THE situation of violence and crime in St. Lucia has become unbearable! It is devastating, to say the least. St. Lucians have gotten to the point where they can no longer tolerate this situation. We now have to take the bull by the horns to cause something to happen or, at the least, ignite the process of making things happen. We want action!
In a previous article, we began to investigate three factors that influence violence generally, and, indeed, youth violence in particular in St. Lucia. In that article, we saw that the social environment could provide experiences which could have negative effects on our youth such that they may be led to violence and crime.
This article is intended to investigate relationship with friends and family, and community characteristics, the two other factors which I have already identified as having influence on youth violence and crime in St. Lucia.
I would like to dedicate this article to the memory of Saadia Byron, a young mother of three who met a violent death recently as a result of a continuing spate of violence and crime in St. Lucia.
The philosopher Aristotle insists that “Man is gregarious by nature”. An understanding of the theory is that man is a social being. It explains that man was born in a society and by his very nature was made to live in groups. This principle accounts for the fact that young people will develop relationships. These relationships will occur in many different types of groups and would occur naturally and intentionally.
One of the important things we get from interacting with other people is information. And here comes the crux of the matter: that people are so informed that they could use that information to influence other people positively or negatively. Social psychologists refer to this as “Informational Social Influence”: the influence of other people that leads us to conform because we see them as a source of information to guide our behaviour.
Have you ever tried to help your child with her homework from school? He or she will soon tell you that this is how my teacher taught me to do it and will soon decline your help. Teachers, Pastors, Prime Ministers, Political Leaders, Managers, Captains, School Principals, Heads of Departments, Formal or Informal Group Leaders all have a tremendous amount of power and influence arising from their positions of information. That information could be used positively as well as negatively.
In many instances the negative use or misuse of such information could easily lead other people to anger, violence and crime. Space does not permit me to go into all the details relating to negative informational social influence that bring people to the brink or perhaps to go overboard. But I trust that my readers understand or may have come up against many of these negative experiences.
Another type of influence is referred to as “Normative Social Influence” or peer influence. Young people of the same age, background, social status, and interest may develop friendships. However, they may soon conform or be forced to conform to the norms or behaviours of the group. Those norms could be positive as well as negative.
Very often children will do in a group what they will not normally do at home in the presence of their parents or guardians. So that when they are caught in an antisocial or negative behaviour, parents or guardian would say: “My son is a very good boy…” The influence of the group could be so strong that a very good boy could be transformed into a hardcore criminal in a very short space of time.
People are born into a family unit. One of the functions of the members of the family is to protect other members of the unit from abuse of any kind. But it is a well-known fact that some of the people who perpetrate violence against members of the family are members of that family themselves. It is sad to say that when a serious crime is committed, one of the first places that our police have to look is within the family. Sad but real!
Similarly, it may be that the perpetrator is very close to or well-known to the family. The offence against children and young people could come in other forms of physical abuse. In recent times, I have seen children and young people being badly beaten on Facebook and we wonder whether the person doing the beating has a heart of flesh.
But we don’t have to go on Facebook to see that. Right here in St. Lucia, we have all types of physical abuse against the youth. In time, those abused people will become abusers themselves and continue the cycle. In the United States of America, when a serious crime is committed, one of the first acts is to get a historical background of the perpetrator. It is at that time that we learn quite a lot about the perpetrator and his or her earlier experiences.
We come now to the concept of community. A community has several characteristics. Among them are they are located in a definite place; usually they are members by birth; they live in a strong bond of unity and solidarity; and very importantly, they have common needs.
The American psychologist Abraham Maslow is best known for creating the “Hierarchy of Needs”. Now the basic human needs are food, clothing and shelter. When people exist in a community and they do not have easy access to the basic human needs, particularly food, they become sub-human. They then use whatever means necessary to obtain food. I mean when two to three thousand unskilled people are put out of work with reliance on nobody except themselves, then this is a formula for violence and crime. More importantly, family members rely on their earnings to survive. So there is a multiplier effect. Have we ever stopped as a nation to find out how the former NICE or STEP workers are surviving?
In my next articles, I intend to begin to offer suggestions to deal with many of the social problems as they relate to violence and crime in St. Lucia.\