JaRistotle’s Jottings | Killing criminality
This past weekend, I visited parts rural, in the hinterlands of our beloved JamRock, where computers and televisions play second fiddle to social gatherings and face-to-face conversations at the local centre of philosophy: the rum bar.
As a stranger in the gathering of local elders, it was not my place to show off my worldly knowledge, but rather to listen and learn. And learn I did, listening to old-school, rural folk giving their unabashed views about things Jamaica.
I was impressed by how in tune they were with the major issues affecting the country, particularly crime. They had solutions for just about everything: hard work, honesty and integrity, respect for women, the philosophy of 'one-one cocoa full basket' and giving criminals a taste of their own medicine.
I was particularly drawn to their solutions on crime and violence. Many of them had suffered at the hands of praedial larcenists and maintained the view that when caught, the thieves should lose both hands to let them feel the pain and despair they brought to their victims. Suffice to say, there was no shortage of volunteers for the task.
An eye for an eye
But that was just the tip of the iceberg. As one man put it, 'we a romp wid criminal: bruk dem neck and stop waste taxpayer money ah keep dem inna prison'. They grumbled about the ongoing murder trial of Constable Collis 'Chucky' Brown, an alleged member of the so-called 'Police Death Squad' that operated in Clarendon, citing that 'we want some more a dem policeman deh. No bwoy fi feel seh him can tek life an get way wid it, him fi know seh we a go deal wid him case. Too much ah dem ah get way cause the [law] system nuh good. The law must protect the innocent, not the guilty'.
These were very serious views being expressed, and when I cautiously posited that such actions were dangerous and that the wrong person could be killed, the response was akin to 'man must humble himself and nuh keep bad company, dat way him wi stay out of trouble'.
Before I could respond, another elder said 'all dem people weh a run up dem mouth bout human rights, a cause di vulture dem nuh kill nobody fi dem. Mi bet yuh seh if dat happen to dem pickney, dem same one ah go want justice in any style ... an eye for an eye. And all dem hypocrite country weh ah gwaan like dem holier than thou bout hanging, ah dem same one use to run di slave trade and hang people left, right and centre. Who did worse dan dem?'
The sheer intensity of the discussions was one thing, but their outright abhorrence of, and extreme position on dealing with criminals still resonates in my mind. I had no idea Jamaicans were so anti-criminals to the point of advocating the direct targeting of purveyors of murder and mayhem and anyone who chose to 'keep company wid dem'. A 'kill criminality' strategy.
Serious food for thought. How does one make sense of, for instance, the killing of Raven Wilson, a harmless 14-year-old student whose battered body was dumped in a garbage bag in St Ann? What could she have done to deserve such a fate? Surely the perpetrators were cognisant of what they were about to do but were not deterred because of the improbability of facing guaranteed material sanctions.
So back to the highly unconventional, albeit unlawful 'kill criminality' strategy of the wise men of the hinterlands. Will the surety of death or dismemberment cause criminals to draw brakes or even retreat? You be the judge.
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