EDITORIAL: Peace can reign
WE ARE almost at the beginning of the fifth month of the year and so far the country has recorded just two murders. For anyone who values the sanctity of life that’s two murders too many, and we agree wholeheartedly.
But we should not take lightly the fact that only two Barbadians have lost their lives in such violent circumstances. There are some jurisdictions where police would be happy if they recorded only two killings on any Friday night – and we should therefore be thankful for our situation.
When we consider that last year we recorded almost 30 murders and ordinarily the annual figure tends to fluctuate between 20 and two dozen, our present situation becomes even more commendable.
What’s interesting, however, is that if Barbadians have recognised this positive trend, they are doing so quietly – very quietly, a stark contrast to the pillorying that everyone in authority, from the Prime Minister to the Attorney General and the Commissioner of Police, receives when murders and other violent crimes are up.
The question is: Why is there no chorus of praise when, had there been an upsurge in killings, the united sounds of censure would surely have filled the air?
After all, there can be no doubt that the policies of any government and the state agencies it controls can contribute to the kinds of pressures that raise tensions that in turn make those who suffer more prone to violence.
Perhaps it is because, in the final analysis, how we treat each other, the value we attach to life and our respect for the person and property of others really come down to how we are socialised, what we are taught and our ability or desire to apply those teachings. That’s why the current concerns about violence in schools and the apparent decline in respect for authority are so important. If we fail to ensure that our young people receive a sound education in values we are unlikely to see many periods like this in the future.
The more desensitised young people become to violence, the more likely they are to resort to it. The more individual acts of violence we record, the greater the likelihood more of them will end with a loss of life. It is also absolutely important that we use sound scientific methods to determine exactly what is contributing to the situation in our schools and avoid the inclination to base major conclusions on mere anecdotal evidence.
Under the circumstances, therefore, we support the decision of Minister of Education Ronald Jones to establish a broad-based commission to examine the situation and to propose countermeasures. It will also be important that this group gets the numbers right since the last thing we want is to “confirm” an epidemic of violence in our schools when in fact it might just be that the technology is serving to amplify a situation that is no worse than it was a decade of two ago.
The decision to fight might be influenced by a person’s circumstances, but that does not mean the individual had no other choices. The decision to rob another with violence might be influenced by the absence of a meal or some other need, but we should never allow the perpetrators to believe they had no alternatives.
We can’t identify any special measures introduced by the police or the Ministry of Home Affairs that could have resulted in the low murder figures so far this year, so we can only conclude that someone turned the other cheek, someone decided robbery was not the way to go, someone decided provocation would not prevail, that life was too precious – that the power to choose was in his or her hands. We need to be able to replicate this at the national level for the rest of the year and beyond.
In the final analysis, our murder rate is not determined by the police or their policing tactics; it is determined by us who call ourselves Barbadians.