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GET REAL: Nothing to lose


GET REAL: Nothing to lose

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A HIGH-LEVEL employee of a security firm once confided in me that his company decided to set up operations in Barbados because they predicted that the security industry would soon be booming here. 

His foreign bosses held the belief that Barbados was at the point where their home country was ten years before. The security firm’s home country is one of the most violent in the world.

They prophesied the rise in gun violence and positioned themselves to profit from it. On Friday it came over on the news that while other businesses are laying off, security firms are stepping up on hiring.

Many of us are shocked and surprised by the way our society is developing. Sometimes I get shocked and surprised that people are still shocked and surprised.  But then I remember the reaction to the Campus Trendz tragedy when it first happened, and no suspects were in custody yet.  A lot of people were so sure that the persons who did it could not be Bajan.  Because a Bajan would never go so far.

It didn’t take a crystal ball for the security experts to see where Barbados was headed. It takes a certain lack of awareness and/or denial to not see.

There is a saying that God must be a Bajan, because no hurricane has hit us in so long.  Even if people feel God is somehow biased towards this island, I don’t think anyone really believes God has a Bajan passport. Some people do seem to feel, though, that a Bajan passport is indication of higher levels of godliness. This would only be true if God is a Canadian. We can travel there without a visa. Jamaicans and Trinidadians cannot.

According to the United Nations, Jamaica and Trinidad ranked number three and number ten on the list of countries with the highest murder rate in 2014.  Barbados is not even in the top 20 of the list, dominated by African, Caribbean and Latin American nations. This is comforting until you realise that the countries ahead of us on the list are much larger.  The crime is often largely confined to small areas. In other words, if you live in Jamaica and you avoid certain areas you are relatively safe. But dey ain nuh wey to run on this 166 square mile rock. 

We used to be fussy and say that we were on the verge of developed nations status. The third-worldification process that we are undergoing now makes that a wanton and unwarranted boast. We could someday catch up to our neighbours on all the wrong lists.

All the top nations on the murder per capitalist are so-called third world. The debate about whether the upsurge in violent crime is linked to the economic climate is puzzling. Do some people believe it is a coincidence that the poorer countries of the world have more crime? 

The USA is not in the top 20, but there are some areas in the US, that if looked at separately would rank very high and look very third-worldish.  There are at least ten US cities, with a higher murder rate than any Caribbean island. The cities with the highest crime rates are not surprisingly the poorer cities.

Even before the security expert’s prophecy, social scientists have been speaking about the alleged alienating effect of American culture. It’s good at building wealth, but also a wealth gap; making money but not making you happy. 

The cult of individualism and consumerism has long been blamed for rising levels of dissatisfaction with life.  When you add that to a poverty stricken community and a history of racial oppression, you get predictable results: the black ghettos of Detroit, the Laventilles of Trinidad, the Tivoli Gardens of Jamaica and the hotspots that are popping up right here in Barbados.

We are following Uncle Sam, creating marginalised, alienated, disaffected, disenfranchised, disenchanted, disgruntled communities and individuals. Young people especially, constantly teased with images of all the man-made material wonders the world has to offer, and taunted by the fact they cannot easily access those things. Society plays a cruel joke on the poor. Is it any wonder if we end up in a similar predicament to the worse performing US cities?

If I feel like my society does not value me and has nothing to offer me, then I have no stake in its survival.  I think nothing of bringing it down.  Author James Baldwin writes, “The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose.” 

Many people feel like society has nothing for them. The more they feel they have nothing to lose, the more likely they are to go to extremes.  Barbados bounds to become more dangerous. 

But this feeling of disconnection to society is not restricted to the poor. The man who thinks his wealth insulates him from the problems of society may also have no stake in it. We are also following Uncle Sam in creating a culture of elites whose ties to the land are only as deep as they can excavate for treasure. Alienation by choice not circumstance.

This individual has nothing to lose because he feels he cannot lose. His money makes him untouchable. He engages in a ruthless pursuit of profit at the expense of social stability. He will exploit and drain the market, legally or illegally, until its last and put nothing back in. 

It is the disconnected poor man robbing in the streets that will provide work for security guards.  The disconnected wealthy man pillaging from the boardroom hires security. Which of the two is more dangerous?

Adrian Green is a Creative Communications Specialist with a stake in Barbadian society. [email protected]