. Amidst this, however, we must be careful not to deal with the symptoms by weeding out a few bad eggs, while allowing
the root of the problem to remain.
We would have loved to present an Editorial on something different today –– the contribution of Joseph Niles, for example –– but the madness that envelops us continues and we are caught in the middle of it.
We just hope that someday soon our leaders will wake up from the “whatever” mode in which they snooze and curb this insanity; that they will begin to veer away from doing –– rather, saying –– the same thing again and again. Otherwise, they will be damned in the eyes of the voters who want an end to this madness.