Thu | Oct 6, 2022

Mark Wignall | An uphill task in taming the misfits

Published:Sunday | May 22, 2022 | 12:09 AM

In Jamaica young criminals are not encumbered by ideology. The objective is criminality, pure and simple. The gangs are their social, economic and psychologically comfortable cribs.
In Jamaica young criminals are not encumbered by ideology. The objective is criminality, pure and simple. The gangs are their social, economic and psychologically comfortable cribs.

This country is not short of a stock of misfits, monsters, and murderers. Unlike the huge and powerful United States, where, say, the socio- cultural make-up of the people living in the state of South Dakota is much different to those walking the...

This country is not short of a stock of misfits, monsters, and murderers. Unlike the huge and powerful United States, where, say, the socio- cultural make-up of the people living in the state of South Dakota is much different to those walking the streets in the megapolis of New York City, in Jamaica, a resident living in any community of St James is culturally similar to a Kingstonian or the banker and bartender living in any part of St Andrew.

There are factors that feed into creating a lawful, just, and socio-economically successful society. Generally, it is education in the just society and the very lack of it in the subcultural sinkhole.

But there are also added forces that give misfits more ease in committing crime. Take a look at the toxic rhetoric in United States politics since the rise of 2016 Trumpism on racial matters. See how it eventually empowers a lone-wolf social misfit to mass-murder 10 black people in Buffalo, New York, last week. In Jamaica, young criminals are not encumbered by ideology. The objective is criminality - pure and simple. The gangs are their social, economic, and psychologically comfortable cribs.

Forming a gang and wielding murderous power on behalf of the silently powerful while also engaging in armed robbery, extortion, and murder-for-hire gave these men their ultimate fulfilment as ‘real’ men.

SECURITY BOSSES KNOW DIFFICULTIES

The authorities in the security ministry and those leading the Jamaica Constabulary Force and the Jamaica Defence Force have long been in possession of the general résumés of those making up gang structure in Jamaica. They are also aware that numbers in the gang and the ferocity of the whole provides a mini -economy in the subcultural state and allows the gang members to earn a living wage. Thus, there is no need to see any use for the formal economy and its restrictive laws.

We know that many misfits in the society begin as innocent boys who were maltreated as children. We know that many of them were given second and third chances in schools. And we know they did some time in the jail and prison system, completed their apprenticeship, and then sought the safety of the gang in embracing a life of gun crimes.

The authorities must also know that at some stage of that growth from innocence to misfit and monstrous murderer and with no intention/no impelling need to embrace personal social reform, there is only one way to deal with the matter: withdraw the monster from society.

But to deal with that must cause us to bring our focus on the justice and prison system. One important question must be, Why reform young men whose chance at committing new crimes after release is about 75 per cent?

Other question should be, if the odds are not worth it, why the pretence at reform? In other words, the prison system may have to be realigned towards violent inmates spending at least 25 years working to pay back the system that they violated.

And, of course, not even in hushed tones should the bullet be allowed mention as a significant participant in that social reform.

SLIPPING INTO DEMOCRATIC DARKNESS

It has gone beyond scary possibility that America could see a return of Donald Trump as president. The GOP taking the House and the Senate in 2022 would be the springboard to catapult Trump to his second hold on the presidency in 2024.

It seems to me that the American Constitution was fashioned around decent men, that is, the lawmakers would be in possession of honesty, decency, civility, and strong alliances to the democratic ideal. Even a cursory look at the lack of sanctions in GOP lawmakers refusing to honour Congressional subpoenas in the Trump era, it also seems to me that the framers pre-supposed that quality citizens would use the vote as the ultimate sanction to rid their lives of the law-breaking elected official.

But it appears that Donald Trump has locked up both ends. The presidential misfit has not only given the seat of prominence to lying lawmakers and those promoting dangerous conspiracy myths. At the same time, many of the people who support and vote for the GOP have bought into the lies, white nationalistic venom, conspiracy myths and worse. They want to be represented by those who are locked into those very dangerous anti-democratic beliefs, too.

The pleasure of living in a country where democracy gives an individual and collective voice to a people is obvious. The common man can walk down the street and say his piece at the edge of the block. The pain of that same democratic ideal allows a man to speak and act violently against the very system that gave him his voice and the right to use it. But in his nationalistic fervour and political myopia, he cannot see it.

I have friends and family living in the United States and so might you. The last line of sanction against anti-democratic politicians, that is, the people themselves are more prepared now to cede power to those who would use that power to defeat democracy.

Sensible and reasonable Americans with just more than a tincture of support for the US Constitution are trembling in their boots wondering what percentage of the voting population in the GOP will realise that they are being used by the Trumpists when next they show up to vote. In other words, will there even more dangerous characters showing up again in 2024.

HOP, SKIP, AND JUMP WITH COVID-19.

Lucky couples can keep their marriages viably afloat from year to year. In time, 25-30 years gather around and you both wonder, sometimes out loud, we did it.

Others can’t make it. Reminds me of COVID-19. We are all married to it now and no divorce is allowed. To keep the marriage bearable, we may have to sleep on separate beds. Or we can send COVID-19 to the couch in the living room. At worse, one of us can lock the door and force the other to bed down in the backseat of the car with the buzzing of mosquitoes as background music.

Under all circumstances, we have to keep this rocky relationship going.

- Mark Wignall is a political and public affairs analyst. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and mawigsr@gmail.com.