If you didn’t read Stabroek News’ March 31 editorial titled ‘Age of opportunity,’ you should read it. Seventeen secondary school students armed with knives left Georgetown to settle a score with a student of the Leonara Secondary School. Yes, it did happen. In Guyana. Luckily, teachers and the police intervened. This incident clearly reflects this nation’s moral and social decline. A school system of fancy new school buildings and shiny free laptops without teachers or proper curriculum and youth development bears a lot of blame.
There is also another larger problem of the domination of brute force, ignorance, moral convenience and disregard for the rule of law in Guyana. Not the political version, which is a known commodity but the social version. We used to be a society that despite our political stupidity still retained good social morality. That is gone. Slaughtered in the last two decades. Nowadays, quick resort to maximum violence is the preferred solution to any problem. Violence has become accepted as an initiation and response mechanism because of rampant crime from, among others, gangs and drug cartels. The easy availability of guns has yielded a weapons culture, which is a kill-first culture. A gun or knife has replaced words and fists.
Many perceive maximal violence in response to criminality or to impose criminality as not only necessary but right. The running amok of mass killers like Roger Khan, Fineman and the Jailbreak Gang has contributed to the frightening growth of appreciation for the devastating power of violence and criminal violence. Some got their template for atrocity. Others who supported violent criminals fighting violent criminals in the name of so-called crime fighting accepted crime and violence as a solution. Many in this country see a minor wrong as warranting a major retaliation. Loss of the sense of community and communal spirit, respect, responsibility and cooperation has diminished communal conflict resolution as a counter to violence. Neighbour A has no communal remorse or fear for maiming Neighbour B. The same thing has happened as more Guyanese have turned away from civic and religious participation. More have become islands unto themselves and forces unto themselves and violence benefits.
Maximum infliction of pain is the price we pay today. Because of the breakdown of the rule of law and weak law enforcement, many feel they have no choice but to take the law into their own hands. Maximum violence instils fear. Fear quells thoughts of retaliation. Might-is-right is large and in charge from the top down.
If I am wrong, but I beat you senseless, then I am right by force and violence. Right can be superseded by brute force, ignorance and profound violence. Even during the heinous PNC period, violence was markedly less of a social response. Now, the political madness has infected and joined hands with the social behaviour. The entire system is down the toilet.
Then there is violence driven by alcohol and drugs, a monstrosity in our society. Children are socialized and conditioned to violence starting with violence in the home against women and children. Around 20,000 yearly school dropouts and a frustrating education system add to the woes.
Then there are the economic frustrations of a system built on rampant consumerism, materialism, wrongdoing, unequal distribution of resources, marginalization, inequality and corruption in a country of the predominantly poor and powerless. Only some will reap the benefit of this system. The majority won’t. Poor, powerless, uneducated and unemployed masses without jobs or opportunity can’t survive in this money-driven model after giving away their life to the taxman. Some will steal, corrupt, commit wrongs, push drugs, kill, maim, rob and engage in every viable form of illegality to survive in this system. Some will commit crimes because the system allows them to and because crime pays in Guyana.
It is that simple. If they see others benefiting from wrongdoing, they want to benefit too. People without a rule of law create one from their own minds. Violence becomes only one expression of this terrible reality. While this terrible event is shocking, it is not unexpected. More of it will happen in this wonderful paradise called Guyana.