I’ve spent the last few hours of my Friday night watching documentaries on Youtube highlighting gang violence in Jamaica. As usual, the story lauds Jamaica for the beautiful, wonderful place that it is and then brings to light the fact that while that is very true, there is also a deep, vile underbelly of gangs and violence. All the documentaries I watched highlighted gang violence in the streets of Kingston our capital which is also the place where I lived before Japan. It is home for me.
It’s hard to pinpoint the reason or cause for the gang violence. A lot of it is political warfare, but as one of the documentaries pointed out, it’s moved past that as the sole reason in this day and age. A lot of it now is turf war. People from the same communities and neighbouring ones, with both the same and differing political affiliations are killing each other regularly. A lot of reprisal shootings take place. As one man said, it’s a generational thing; you are a gunman, you have a child, your child grows up thinking “they” killed his uncle and brother, so he has to get back at “them”, then his children think the same thing and it just continues and continues. If you ask a lot of the youth today they’ll tell you they don’t remember why it all started and don’t know why it continues. Pay special attention to that word “youth”. The vast majority of the criminals on the Kingston streets are not forty year old men. They are often in their late teens and early twenties just like me.
It’s easy as a midtown/uptown Kingstonian to turn a blind eye to what’s going on in our island or to become so used to it that we no longer view it as the catastrophe it is. Sure, we are all aware of it. It can’t be escaped really. Daily we see and hear the news reports. It’s daunting. I’d be a liar if I said that the current state of affairs at home was not one of the reasons I was so desperate to leave and why I am in no great rush to return. I think what sickens me the most is that in every facet of life at home there is some connection to the violence. I’ll give you an example.
I, in my comfortable middle class upbringing, love listening to dancehall. I belt out lyrics about marrow flying through the sky and AKs being pushed over the wall. It’s all innocent for me. Entertainment. Music. But these are real circumstances that we all know are happening and blindly praise as long as it doesn’t directly affect us. Familiar, right? Yeah, because most of us do it. We are so ridiculous in our idea that it is happening over “there”, with “them”, not us, that we don’t let it affect our psyche as it probably should. This affects us all. It is, after all, OUR Jamaica and the things we do or don’t do today will affect OUR children tomorrow. But what the hell can I, this mawga brown girl that’s just trying to save enough money to go back to school to better MYSELF do to help the situation in Jamaica?
I feel overwhelmed. I feel bogged down. I feel like there isn’t much I can do. It’s much bigger than me and I get the feeling that by now, most Jamaicans feel the same way. Everything needs an overhaul. We need a political overhaul. We need to start emphasizing birth control practices. We need to get through to people that having ten million children you cannot care for is only doing yourself and your children an injustice and is only continuing the cycle of a crappy lifestyle. We need to get it through to people that expecting government hand outs is stupid and ridiculous and that people need to begin to think strategically about how to take better care of themselves, themselves. We need to start realizing that the $5000 that we spent in one weekend to go out partying could have been put into the account of some charitable organization that is working with garrison communities. It’s not something we have to do every weekend, but one of the 50 or so for the year would be a nice gesture. We need to stop lobbying for known dancehall criminals to be freed when their music speaks to their gutter minds and possible deviant actions. We need to hire people from ghetto communities once they are qualified instead of this asinine behaviour of not giving them a job just because they aren’t from Kingston 6. We need to stop making excuses for the criminals who talk about doing what they do because they have no food to eat. Poverty has been around for centuries but people weren’t always behaving like this. We non gangsters need to stop bigging up the gangster lifestyle even though if needed to we probably wouldn’t even know how to properly hold a gun. I could go on and on. We is all of us, both those of us standing on the outskirts of the problem and those people sitting right in it.
We need to do a lot. A lot. I swear, it pained me to watched the shows. Nothing about it was new, but it hurt to see it because I know it doesn’t have to be this way. It wasn’t always. I’ve come to the conclusion that since none of what we NEED to do will be done (I’m a realist) all I can do it try to inspire and help individually. Eventually (because it’s a little hard to do anything from the other side of the globe) I want to be involved in some sort of mentoring programme with children 10-15 years old, when I believe they need it most as it is right on the cusp of their possible criminal career. I really believe that if I can help just one child see that there are other avenues to life, other ways to “make it”, other ways to relieve frustration, other things to take pride in, then that would be one less person behind a gun.
I know it’s small and almost insignificant, and I know there are already people out there doing this, but what else can we do? Really? What else? Not a damn thing. If you can think of anything I can do while in Japan please let me know, because I’m at the point where I feel like if I see one more headline about a person being killed I’m going to implode.
I’m sick of it.