The recent murders in the parish of St George and the spate of shooting deaths in St Michael bring into focus once again the changing face of Barbadian society. Of course, crime is no new phenomenon in the island, but the volume of gun-related deaths and the savagery of some of these attacks speak to a country that has seemingly lost its way.
And we can find no comfort in statistics that suggest that crime is down this year, compared to last year, or is on par to 2015 or marginally fewer than 1943. The reality is that even with specific crime classifications, at the end of the day all crimes are lumped together and those overall figures determine the rise or decrease over specific periods. And while summary and misdemeanour offences impact on people’s lives, as well as non-fatal indictable matters, the fact of the matter is that nothing blemishes society more than the senseless and brutal slaying of the country’s principal asset.
We live in a society where we have turned our backs on the things that worked for Barbados in the past. The values and traditions that we once held dear and were part of the fabric that made this country what it was, have been abandoned because they are now seen as antiquated and not in keeping with developments in more affluent and modernized nations.
We sign on to international conventions, some of which make as much sense as parading on Broad Street fully clothed in nakedness. We value our educational achievements, we hold them up to the world, then we sit and accept what others propose are the best means of conducting our affairs. It is out of this uncertainty, intellectual dependency and weakness that we are saddled with the Privy Council’s Pratt and Morgan ruling. The sloth of our judicial system renders capital punishment akin to a Catch-22 situation.
And corporal punishment in any form has now become brutality in every form.
Parental dos and don’ts that were basically innate and helped to fashion – not a perfect society – but one where ATM visits were not akin to a trek through Aleppo, have been abandoned and replaced by would-be experts and advocates spouting rhetoric. In most cases, they have not been touched by the barbarity of this enlightened and sophisticated age. Parents now leave parenting to teachers and in many situations schools have simply become avenues of respite for parents for a few hours. While it was once unthinkable to see a 16-year-old on the streets alone after midnight, it has become part of our nightly routine. But they have rights, we are often reminded.
Graft, greed and unscrupulous behaviour have become commonplace among public and private officials, whether it be in the facilitating of contracts for monetary gain, assisting with illegal importation of drugs and firearms, buying of votes or illegal wiretapping. Then, impressionable young eyes have ‘good’ examples to mimic as they too try to get rich quick or die trying. It is a never-ending cycle of depraved conduct.
We have been praying ad infinitum and yet the situation continues to worsen. We have held religious marches, we have staged candlelight vigils, we have had national days of prayer, yet it would seem none of it has worked. But it must be stressed that the tradition of ensuring our children be reared in the church should have been maintained from the cradle. Today, our children’s pastor or priest is google or firefox, members of the Sunday school class are in the chat room and our teens break bread and drink wine via their iPad.
We complain about the waywardness of our youth but the lines of demarcation between our youth and adults have become so blurred. Our youth in many instances are our adults.
And what about our social circumstances? Have those to whom we entrusted our country been caught sleeping at the wheel? Have our politicians committed to the responsibility we entrusted to them? Do they see the connection between poverty and criminality and their political performance? Or, do they see the link between lack of education and criminality? Perhaps, lack of opportunity and criminality? Or, lack of firm, committed law enforcement and criminality? Are we still our brothers’ keeper? Are we still parents to the villages’ many children? And what about the church? Are the edifices, alone, the churches? Do our religious leaders go into the trenches with their message or do they wait and hope the trenches come to them?
Educated adults spouting profanity on social media in some sick attempt to demonstrate their toughness or to pretend to be doing a public communications good are all part of the new Barbados.
One day coming soon, if we are not mindful of the slump in our consciousness, wanton shootings on our streets, murders at ATMs will no longer shock us. There might become so commonplace that we might be late to recognize that the day’s victim is one of our own.