Let’s not be held ransom by crime
From time immemorial there has been a presence on Earth of both right and wrong, good and evil, righteousness and sin. History has shown us and taught us the wonderful and creative capacity of human beings when they put their intellectual and moral capabilities to maximum use. It has also reminded us of the capability of human beings when they choose instead to use their talents for destruction and evil.
As crime and violence once more consume our discussion and focus on this beautiful island, we again struggle to identify the causes and plead for solutions. Crime and violence are twin evils that plague many societies in the world today. They rise and decline over the years, dependent on so many factors, that no one single reason can be pinpointed.
Sadly, as crime and violence affect a society, especially small fragile ones like ours, they seemingly cause a paralysis and an anxiety that permeate the entire psyche of the country.
The reality for most societies is that crime and violence are perpetuated by a minority group of people. The majority of our society are law-abiding citizens who seek to uphold and live by the law and engage in legitimate endeavours.
It is a small number of persons in comparison who operate outside the parameters of the law. Regardless of their numbers, nevertheless, the impact of their actions is such that the majority are left in a state of concern and fear.
It is this state of concern and fear we must address. Too often it paralyzes. We take cover in our sanctuaries and safe havens and hope that it wouldn’t reach us. We remain silent for fear that if we speak out, such violence would be perpetrated against us. We are basically held to ransom.
Is it enough for the majority of law-abiding citizens to remain silent? Will the problem go away? Or will it just be a matter of time before it reaches the safe places that we have built for ourselves?
It is a known reality that in the absence of light there is darkness. We must keep the light burning in order that darkness does not overtake us. That light is kept burning when we, human beings, who discern right from wrong, good from evil, lawful from unlawful, chose to advocate and live for all that is right, fair, just and moral.
My faith teaches me that I should stand firmly and persistently for truth and justice, even if it is against myself, or my own people, whether it be against rich or poor. I am challenged as well to speak out against the practice of evil and wrongdoing, to remind myself and others that we all are expected to live by the law, and not to succumb to evil and destructive behaviour.
There is a parable in my faith that likens society to people on a ship. Some people occupy the upper deck, while others the middle, and yet others the lower. When the ones on the lower deck wanted water, they had to go up to get the water. That was troubling to others.
So some of them on the lower deck said the water was so close to them (beneath them), they could dig a hole and access the water. If these people were allowed to carry out their plan, then the entire ship would be destroyed. Prevented, the whole ship would be safe.
There are so many different lessons to be taken from this parable, if we truly reflect on it. The most obvious is if we allow others for the sake of convenience to dig holes in our ship, ultimately all of us will perish. We ought to strive with utmost vigor to stop anyone from digging those holes, as we know for sure we will all drown when the ship sinks.
The other lesson is for those on the upper and middle decks. Surely they must ever be conscious of their role in facilitating the timely and easy access to water and provisions for those on the lower deck. Failure to do so will result in all forms of ideas being formulated to provide nourishment for those in need.
Mahatma Gandhi once said that “poverty is the worse form of violence”. Poverty not only of wealth and material things but of knowledge, good thoughts and ideas can also lead to violence.
Our society is like a ship, all of us in the ship are ultimately affected by what happens on that ship. If a culture of positive, moral and lawful behaviour permeates the society, then all benefit; but if a culture of violence and negativity takes root, then we all suffer the consequences.
Many reasons and causes have been put forward for the rise in crime and violence in our society. No one cause can be blamed; and so we must explore all possibilities and seek to correct them all.
What is it that motivates a human being to act callously against another? What drives human beings to be violent and resort to crime? What are the real solutions to ending this mindset or at least
I am sure these questions have been asked a million times and over many decades. We may never truly know the answers, but we must confront the reality.
Effective justice and punishment have always been entered into the discussion whenever we are confronted with increasing crime. They do have an important place in the discussion, but cannot be looked at in a vacuum.
I acknowledge that effective justice and punishment are a deterrent, as seen in other societies and communities that practise such. But in those societies there are other factors that create an atmosphere that allows for crime prevention and retards the development of the criminal culture.
We must seek out all the solutions. We must prevent those persons from sinking holes in our ship. We should find out what causes them to dig the holes –– whether the cause is ignorance or injustice.
And ultimately we may just have to throw overboard those who absolutely refuse to acknowledge that if they continue sinking holes in our ship we all will perish.
(Suleiman Bulbulia is a Justice of the Peace, and secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association. Email firstname.lastname@example.org)