Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Sober up and save our children!
Ananda Dean's distraught mother after her mutilated body was discovered (Jamaica Observer photo)
My friend Errol Smith at HOT 102 called me in a temper after news broke about the horrible murder of a nine-month-old baby. The details of the report told of the depths to which our society had sunk. The mother of the child was a prisoner, and so the poor hapless child, who had been born in prison, was left by his approved guardian with a deranged relative. As we heard Ananda Dean’s grieving father appeal to the country to be more protective of our children, we are left to wonder why we have become such a dysfunctional society.
Errol related how a Jamaican student in Barbados was amazed at the level of order and development in that country, with the population of Portmore. One of Barbados’ distinguished sons, Sir Courtney Blackman, has long maintained that good governance had to be the foundation of nation building. So what has been standing in the way of the development of governance in our country? Everyone has a different answer: politics, selfishness, indiscipline, greed, poor parenting, sub-standard education, inadequate justice system. The answer is, all of the above, caused by all of us.
Unfortunately, the only group that has been working assiduously to raise the bar is the same derided, browbeaten Police. We long to hear all the various groups of churches, teachers, politicians and media announce their own charters, calling themselves to higher standards. The private sector is doing more than its fair share: providing employment, training workers in subjects they should have learned in school, paying taxes and sponsoring various community projects.
Well-meaning civic groups should widen their focus to look at all the other factors that are contributing to the anguish in our society. The police are a much easier target, because one always has a CCN release on which to base one’s criticisms. Our civic groups, our journalists could make a significant difference if they ask more probing questions and relentlessly pursue the answers.
But we also acknowledge that the buck has to stop somewhere: the people who put themselves up for public office must take responsibility for the state of the nation. Government and opposition members of Parliament are well-paid and equipped by the country. They need to give us the results. Former broadcaster Tony Laing used to remind us constantly that we are the shareholders in government and should demand to know what we are getting for the investment of our hard earned taxes.
We are seeing more love and loyalty for party over country and even as the news gets worse, so does the behaviour of some parliamentarians in the hearings on proposed crime-fighting amendments to our laws.
Police community head, ACP John McLean gave us a lesson from nature about cooperation. He said when geese fly in formation, the lead bird drops back when it gets tired and is replaced by another, without losing momentum. This has been the problem: too many want to be “lead-birds-for-life” instead of harmonizing and synergising our efforts. As we face this crisis in crime, and look to our leadership for solutions, we in the media should expose to the public who are just profilers and who are the real producers.
In addition to the USAID and UNDP, we have CIDA (Canada), IADB (Inter-American Development Bank), the European Union and DFID (UK) backing our security programmes. The daily headlines may have made us punch-drunk, but with these goodly folks in our corner, we had better sober up before they throw in the towel.