Letters & Opinion

Why We Kill

Image: Crime scene of Thursday's fatal shooting.

WHILE the nation continues to be intoxicated by its infantile preoccupation with red and yellow politics, the nation is bleeding from north to south in all manner of violent crimes. The reds blame the yellows and the yellows counter with poor economic performance by the reds. One thing that is certain, politicians will say or do anything to get elected. They both know that crime can win or lose and an election, especially homicides. The party in opposition salivates at any increase in violent crime because it often translates to the acquisition of power.

The ruling party, as usual, runs to the medicine cabinet for their bandage, the police. The police, divided as they are, bow obsequiously to the politicians and proceed to occupy some economically-deprived part of town. When will the police muster the guts to tell their confused masters that they are not the agency responsible to solve crime? That they can only contain or suppress crime by the time the criminal gets under the police radar, and it’s too late?

If the police is not the agency to solve our crime situation, then who is? The reds tell you “jobs, jobs, jobs”. The yellows tell us “ching, ching, ching”. They both look to the hotel industry to create the jobs and the chingching.

While government provides millions of dollars in concessions and tax breaks to the hotel industry, they wouldn’t care less about the workers, mainly single mothers who have to experience disruption in family life as a result of the dysfunctional working hours. And so the hotel industry is seen as our saviour in the face of the abuse and neglect of our children, as parents leave them unattended in pursuit of the chingching.

As far back as the 1990s and 2000s, the Division of Human Services recognized the effects on children whose parents work unusual hours. We saw children as young as ten years old with the keys to the family home attached to their belts. These children, in some cases, had to pick up their younger siblings on their way home.

As the hotel industry grew, there was a parallel increase in all forms of child abuse. We pleaded for more staff, since we were the agency responsible to do early family intervention. Our probation department was inundated with calls to send boys to the Boys’ Training Centre. But there were no white foreigners to plead our case, and the powers-that-be ignored us. So we remained with eight family case workers and four probation officers for the entire island.

As family case workers, we encountered children who, for one reason or another, were badly adjusted to their homes and community. Those children were not necessarily mentally-defective; often the reverse, but they were socially-defective: they cried, they stole, they ran away from home and indulged in many other forms of social behaviour.

As trained and experienced workers, we knew the major causes of the evident maladjustment and wrote it in our reports. We argued that these problems were largely due to some dislocation in the parent-child relationship, the effects of the neglect and the resulting abuse of those children left alone and unsupervised by family and friends.

The effects of child abuse and neglect have been studied extensively by child psychologists. They maintain that early abuse negatively affects the development or the pre-frontal cortex, the area responsible for moral reasoning, empathy, sympathy and a conscience. A conscience is, in effect, a code of ethics that exists within a person. When this code is violated, the person has feeling of guilt. Potential feelings of guilt are critically important to impulse control. The rate at which we are killing each other is evident that we are lacking in impulse control.

Guilt is a most unpleasant feeling, and its unpleasantness serves to motivate people to avoid doing those things that are unacceptable to their consciences. If a child grows up without developing an effective conscience if he lacks an internalized set of values, he is inclined to follow his impulses regardless of what damages others may suffer. A child with a damaged frontal cortex is conscienceless, his only worry is the possibility of being caught and punished. He has no concept of right and wrong.

Sigmund Freud, a psychoanalyst, claimed that the cause of personality disorders which he treated was to be found in some shock, some disruptive emotional experience in early childhood. One by-product of the amazing notoriety which his work attained in the popular mind was the attention which was called to the emotional character of early childhood experiences and their importance as a controlling factor in adult life.

Today, an army of abused, neglected and mentally-damaged young people are marching on society. They do not have the attention span to work at the jobs, jobs, jobs to gain the chingching. They want immediate gratification and we provide them with lots of it, both legal and illegal. What is an army without weapons? They have that as well and they will kill for the simplest reason.

Will our response be the usual Taliban-styled counter-attack? To mount machine guns or pickup vans, road blocks and armed occupation of some communities? Our politicians need immediate gratification, too. They must get numbers to stay in power or regain power and any programme that cannot produce immediate quantitative results are doomed. Consider the following:

• Human Services — one additional staff in 30 years.
• Gros Islet After-School Programme — Cancelled.
• Marchand After-School Programme – Cancelled.
• Vieux Fort After-School Programme – Cancelled.
• Soufriere Community Mental Health Programme – Cancelled.
• St. Lucia Roving Care Givers Programme — Cancelled.
Since local opinions don’t matter, let’s hope that some foreign agency comes to our rescue. Insane!

 Raymond Joseph, Retired Family Case Worker

1 Comment

  1. Whereas I hail the foregoing a worthy attempt to put in perspective the dire situation that now confronts us as a society, I dare say that perhaps part of the blame is to be shared by the very agency whose opinions it seeks to represent. It is my considered view—and that of a wide section of society—that the agency in question has not, over the years, been a forceful enough agitator for the desired change in mind set at the government level. Along with the general public, I am not aware of the exact action or methods it may have employed to get the attention of the powers-that-be except the occasional media ranting whenever a development has roused the ire of the populace, forcing it out with a statement, which almost predictably begins and ends with inadequacy of personnel and other resources. It occurs to me that both the agency in question and higher level policy making organs of government have failed in arriving at consensus as to the right formula to address the ever growing problems of social deviance, parental supervision/control, violent crime, the need for augmentation of appropriate labour laws, particularly as relates to working mothers in the hotel sector, the adequacy of training of all social workers and the allocation of the desired resources to that agency. It has been mooted that if there is to be any significant behavioural change in the body politic, it can only come about by a proper engaging of the minds, an orchestrated effort to arrive at a sound understanding of the causes and nature of the problem and a deliberate decision to identify and allocate the necessary resources to confront the beast.

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