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GUEST COLUMN – My brother’s keeper

Leonard R. Phillips

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EARLIER THIS year I found myself in the middle of a moral dilemma that to this day I do not think I handled well. I was on my way home from a meeting in Baxter’s Road and had just stopped at the traffic lights at the top of Westbury Road.
A man of East Indian descent came running in the direction of my car. Without asking for my permission he reached for the handle of my left back door and tried to enter my vehicle. Fortunately or unfortunately, my door was locked.
Moments later two men came running behind the man and an altercation occurred on the outside of my car. The lights turned green giving me the opportunity to exit the area with some haste.
As I drove away, I wondered whether I had just missed a golden opportunity to be my brother’s keeper, or if I had narrowly escaped becoming a victim of a well thought out crime.
Modern criminals and con artists understand and exploit human nature. It is a human trait to want to help the weak, the innocent, and the oppressed. The criminal element knows this and very often they will pretend to be in a position requiring assistance.
When some Good Samaritan comes along, they pounce like a coiled up viper. Helping people these days can be tricky business.
The Hollywood-style robbery and multiple murder that occurred on September 3 in The City has forced me to revisit this incident and to ask myself how should all of us respond to such a clear and present danger.
Should we, especially the men in the community, punk out and refuse to get involved justifying our passivity on the grounds that no one close to us is being threatened? Should we get involved and run the risk of physical danger or reprisal at a future date.
Pound for pound no hyena can match a lion. Hyenas know this and will never take on a lion alone. A pack of hyenas, however, can make life difficult for even the most resolute lion. Hyenas and many other species of animal understand the value of solidarity. Maybe there is a lesson in this for all of us.
Criminals create a climate of fear which is calculated to destroy solidarity among the victims of crime. Criminals know that if the victims of crime were to retaliate as one, they, the criminals, would in most cases be outnumbered and forced to retreat. The modus operandi of the criminal therefore is to make every victim fear for his or her own life, thereby reducing the probability of a mass counter-attack by the victims.
As products of a Christian society we are familiar with the concept of turning the other cheek. The inhumanity which we are witnessing almost every day brings into question this concept.
While it is true that unearned suffering can be redemptive, suffering at the hands of the totally depraved and the recalcitrant will not offer any avenue of redemption to them.
Maybe it is time we looked at another model which would serve notice to the would-be criminals that we have had enough, and that we are willing to slap their cheeks back when they attempt to slap us.
If the man who attempted to get into my car was in genuine need of help, then I failed to be a true neighbour to him.
Being a neighbour carries with it some risk. Stopping to help someone in distress exposes you to whatever dangers may be lurking in the dark. While we should not throw common sense out the window we must all be cognisant of the fact that there must be a pact of solidarity when a clear and present danger threatens, for after all, we are our brother’s keeper.