Saturday, July 16, 2011

...much of today's social problems in The Bahamas stem from the fact that young people have no respect for human life

Many youth have lost respect for human life

tribune242 editorial

Nassau, Bahamas



IN THE wake of the three murders --double shooting and a stabbing Tuesday night -- that brought the murder count to 72 for the first seven months of the year, Police Commissioner Ellison Greenslade had some observations.

He restated his belief that much of today's social problems stem from the fact that young people have no respect for human life.

"All human beings have an inherent right to life and their dignity is to be respected," he said. "What is unfortunate is that there is still far too many relatively young people in our communities, adult young persons who have no respect for themselves, no respect for other persons, no respect for the laws of the land, and they continue to commit crime."

Bishop Laish Boyd, head of the Anglican Church, yesterday took up the theme. Everyone, said the Bishop, has to stop turning a blind eye to crime, not just violent crime, but also petty crimes, such as disrespect for law and order. We are living in a time, he said, when people no longer have respect for the church.

"For some people," said the Bishop, "any target is fair game, including the church. There used to be a time when people respected the church, but that is changing."

Bishop Boyd believes that only a minority feel this way. The "majority still see the church and its values as sacred," he said.

Some of us at The Tribune are not surprised at what is happening today. We have lived long enough to have seen the storm brewing, gathering strength and threatening to tear our society asunder. Go back in our files and read of how many times the editor of this newspaper warned of the vortex into which we were being sucked -- a vortex that would eventually tear a God-fearing society apart.

The late Sir Etienne Dupuch, who wrote those columns, had a special gift of being able to see the future with tremendous clarity. Those who did not like what they read from his pen, dismissed him as the "Voice of Doom." But, if he were here today, he could say with sad conviction: "I told you so."

Today's social problems did not just "growed like Topsy." They took a long time coming. They had their birth in politics.

There was early disrespect for institutions, community leaders, teachers, parents, each other and eventually ourselves.

We recall how the budding PLP encouraged young people to disrespect the leaders of this country by calling them by their first names -- this was the way government leaders were addressed in their party newspaper. We shall never forget the shock we got the day we saw the late Finance Minister Sir Stafford Sands cross Bay Street to enter the House of Assembly. From the pavement a youngster shouted at him: "Hey, Stafford!"

Something like that could never have happened in the Bahamas in which we grew up. But the disrespect of elders, particularly if they held positions of importance, was encouraged in the early days of the PLP. Those were the days when letter writers to The Tribune were afraid to sign their names for publication. We remember a house being stoned one night because the occupant was thought to have written a letter critical of the PLP to The Tribune.

Discipline was broken down in the schools. We recall the lament of the late headmaster Vince Ferguson of how school discipline was being undermined. He told us of the day that he disciplined a young boy by sending him home only to have a chauffeur-driven car arrive at the school the next morning, with instructions from Prime Minister Pindling that the boy was to be readmitted. The cheeky youngster swept past the headmaster, giving the high five sign as he grinned his way back to the classroom.

Mr Ferguson predicted that the boy faced a bleak future with the law. We believe that his prediction came to pass.

Today disgruntled parents go to school to "cus out" and "beat up" teachers if they don't like the manner in which a situation has been handled with their child. In earlier times, a child would be too scared to tell his parents about a teacher disciplining him, fearing that he would get a second belting from an angry parent. We can hear it now: "How dare you be rude to your teacher?"

So what can you expect of the children when the parents are out of control?
Elections became rowdy, stone-throwing events. Out of control PLP goon squads closed down political rallies, denying Bahamians their freedom of speech.

The late Eugene Dupuch, QC, would shake his head sadly with the Biblical words: "They know not what they do." He often commented on how human emotions could not be turned on and off like a water faucet. Once the floodgates are open, they cannot be closed, he said. In other words, what the PLP had unleashed on the community would come back to haunt them. It did, but in the end we have all been caught in the rush of those open floodgates -- human emotions run amok.

Sir Lynden lived long enough to look back on his past and admit at a PLP convention in 1990 that he had made a mistake.

"We told them," he said, "they were too good to be gardeners, too good to be sanitation men, too good to work with their hands" -- in the end it was bad advice. Attitudes, he said, had to change.

In this column tomorrow, we shall let Sir Lynden speak. He himself will tell you how it went wrong.

What he will say is the basis of many of today's problems - even the Haitian problem.

It is now time for these politicians - especially PLP politicians - to stop pointing accusing fingers, because it is their counterparts over the years who have been the major culprits in creating today's turmoil. It's now time for them to step down from their holier-than-thou pedestals and help find solutions.

July 14, 2011

tribune242 editorial