THE wanton acts of savagery executed by some people these days in their quest to settle scores continues to be an unnerving concern for many Saint Lucians. Especially for those families, relatives and friends of the victims of such violence, the trauma can be a lifelong burden whether or not the wounds inflicted manifest themselves in scars or – worse – death.
As I write this article, I find it difficult putting a time stamp to the last time I heard someone said they received or gave a “guhjet” during an altercation with an adversary. These days the norm in Saint Lucia seems to be chopping, stabbing or shooting people with whom we have disagreements. It befuddles me as to why a war of words in a democracy where people take so much pride in proclaiming their right to free speech would lead to people lashing out at each other with weapons instead of words just to win a battle.
These days, the norm adopted by many young men is to walk around with knives, scissors, ice picks and guns in their pockets, backpacks or waists. Quite often, it seems as if these hooligans are just daring people to take them on just so they could use their ostensibly best way of settling matters. The lame excuse some thugs offer for carrying knives and scissors are laughable, too: for peeling oranges and chopping up marijuana respectively. We only have to stay tuned to the local newscasts to see the real reasons why such weapons are more dangerous that we were led to believe.
Having followed the local news for many years now, I have learned just how a simple joke or a verbal dispute has led to countless murders. About a year ago, a verbal spat at a rural watering-hole led to one man breaking a beer bottle and stabbing another to death. The reason: the deceased told the attacker that his daughter might not be his biological child after all. Feeling embarrassed that the other patrons were making fun of him for feeding another man’s child, the enraged man lashed out. Imagine that.
There have also been cases where people received serious injuries or were hacked to death over “Your Mama” jokes that started out in a mutually-accepted setting. Even worse, mentioning a man’s woman’s name in an unflattering manner can also lead to a fatality. The male ego sometimes seem not inclined to find more rational means of settling scores other than acting on their short fuses and leaving their injurious marks on other people’s flesh.
Take, for example, the case in Belle Vue, Vieux Fort on Christmas Day in which police reported that a man was allegedly chopped and stabbed multiple times by four known individuals. Following the attack, 38-year-old Oswald Downes lay dead.
Just a day later, 23-year-old JervaughnCoureur was found dead in his home at Cacao, Babonneau with multiple gunshot wounds on his body.
These two killings were preceded by the stabbing death of 30-year-old Darling Road, Castries resident, CedrickGourie, on December 19 on Jn. Baptiste Street, Castries.
These are all vicious tragedies we could have done without, especially when we hear the reports of what led to that escalation of violence in the first place. Speaking of firsts, the first homicide for this year is still on the minds of many Saint Lucians. Well, mine, anyway. The theories abound as to what led to it but 45-year-old Joseph Herman is now dead after being stabbed multiple times, allegedly by a known individual with whom he had a decade-long verbal feud. People just find it hard letting go of grudges.
Within the last fortnight of last year, three people were killed in our homeland via senselessness and lawlessness. These are four lives that could have been saved had better judgment prevailed and people talked over their differences or gotten assistance from other sources to do so. But no, we all seem to want to win physical battles even when just mere words are called for. We love to see our names plastered on the news so we can get some justification for not putting up with people who get on our nerves. It’s all about us, it seems.
Sometimes I get the feeling that with all the anti-violence campaigns we promote here, the message is getting lost somewhere. Clearly, the people who are supposed to be listening to the messages are either too caught up in their ways or bigger than the message itself. I fail to see how just looking at someone who claims to be a “badman” in the street for more than five seconds entitles me to a beat-down. And why is it that if I try to prevent someone from robbing me that I deserve to be killed?
A major underlying factor in all this senseless violence is that many of the assailants are clearly people with sociopathic issues. When I was a boy, I used to think that homeless people were mad people. Today, I know they’re just people without a home and have issues fitting into society. The mad people are the ones blending in among us getting high on drugs, stealing our worldly possessions and lives, and ignoring the fact that they need professional help to work through their issues.
Saint Lucia recorded 29 homicides last year after recording none for the first three months. But while the number is less than the previous years (34 in 2014 and 36 in 2013), we should not take any comfort in such reductions. What we need to aim for is a zero tolerance for violence and a 100% commitment to resolving disputes amicably.
That’s where the police and other social agencies will need to up the ante by going even further in their campaigns to keeping the citizenry safe. We also need to increase the level of random searches to rid our streets for those deadly weapons that quite often seem to speak louder than words. If you asked me, we all need to chill out on the killing and make the realm of the living a safer place.