On the importance of investing in people

Dear Editor,

I read your editorial on “The importance of investing in people” with interest and have a few comments.

When considering our high crime rate, we must be careful in saying that hanging won’t help, using retributive justice arguments from other jurisdictions, when our own history says otherwise. There are some hardened or budding criminals who would think twice about committing brazen executions in broad daylight if the justice process for murder was consistent and executions carried out shortly after sentencing.

Hanging is not intended to be a solution to the crime problem, but a deterrent for those tempted to take another person’s life. Because of the finality of executions they should not be used willy-nilly, but clear criteria should be established to ensure that the chances of mistaken identity or falsely interpreted evidence does not cause an undeserving one to receive a terminal sentence.

Hanging and investing in people do not have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, it would be more productive to do both simultaneously while under-girding the foundations of society through character development.

We must understand that people are lured to crime not because of poverty but because of their values or the lack thereof. People may blame poverty, but it is choosing to compromise and take what is not yours that is the root of the problem. If poverty caused crime the wealthy would not commit crimes, and we know that is not true at all.

In fact, the genesis of the wealth of many affluent families at home and abroad was in criminal activities. Again, the Bahamian experience allows those over 40 to remember times when people were poor generally, but they were more principled. Both violent and petty crime were nowhere near the levels experienced today. People were generally more respectful and many did business with a handshake. Some stores gave credit because people were ashamed not to pay their bills.

Of course there were seedy elements present, but the levels of safety were generally higher while crime and fear of criminality was much lower. Children could play outside without overwhelming concern for their safety. The drastic changes we witness in our society has little to do with the scarcity of opportunities, but a loss of the value of family, community, hard work, resourcefulness and having a principled character. Our value systems were decimated by the compromise of values during the drug trade of the late 1970s and 1980s, and it has been difficult to recover.

Jobs and skills programs are nice and necessary, but they do not teach a person character values that make them a decent person. Our crime problems exist because we do not have enough decent people in our communities. It is as simple as that. A decent person will not steal their boss’ time or property. A decent person will not have children recklessly and not take care of them properly. A decent person will not steal by reason of employment. How many of those cases have we seen in the dailies in the past year? The reality is, if you dress up a pig it will still wallow in the mud.

I would more readily employ a trustworthy person with little to no education than a self-centered, ambitious person with a MBA because one can be trusted with greater ease than the other. But I have found it is easier for governments to borrow money for programs just to say that they are doing something, albeit with a very limited vision.

People need to be taught the importance of getting an education, delaying sexual promiscuity and having children until they have a life partner to create a stable family, using their youth to learn the values that will build a life instead of focusing solely on making a living. We already have the infrastructure to do this on a national level, but its value is not appreciated and it seems creating jobs is more important than nation building. What I am suggesting cannot be done in several three-day workshops twice a year and therein lies the crux of the problem. There is no political will to commit the time, effort and resources needed to consistently do that which will really turn this country around. It’s much easier to flippantly address the superficial issues.

A return to traditional family values and moral discipline are essential for stability and the preservation of our once envied way of life.

– JB

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