Features — 18 February 2011 — by Janus
One day, when he was a boy of nine years, he was caught out in a storm and took refuge in a cave. He was found by a search party the following morning and was asked if he was fearful. He answered, “What is fear? I do not know what fear is.” Due, no doubt, to having an innocent mind. Different from the “guilty man, who fleeth where no man pursueth.” The boy was Horatio Nelson, who became admiral of the British fleet that destroyed the Spanish fleet in the famous Battle of Trafalgar. Nelson probably had cause to fear during his lifetime, like all other members of mankind. Fear is a very healthy emotion, if we are afraid of the right things.
The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, says the Holy Scriptures. God commands us to love Him. To fear Him is not a command but, it is good for men to fear God if the result is right behavior.
We need not be ashamed of our fears. Everyone has them, as much a beggar or a king. We fear different things and, there are things that everyone is afraid of. For instance, everyone is afraid to die. Young people only when threatened by an early or immediate end. Old people know the end is fast approaching and, the wise ones prepare for it. The main thing about fear is that it is a part of life and we have to cope with it.
It is better to face our fears than to try to escape them. It is better to try to conquer our fear and, if we succeed, we become stronger and are better able to deal with other fears. We can be sure of one thing: there will always be more fears to face and overcome.
Some fears are baseless, like children’s fear of the dark. Some people never get over that. It is natural to take comfort in the light but you shouldn’t have to sleep with the light on. Some fears are senseless, meaning there is no good reason for them, yet they persist. Don’t worry about it. There is nothing wrong with you. Being fearful is normal. Being brave is a trait of character. Having fortitude is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Fear is not cowardice. Cowardice is a weakness, which you have to try to overcome for the sake of your self-respect.
I have a purpose in writing on this subject and, it is not the discourse which has gone before. That was intended to be a stage setting for my main thesis, which is the use of fear to improve our society and making fear an instrument of policy to terrify the enemies of peace and order. The reason for such a policy is that unless criminals (especially murderers) are terrified of the consequences of their acts, they will persist and we will become a nation of wolves and sheep.
Dr. Herbert Gayle has done a study of our society and published his findings. We know how societal forces have acted on the body politic to produce the unhealthy situation we are living in. It calls for concerted action on the part of those entrusted with the power and resources to restore our country to be the law-abiding and peace-loving society it once was. How long will this take? Five years, ten, fifteen……..A journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step. So let us begin.
There are a lot of inequities in our society, a lot if deprivation and a lot of neglect. It will take many days and abundant resources to address the many social problems we have to resolve. But, there is something else, we have to do, starting now. This can’t wait. The good, law-abiding, productive citizens of Belize are being terrorized by the lawless, unproductive elements in our society. There has to be a reversal. The forces of good must defeat the forces of evil.
In a nutshell, this is what is happening. There are men with an overweening sense of self, with little or no means of supporting a family, or no desire to commit themselves to the vitally important societal institution called marriage, who go around impregnating women. There are women, with little or no self-esteem, who are willing collaborators in producing children that they are unprepared or unwilling to take care of. The children suffer deprivation. They feel unwanted and unloved, disconnected with the children of privilege whose needs, physical and emotional, are satisfied. Bad beginning. Then, when they come of age, the mothers send their male children out to hustle, another name for stealing. Worse, far worse. His mother approves of his stealing and the household benefits from his actions. That, sooner or later, he becomes a gang member and, acquires a firearm to commit serious crimes is the natural progression. Now, the original juvenile delinquent has become a full-fledged member of the criminal element in our society.
Making crime your way of life, a person of ordinary intelligence knows that serving time in jail is a reasonable expectation. He is afraid of being locked up in a cell and having to obey orders for the first time, but, his associates who have been in jail, educate him and reassure him. The first time the young criminal is caught, tried, convicted, sentenced and serves time in jail is a painful experience. Being confined and unable to do and go as you please, for a long time, can destroy your sense of personal worth. The second sentence is easier to bear, and so on. Serving jail sentences becomes the norm for a man who makes crime a way of life.
There is not much we can do to turn people way from a life of crime after their characters have been fully formed. Efforts of reform have had a low rate of success. I don’t like jails. I don’t think it was intended that human beings be locked up in cells with iron bars like wild animals, unless they behave like wild animals. Perhaps, the best thing would be to have a giant prison farm where habitual criminals work to produce fruits and vegetables for the rest of the prisoners and the prison staff. They would use their muscles and be healthy and strong and productive.
There is something we can do about young people who begin their life of crime by stealing to satisfy their needs. We have to find ways to satisfy their basic needs. When we do that, then we can come down hard on juvenile delinquency. We can stop them from stealing.
How do we stop children from stealing? By learning from our history. There was very little juvenile crime when there was a British administration in Belize. Young people feared the penalty, which was corporal punishment.
There it is. That is my original thesis. When the punishment for a crime is feared, fear will be a deterrent to offenses and the desired end will be achieved.