A failed society

We are in the midst of a major social crisis in this country at the moment – as I write we have had the fifth murder of a young man within eight days in Grand Cayman.

First let me sympathise with loved ones and parents, because regardless of what the circumstances are, these young men are still our sons, nephews, cousins and family and friends will love and miss them. Some people take the dim view of these reportedly gang related killings that “ooooh, let them kill themselves – they will soon all be gone” – I cannot share that sentiment unfortunately, because we are losing what should have been productive men and women of our society, Caymanians we should all have been proud of instead of mourning their loss. Also there is no one in their right mind that could believe that what is going on is good for Cayman in any way, shape or form. We are a tourist and financial destination and this is very, very serious to both of these pillars of our economy. Local businesses are hurting because people have started to stay home and hide behind their walls and the stress of living and being afraid is killing people. Need I say more? This is unacceptable – pure and simple.

The police can only do so much, although their role in trying to curtail this violence is critical and they must perform at the highest level and with proper resources. At the end of the day, they are all we have as security – we have no armed forces or any other protection. The Government must support the police and provide these resources and we must ensure our judicial system sends a stern message that these acts are intolerable. We have an overflowing prison and it’s also time to look carefully at who we imprison and who we don’t in this country – there are alternatives for lesser crimes and we need to utilise them. With limited space we need to reserve much of that for the criminal element we have fostered and nurtured in this country, and this brings me to a very important point that I wish to make in this forum at this time.

I grew up at a time that was peaceful and good in this country (in the 60s and 70s) and when family values meant something and respect was the order of the day. But it was also a time when those who led this country, because of who they were and the status they and their families held, could get away with just about anything. We were backward and undeveloped and it was easy to rule and keep the people ignorant and beholding unto to you, to continue to lead them as if you were Moses leading the Israelites to the Promised Land.

Education ministers who were in charge at the time refused or were unable to develop a system for all the people, through the creation of a full-fledged trade school as an example, or sadly with use of restricted scholarships to the chosen few because of the “elite” status they held, or the relationships with their parents. Unless we forget, or for those that don’t know, we had a technical unit in JGHS up until 1980, when I left there from 6th Form – this contained woodworks, metal works, auto mechanics and technical Drawing. This was put there by the pre-1976 administration under the Comprehensive School System. It was disbanded for no good reason, or for reasons only known to the Unity Team Administration post 1976. These two main factors (lack of scholarship availability and graduating or releasing ill prepared students), resulted in many leaving school without being equipped and ready to take their rightful place in our society. Back then of course everyone got jobs, because Cayman was taking off in the 70s and 80s and the bounty was much, but it was always to be crumbs from the table and not to sit at the table, except for the chosen few! Our people were disenfranchised from ownership and expanding their horizons because of these poor education policies. These people went on to become parents (many also ill equipped for such an important role or because of their economic standing they were forced to work two jobs and kids were left alone with inadequate supervision and guidance), and their kids are the same ones that are now caught up in this mess. When Mr. Truman Bodden (Education minister for 12 of 16 years between 1976 – 1992) was told he had gangs in the schools he denied their existence and said we only had groups! He was also the recipient of a study at the time that pointed out the juvenile delinquency problem Cayman was starting to have and said that it would lead to criminality at an early age, and he refused to accept this as well, saying the lady who did the report must have been studying Jamaica and not Cayman. I wonder how he feels now when he is sitting there writing and criticising current and recent administrations and pretending he has all the answers to Cayman’s problems, when he can be credited in large part for not arresting the major social problem we have today.

Many know this and speak of it in whispers, but it’s time we call a spade a spade, and I am not a hypocrite! People like Mr. Truman and others of his time have helped to create the mess we find ourselves in, and although he will likely rant that I am wrong and find every reason as to why, in his heart he will know it’s the cold hard truth. This is said not just to lay blame, but for us to analyse as a people and not ever again make the same mistake or allow it to be made.

Now to the parents out there; your role is the primary one and most important of all. First and foremost you have to be parents! Remember you REAP what you SOW! You have to know what your children are doing, who they are with and where they are. It’s OK to say “no” folks! The community cannot parent your child, although they can and should assist as the village we are. You have to set the rules and guidelines – no parent should be saying “I have no control over him or her”. It simply means you failed in the beginning (early ages) and spoilt them! If that’s the case, then turn them in – report them – or suffer the consequences of their actions. That’s the reality.

Folks, NO ONE is safe when society runs amuck, not even those in authority. Our citizens deserve to live in peace and our visitors and investors expect no less. Now we have a mess to clean up and something that has taken 20 years to create because of visionless leaders will unfortunately take another 20 years to fix! There is no quick fix and you can bring in all the security you want, pray all you want, have many meetings, and change laws etc. (all good things), but we have a serious social issue and the chickens have come home to roost!

Some of the things that must be addressed post haste is making sure we get a proper education system in this country. It must be available to all, must be affordable to all, must be a comprehensive one, where no child falls through the proverbial “crack” anymore. Each one must be given full attention and given every chance to succeed. Technical and vocational studies are a must. We should be producing our own plumbers, carpenters, electricians, painters, masons, mechanics, artisans and the list goes on. We will always have a need for foreign workers in this country, but it should be after full employment of our own qualified Caymanians!

Special abilities and needs must both be identified from early in a child’s development and taken care of accordingly. One is to push a child along in his naturally gifted direction and the other is to address needs and concerns early and correct them. Our social programmes must identify delinquent parenting, and it must be dealt with, and the children put under proper supervision or in proper homes. Too many kids have to look to their peers for guidance and this is a “no, no”. Many times this type of guidance is the wrong one leading to major problems down the road.

Businesses must also play their role and allow mothers, in particular, more time with their children. Fathers need to step up to the plate and be fathers as well. Too many fathers are making kids and just moving on to make some more with another partner, boasting at the end of day how many he owns. How many you are a “Dad” to is what’s really important guys, not how many you made!!

Young people need more outlets – today we have many sporting facilities, but we still lack real wholesome family activities. Organised outdoor activities that burn a lot of energy up are what is needed. Eg: Sports parks, outdoor theme parks and race parks and others will keep them busy, entertaining them and great energy outlets.

This will help to avoid negative distractions. Fitness requires commitment and dedication and that’s why sports are so important. You have to be fit to be good! Also areas for the community to socialise and interact with each other in a wholesome way are very important. This strengthens communities.

These ideas above are in no way exhaustive but just some of the things we should be looking at. Our churches have to be more proactive in their approach and leave the sanctuary and take it to the people.

The church is important whatever the denomination, as everyone needs a moral compass and they play a big role in its development.

The problem as I see it, and I have always said, is that we have developed our country and forgot its people, except for the lucky ones. We cannot proceed in this manner as the “have nots” will look one day and crave what you and I have. They don’t care that you worked hard; all they know is that they want it and don’t have time to get it, or are not equipped to get it the right way – through hard work and commitment. So their answer is simply to take it from you or me by whatever means, usually through violent acts.

The loss of these five young men should not be in vain. It should be a wake up call to families, leaders and this country as a whole that we are going about things the wrong way! In our haste to chase the almighty dollar we have forgotten or put aside what made these Islands wonderful in the first place, good honest principles, hospitable ways, and a deep and abiding faith in the good Lord and his teachings.

It’s not too late to act, but we must act fast as a community, as each day the water gets deeper and soon many will drown.

May God bless us all and may God bless the Cayman Islands.

Osbourne Bodden

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