Thursday, February 22, 2018

Regaining our sense of outrage


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High Court Justice Anthony Carmona has alerted the country about the creeping phenomenon of numbness to crime. So desensitised are we becoming, he noted, that even the attempted massacre of eight residents of Beetham Gardens has been met with hardly a murmur from the public.

These eight were people calmly and happily relaxing at home, playing dominoes when criminals struck. Tragically, one person was killed, but it could have been all eight.

In the face of such indescribable criminality, what does it mean that such a dastardly deed could pass almost unnoticed and unremarked upon but for the routine police report?

The scary dimensions of the public's "muted response", to quote Justice Carmona, are manifold. It could be that public apathy to crime in areas described as hot zones may have risen to the point where the lives of people in Beetham Gardens and Laventille are being discounted by the public. Or perhaps we are so overwhelmed by the scale of murders that we have begun to shut our minds and rein in our emotions as a means of avoidance. Even more worrying than both, however is the possibility that, as a people, we are simply giving up hope that crime can never be brought under control. We are not a callous people and so, if we choose to ignore such murderousness, we need to ask why and to explain the absence of outrage.

In warning that "we can't be insensitive to the dilemma faced by law-abiding citizens", Justice Carmona is urging us to rediscover our sense of common humanity and to see our individual interest in the interest of others.          

It should be noted that Justice Carmona's remarks were reported in the same edition of the Express that covered the fatal shooting of one motorist and the wounding of his sisters in Laventille, just when a 300-strong force of police and soldiers, with aerial support, was sweeping through the area.

If the general public shows no signs of having tears to shed over such incidents, it must be the result of the desensitising effect of steady reports of fatal and other violence, little deterred by specific law enforcement strategies. Deputy Commissioner Mervyn Richardson was reported promising "strong action" against Laventille killings, once again leaving the impression that the police have smarter and more effective muscle in reserve. After perennial seasons of promises, however, it has become increasingly evident that the forces of law and order are largely shooting in the dark on this issue.

Bar the occasional seizure, the information intelligence and strategies required for taking illegal guns out of criminal hands are simply nowhere in sight. 

It is difficult to see how we can win the war against violent crime without a full-scale war on illegal handguns, tackling both supply and demand.

To do this, however, the public will need to regain its anger and demand a more meaningful response to the problem than just community lock-downs.