By: Hilaire Bennett
In a previous attempt to address the issue of crime and violence and the damaging impact it has caused the “old capital” of Belize, I zeroed in on several root causes. I borrowed from media journalists, sociologists and even from the American Journal of Psychiatry, which suggested that the root cause of crime may be biological and not social.
It was suggested in the journal that some people may be born with brain deficiencies which make them prone to violence. Other root causes that were submitted were poverty, joblessness and even corruption in various government administrations.
In my article published in the Reporter of Sunday, May 20, 2012, I highlighted moral poverty as the culprit, as I believe it created the most damaging effect on our Belizean society.
A person raised without parents or guardians with sound morals, fail to feel joy at other people’s joy, pain at others’ pain, satisfaction when one does right, or remorse when one does wrong.
Criminal environments are rampant in Belize and become pernicious to the moral growth and development of children. It begs the question – how did society transform into what it is today – losing all its traditional values?
Several factors contributed to the demise of what is now termed “southside Belize.” During the early 1970s the city began to expand. People were carving out their plot of land on the reclaimed mangrove swampland resulting in the now Kings Park area.
There was the migration by a number of citizens who sought opportunities in the great United States of America. Some of the older generations, the matriarchs and the patriarchs of these communities passed on. Compounding the situation was the catering of the political order to the whims and fancy of special interests, disregarding social issues and the class at the bottom of the social ladder.
The affluent, skilled professionals and the individuals who were respected in the communities attracted the skilled and financial and professional contributions from the bulk of the downtrodden communities – the hood, the bases.
Nevertheless some individuals remained, applying themselves to these areas. The social structure became brittle and fragmented, leaving the poorer class of society disenchanted.
The significance of traditional values and the old African adage – “It takes a village to raise a child” went underground. The cultural tradition of Belizean life – which was the extended family that centered itself on the rearing of children and the caring for the elders became passé.
A new culture emerged in the form of CRIPS and BLOODS. It started in the mid 80s when Belizean youth, who became involved in gang activities and criminal behaviour were deported from the USA.
This pathology is the collateral damage inflicted by those deportees. With the benign throwing up of signs representing their set, the culture with its rules, escalated to today’s murder for hire.
The traditional culture surrendered, causing the youth to become receptacles for the creativities of others. This cultural surrender or cultural destruction as Dr. Asa G. Hilliard in his book “The Maroon within Us”, suggested – leads inevitably to the loss of any possibility for a group to mobilize on its behalf . . . “Respect for parents, and grandparents, siblings, neighbours, and even our political leaders was lost.
The silver lining to this moral cancer might shine through the visit to Belize by the leader of the Nation of Islam, the Honorable Luis Farrakhan. It would have been a missed opportunity if Minister Farrakhan had not rescheduled his engagement in the jewel.
Minister Farrakhan is no stranger to the gang culture. He knows the culture and its origins. He has acquainted himself with OGs that started this new phenomenon. Raymond Washington, Terry Hoover (serving six life sentence), Tookie Williams, Wallace ‘Gator’ Bradley, ex-ganster disciple and many others paved the way.
He was one of the many voices calling for the dismantling of the CRASH Unit Community resources against street hoodlums when it was cited for abuse, execution and drug distribution. Over 100 convictions had to be overturned by the courts of Los Angeles.
Minister Farrakhan was part of the process that established the April 28, 1992 peace treaty between the Crips and the Bloods.
“Beginning in the 1980s, Minister Farrakhan spent some 10 years doing a series of “Stop the Killing” lectures, appealing to youths to stop the fratricide violence, warning of government and law enforcement fear and deadly government crackdowns that the violence would justify.”
The Minister is a motivational speaker who commands respect from the podium. He has urged the youths to abort their violent ways and to accept responsibility for themselves and their community. He added that the youths of today just need a chance and the night guidance.
This might seem far fetched, but if the UDP government had pursued their mantra with sincerity and vigor that garnered their 1984 victory, today’s scenario might have taken a different turn. From the board room to the bases, President Obama in applying his efforts to change the youths of southside Chicago, by insisting that one can not change an individual unless that person is able to reach the center of that person’s life.s.
There is a constant call for war on crime. Insofar as there exists a war, there must be retaliation of sorts. The United States government continues to finance Belize’s war on crime with security equipment and a barrage of arsenals.
The US must be brought to bear the constructive responsibility to deploy resources towards meaningful social programs needed to rehabilitate the youths.
The relevant Ministry should note that the habitual violent criminals that are emerging in the “Jewel” will not yield to short term superficial socializing programs once they have acquired a criminal mind set.
The visit by the leader of the Nation of Islam – the Honorable Louis Farrakhan is definitely a step toward changing the violent culture that is eroding societal values. The launching of the Youth Policy is another, but there needs to be an urban policy to complement it.
We must heed whatever advice or caution the minister will give in achieving moral growth and development of the youths of today and future generations. This visit must be free from the grapple of biased religious, political, or other influences lest the message be lost. Minister Farrakhan will definitely speak truth to power – the power of the people!