Violence at our threshold
Recently, a distinguished State prosecutor, Dana Seetahal, was gunned-down in Woodbrook, Trinidad on her way home. This bloody incident has evoked an outcry throughout the Caribbean. While it has engendered a feeling of desperation in many people, in the face of increasing violent crime in the Caribbean, it has also led to the usual superficial approach to the solution of criminal activity.
The proliferation of illegal weapons, the drug trade, the apparent lack of vigilance by the forces of law and order, the inadequacies of the justice system are all quoted as contributory factors to the spate of violence that bedevils the Caribbean. The usual call for stiffer penalties and the exercise of the death penalty will be heard.
To tell the truth, these responses to the crisis with which we are faced are merely expressive of the state of helplessness in which we find ourselves. They merely display a defeatist attitude. They do not get us very far in solving the problem.
It has been said that "Everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it." However, violence is of a different order. Man has limited control over the environment in which he lives, while all violence is man-made. I am reminded of the historic statement made by President John F. Kennedy after the Cuban Missiles Crisis of 1962, "All our problems are man-made and therefore can be solved by man."
The problem of violence can be solved. It is not beyond the scope of human possibility. But to do so, we have to take the bull by the horns. Who will dare to do that?
One of the most sincerely Christian men of the day, Jean Vanier, is very concerned about violence. He has spoken very prophetically about it:
Difficult as it is for us to accept and come to terms with this idea, I believe that every act of violence is also a message that needs to be understood. Violence should not just be answered by greater violence but by real understanding. We must ask: Where is the violence coming from? What is its meaning?>
The search for a solution to violence is useless, if it does not embrace a reflection on the persons that we are, on the kind of society which we have created and the drastic transformation that must be made if we are to be truly human. There is a raging thunder in many people's hearts, a burning anger, which we have to address.
Violence, whether it be verbal or physical, is inhuman. Yet, even among those who claim to be Christian, it is practiced daily. And people find this quite normal. So we have to make a decisive effort to be human, with all that entails.
We live in a world, in which many people fail to find meaning in their lives. They search and search in vain. They find no answer because they are looking in the wrong places.
Violence is the act of a man who is in a state of despair, a man who has lost his way, a man who lacks a sense of purpose in his life. But is also a kind of speech. The man who practices violence may do so because he has no voice at all. It is a sign of weakness. It is a statement of helplessness.
We live in a society which promotes the qualities which engender violence. The cause of violence which we experience is not merely out there. It is home-grown. And we seem to delight in it. What is needed is a radical reform of society. We are too aggressive. And we are paying a heavy price for it.
We live in a world in which wealth, power, success, social status, self-projection are the guiding lights. If you do not possess these you are missing out on life. You need to strive with all your might to secure them. The end justifies the means! This is the society which we have created.
Real Christianity offers us a way out of the depth of despair with which we are confronted. Shall we accept it? There is a great chasm, a deep void in the hearts of many people. How shall we fill it?
Many in the Western world are taking refuge in narcotic drugs, alcohol, sexual excess and even suicide. They have tried huge salaries, luxurious homes, flashy cars, yachts and expensive gadgets. Often dishonest practices have been used to service their exuberant way of life. Thanks to the social media, those lifestyles have been presented to us as the ideal for happy living.
Certainly, there are many causes of criminal behavior. The roots of violence are many and cannot all be discussed here. However, the main causes of criminal violence would appear to be dysfunctional homes, the ruthless, competitive syndrome and a completely erroneous value system.