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“Seventeen” by Dr Patrick Martin, MD

Seventeen

 Patrick Martin, MD

Student & Resident Citizen

Seventeen year olds are children in late adolescence. They should be buried in books or software development, not in a grave. They should be taking shots at goal or throwing the shot put, not shooting or being shot at.

The nation continues to reel under the burden of crime and violence. The prevalence of brazen and callous life-threatening and life-ending attacks unnerve to the point of psychosomatic illnesses. Cries for relief are increasingly desperate; people feel exposed because of the shooting in public places.

The crossfire has thus far spared the country’s hospitality-based economy. However, with shots being fired during football and in the hospital, a disaster waiting to happen.

Why are things the way they are? In its 2002 World Report on Violence, the World Health Organization stated “Gangs and a local supply of guns and drugs are a potent mixture increasing the likelihood of youth violence”. This formula applies to the Federation.

Trafficking in illegal substances, people and stolen goods is a lucrative business. The importation of guns is a natural consequence.  Trafficking is also a risk to life. Compliance with gang rules is absolute and violations attract ruthless punishment, even the death penalty. Indeed, thuggery is immune to Parliament’s expanded penalty footprint. The mindset is kill or be killed hence the inevitable deadly feuds over product and turf.

The Federation’s current predicament was predictable and predicted. During an early 1990’s national consultation on the status of children, conclusive evidence of a looming problem was documented by persons working on the frontline of child health and child protection. Reference was drawn to the scores of toxic family arrangements where some children are radicalized to become thugs and other children pimped to get bills paid. The evidence and analysis were dismissed as alarmist.

Likewise, the obvious existence by the turn of the century of a violent gang culture was denied. Not surprisingly, there is lack of robust attention to the 30 or so girls who become new mothers every year – an indicator of pedophile tolerance.

If violent crime was as an infection, a public health emergency would have been declared 17 years ago. Violent crime should be so labeled because humans are injured, disabled, or killed, families disrupted, and the economy put at high risk of sustained downturn. Public Health has tried and true approaches to solutions such as comprehensive public communication, interruption of spread and source elimination. These measures are well-known to the agencies responsible for public security, public safety and public order.

The primary duty of government is to protect its people. Therefore, where there is a high level of citizen insecurity, the degree of political will (or lack thereof) must come under intense scrutiny.

On face value, allocating $72 million to National Security appears prudent. However, governing in a purely reactionary mode is neither effective nor efficient. Prevention is better than cure. Youth crime and violence are preventable provided Social Protection and Youth Capacity Building are optimally resourced. In 2017, the combined allocation to Community Development, Gender Affairs, Social Services, Youth, Sports and Culture was a paltry $14 million.

Many a Speech Day cliché is “The children of today are the leaders of tomorrow”. What are the prospects for a society where 17 year olds are shooters? Indeed, every kidnapped, tortured and killed 17 year old or other young person is a profound loss to family, community and a small country.

The Attorney General recently reported there are nine year olds in gangs proving (again) the existence of a “bad from me born” pipeline leading from toxic families. This should have been a wake-up call to the country’s leadership. The fierce urgency of now is the convening of the national will to decide countermeasures and resource their just and fearless implementation. External consultants do not substantially add to what local people know, have proposed or started.

The wherewithal to act resides in the Federation. A testament to this was the 1993 Four Seasons Accord – a homegrown attempt to settle political stalemate. The Federation now needs Civil Society leaders to force another attempt at political makeover.

Failure of mature adults to act is not an option. The gun insurgency needs to cease, now. Scores of children from infancy to 17 need to be liberated from calamitous families, now.

The following action lines are proposed as essential to forging “Our country where peace abounds”:

Strengthened application of the known tactics to suppress violent gangs

Abatement of derelict property

Rapid interception and correction of school bullies

Strengthening programs that correct or reduce learning disabilities

Blocking importation of violent television channels

Creation of foundations to support the development of sports, performing arts, and youth groups

Establishment of cooperatives focused on food and craft production

Upgrading PEP/STEP to a National Apprenticeship Program

Resource strengthening of Parenting Skills Training, Counselling Services, Child Protection, Foster Care, Sexual Offences Units, and Prosecutions

Accelerated adoption of best practices in correctional facilities    

Legalization of spiritual and medical use of marijuana

A thought:  Perhaps the deep, deep pain over Leanna’s tragic death may be eased somewhat by ending the disruption of the BHS. Judging from cleaning done to accommodate Music Festival activities, the reopening of the Victoria Road campus is doable in less than 17 weeks and at zero risk to the aquifer

A fitting symbol of national resolve is to have Principia Non Homines return to its rightful home for September 2017.

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