(Hot Bread & Butter. Appearing the St. Lucia Voice Newspaper of March 6, 2010)
“This is not a Masai (African tribe)belief,” he said, almost laughing, “this life after you die. After you die you are nothing. You return to the soil, that is all.”
“What do you say Francis?” Mauro asked.
Francis had been reading a small red bound Bible. He looked up now and smiled. “These Masai are brave men,” he said. (From Barack Obama’s DREAMS FROM MY FATHER)
The way we live and die is a consequence of our beliefs. Where do we go when we die? Heaven? Hell? Nowhere? Is there anything we can do to affect what happens to us after death? Is there anything we can do to better our lives tomorrow?
The murder of Corporal Vincent Trevor Peters during a bold faced attack in February has upped the ante on violent crime. However, instead of trying to determine the root causes of crime and reasons behind the recent escalation in violence here, we have reached for the same cruel cattle prods – kill them, let them kill each other, bring back the cat-o-nine, fire somebody.
That Saint Lucians are still psychologically underdeveloped is made brilliantly clear in the simplistic solutions put forward by the general public. We have not even mastered the proper construct to develop productive moral citizens – family and social structures that instil values of self worth and social responsibility above all else and set barriers to crime with clearly defined consequences that are enforced without fear or favour.
Are we born with a sense of self worth or is it instilled in us by our family and/or society? Was every man and woman born knowing they have the capacity to achieve anything? Does every person have a real consciousness of the repercussions of their actions on individuals and society? What makes one boy believe he can become prime minister or priest and another boy believe his only options are Bordelais or the grave? If our society continues to ignore these and similar questions and advocate mindless killing as a solution to crime, then we will continue to produce killers in greater and greater numbers.
Does death hold any threat for a man to whom life holds no promise?
The solution/s to halting our headlong tilt toward the law of the jungle, lies in opening our eyes to the belief system, the word and the deed, that has produced this kind of mindless, heartless criminal.
And as we deify the victim, who deserves every accolade lavished on him, let us spare a thought for the criminal and others like him languishing at BTC and Bordelais or taking the sticks and stones of abusive homes and uncaring neighbours with false bravado; boys who may live their entire lives without one word of praise or commendation except from the fellas on the block who will give them their own 21 gun salute; boys whose bravado soon curdles like stale milk and hardens.
There but for the grace of my mother, go I.