Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The rotted fruit


Mark Fraser

If I were running this country, I would unpopularly choose to address the crime situation with more focus on its roots than its fruit. While I know that people are clamouring for hounds to be let loose, and others are bawling that they are trigger-happy pothounds, I would not be interested in cultivating even more violence, or stepping on cockroaches, as a means of reducing crime.

It is why I am not building my imagined country on the premise of being a politician. What I would want to do would take much more time than any is willing to invest, because it would not provide photo opportunities, nor might it grab headlines; and for sure, it will make an impatient citizenry feel that nothing tangible is being done. We all know the power of images—politicians know it most intimately—and there is something really flashy in wearing military accessories and stomping around with police and soldiers in high-tech armoured vehicles, hounds at hand.

If gunmen take over town, the sheriff has to beat them down.

I just couldn’t see how that would do anything more than perpetuate the state of siege. You see, even if you start “locking down’’ hotspots (I almost wrote hotsports here), it is simply a temporary measure. And, given the demonstrated capacities and resources of criminals, how effective can a lockdown be?

Instead, I would begin by trying to understand what has created this sorry state. I’d try to figure out who is behind it, and I’d try to understand why.

We pretend the country is in a mess because there are gangs with guns and they are killing each other without caring who gets caught in the crossfire. That might be true, but it is not the reason the country is in a mess. It is because the country is in a mess the gang warfare has taken on its own celebrated life.

This society became too rich for its own good a long time ago, and the elites have been the ones with the greasiest hands from all the lubricants that have been pressed into them. Corrupt, dishonest and suave we were—and we celebrated the way we could finesse it to the point of creating heroes out of smartmen—and now our main complaint is that we are corrupt, dishonest and crass, lacking the sophistication to polish our dirty deeds.

In one of his India books, India: A Million Mutinies Now, VS Naipaul offers the view of how the corrupt life can affect a society through the eyes of Prakash, a minister of government: “The upper class in India take theft for granted. It’s only the middle class who are still maintaining these values, and worrying about theft and corruption. It’s in the social fibre. It’s everywhere.”

We can either continue down this road until even the unsettled moral middle grows to accept this as a way of life too deeply embedded to change, or we can really try to grapple with the issues from way inside the backrooms. And when I say backrooms, I do not mean only at the corporate level, I mean those that exist within families; the ways of life that are breeding so much despair and anger into our youth.

If I were leader I would put the majority of resources into education and health, because once you develop those two areas substantially, you are going to change the culture of the place.

We are starting at the wrong end, you know; pointing fingers at the boys with the guns; they are the fruit, not the root.