Features — 20 September 2012 — by Janus

About gangs

Two weeks ago, a young man was murdered. A gang had tried to recruit him and he had refused to join. Conclusions: 1. The gangs are actively recruiting members to increase their strength and, 2. If you live in an area where there is a gang, you are not allowed to refuse their invitation to join. I hope that the Ministry of National Security has taken note of this very interesting development.

Early last week in Belmopan, the former Secretary to the Cabinet, Mr. James Murphy, Jr., was getting ready to take his daughter to school in his car. As they approached the vehicle, he saw two men sitting under a tree, nearby. They got up and came over to the car after they were inside. One of the men pushed a gun through the window on the driver’s side and ordered them to get out of the vehicle. The two men took possession of the vehicle and drove away. It was found parked in Belize City the following day.

I was struck by the attitude of those two men. They seemed to be supremely confident that they would get away with what they did. It is a serious crime to point a gun at someone. It is another crime to take possession of another man’s vehicle. Yet they made no attempt to conceal their identity. Clearly, they had no fear of punishment.

I think that their confidence was well-founded, if they were members of a gang. Then their gang could afford them protection in the form of terrorizing anyone who would dare to give information to the police with a commitment to testifying in court. The gang might overlook your giving information to the police but, would take steps to prevent you from testifying in court. Unthinkable? Outrageous? Not at all. That is the norm in these days. This state of affairs was confirmed by an e-mail to Mr. Murphy, warning him of the painful consequences of testifying in court.

In the latter part of that same week, Senior Counsel, Derek Courtenay’s vehicle was stolen on the way to work where he had stopped to do some shopping. My take on this incident is that the gangs are getting bolder as they are getting stronger.

What happened to Mr. Murphy and Mr. Courtenay could happen to anyone. We are all potential victims of the wolf pack, which is my designation for gangs. All peaceful, productive citizens are like sheep. We rely on our shepherds for protection. That is my designation of the government. The government relies on the Administration of Justice System but, that system is in shambles. The system can’t function without witnesses but, the gangs have made witnesses an endangered species. If we can’t convict anyone of crime, especially, violent crime, then our shepherds may as well “close shop”. Either that or face the reality that we are living in extraordinary circumstances which call for extraordinary measures, like “Breaking up the Gangs,” by making the fullest use of the power given to them by the people at the last elections.

Gangs are responsible for at least 60% of violent crime. Since the sole purpose of the existence of gangs is criminal activity, shouldn’t the breaking up of gangs, forcing criminals to operate independently, result in a reduction in the incidence of crime?
There are other ways to reduce crime besides “breaking up the gangs.” The ones government has tried have not been impactful. Perhaps, they will do so in the long term but, we are more concerned about the short term.

Our greatest resource

What is our country’s greatest resource? Is it our Barrier Reef and our fishing and aquaculture industries; or, the citrus, sugar, and banana industries taken together, or, is it the land, including the cayes and atolls? It’s none of these. Our greatest natural resource is our children.

There are some very interesting ideas about how a model society ought to be structured. The one I will discuss was presented in a book I read many years ago called Plato’s Republic. My recounting will be from memory, so, it will not be exactly as it was written by Plato.

Plato said that the children were all wards of the state. They would be taken away from their parents when they reached the age of reason and put into camps where they would be cared for, trained and educated. The training would be in military discipline and the use of arms, so, that they would all be able to serve in the defence of the nation in the time of need. After their primary education, it will be determined what they are best suited for and that will be the area that their training will concentrate on to prepare them for their lifework and position in the society. Some will be tradesmen, some artisans, some be trained as officers for the army, some professionals like doctors, lawyers and engineers, some in the performing arts and the best minds will become philosophers and professors and they will be rulers of the society. Society would have a hierarchical structure and each individual will belong to a class. The class structure would not be rigid, so that, there could be movement of individuals upwards or downwards, depending on performance or qualifications. The rulers would set high moral standards for the rest of society to emulate and, since everyone’s basic needs would be satisfied, there would be little excuse for criminality.

Since Plato wrote The Republic in the 5th century, no nation has adopted his idea of a model society. I think the ruling classes in most countries did not want their sons to be soldiers. They wanted them to in the professions or businessmen, so they could join the ruling class. And yet, Plato was absolutely right about one thing: what you do or don’t do with the children determines what kind of state you will live in.

We will begin to have social change for the better as soon as our leaders realize that every child’s basic needs have to be met; that every child must have a basic education; that every child be taught good health habits of mind and body; that everything be done while the child is young to ensure that he grows up to be a law-abiding and productive citizen.

There should be a partnership of government and civil society leaders, together with the children’s parents and guardians, to do everything to ensure that the children become assets to society. Regard it as investment we can’t afford not to make.

We did this once before when the centrepiece of the 1992 Crime Commission report recommended the establishment of a National Service Corps, to draft the same young people who later found themselves in the gangs. Our leaders thought then, that we couldn’t afford the expenditure. Now, it is costing the nation ten times as much and has destroyed our Administration of Justice System.

Now, I am sounding the Tocsin once again and, I am saying, we have to do whatever is necessary to take good care of our children. No expenditure of energy, time and money is too much.

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