Why violent crime?
This Sunday, churches all across Barbados will be devoting their church services to a reflection on the Campus Trendz tragedy and the lessons that we Barbadians need to draw from that horrific event.
Pastors and priests from every conceivable denomination will be examining the actions of young Renaldo Anderson Alleyne, who, on Friday, September 3, 2010, set out with an accomplice to rob a small clothing store in Bridgetown, and in the process of doing so, exploded a molotov cocktail that caused the store to be engulfed in flames, ultimately resulting in the deaths of six young women.
Clearly, there are many questions that will arise for consideration! One of them will be: “What would have caused a teenager who was raised and educated in Barbados to feel that he had to turn to a life of violent crime?”
And another will be: “When young Renaldo saw Kelly-Ann, Shanna, Tiffany, Nikkita, Kellishaw and Pearl in that little, claustrophobic store, why did he persist in carrying out an action with such potentially devastating consequences for the health and lives of these young women?”
Why, indeed, do so many young Barbadian men indulge in violent criminal activity? Can it be that their families, schools and communities have failed to instil in them a proper value system and a healthy sense of identity?
We may wish to reflect on the fact that far too many men (and some women too) fail to assume their responsibilities of parenthood, and that many youngsters are raised in very disorganised and stressful circumstances, and are assailed with a surfeit of rejection and negative criticism.
Perhaps, as well, the school system is failing far too many of our young people, and is churning out youth who are lacking in educational attainment and afflicted with feelings of hopelessness and low self-esteem. When such youth are constantly bombarded by a dominant materialistic, consumerist culture that purports to value a person, and indeed life itself, on the basis of the acquisition of material things, we can well appreciate the potential for a descent into crime.
There is also the problem of endemic social inequality – inter-generational poverty and lack of social mobility – in some sectors of our national population, and the feelings of injustice and hopelessness that these social maladies breed.
Who knows, perhaps some or all of these factors were part of young Renaldo Alleyne’s lived reality.
But, over and above these factors, the central issue remains: “Why, when Renaldo Alleyne looked upon these six young women in the Campus Trendz store, did he not perceive them as his kith and kin – his fellow Barbadians, his sisters, his people?
Search for answers
What is it in our society that is fostering sentiments of alienation, cynicism, self-centredness and a lack of a feeling of connection to or empathy with our fellow citizens? Is it a home-grown malady or is it that we are imbibing the social pathologies of North America and Europe through the all pervasive mechanisms of cultural penetration?
And so, how do we grapple with the fact that we are fast developing sub-cultures in Barbados – groups of persons who have separated themselves or who feel themselves to be separate from the rest of society, and who do not acknowledge any meaningful connection with their fellow citizens?
Surely, the Barbadian church will have a lot to ponder on this Sunday, including the possible failings and responsibilities of the church itself!
Likewise, at noon on Monday September 3, 2012 the entire Barbadian population is being called upon to take a minute out of their busy schedules to ponder on these things. For our part, we maintain that the ultimate solution will have to be based on us all striving to build a nation together – seeing each other as brothers and sisters; perceiving our brother’s problem as our problem; and working together to create a Barbados in which we all have a genuine stake.
* David Comissiong is president of the People’s Empowerment Party