Reinvestment key to misguided youth
The New Year’s Eve brawl at Bermuda’s premier resort, the Fairmont Southampton hotel, was jolting news that brought a cringeworthy reminder of the violence that terrorises families and threatens too many of our youth.
For some, this is seen as a problem in someone else’s neighbourhood, but for far too many, it touches home in a surreal way because they examine the prospects and taste the fear of their own family members at risk from the effects of this new culture of violence, which has swept the country in the past decade or longer.
I do not write as a detached goggled-eyed professor on this matter; I have stood behind the windows in my household and counted no fewer than 16 long silver swords branded by hooded individuals as they crawled through the neighbourhood seeking to exact retribution. I have heard the pinging sounds of metal hitting the bones of a victim and called ambulances to retrieve individuals whose arms looked like a filleted fish.
When you raise six boys in Pembroke, you cannot be immune or isolated from the problems that have engulfed almost every part of Bermuda. I know there is the automatic tendency to reach back and romanticise former youthful days of chivalry when people even at football and cricket matches would rush to watch a fight and heap prestige on the winner as the loser begrudgingly but honourably accepted defeat.
Those days are gone. Today when there is a fight, everyone runs for cover. People do not want to see, hear or be a witness for fear of themselves becoming the next victim. Who wants to put themselves or their family on the frontline of a countercultural war that has been going on for 12 years, and shows no sign of abating?
Yet we cannot leave it or wish it away, and in spite of earnest prayer vigils and the governments of the day issuing statements about tackling the problem, our guts tell us that no one has a handle on the situation. There is no need to politicise the issue; the problem has been mushrooming for decades.
We took the education that once prepared our young men for the workforce away in the early 1970s, then a systemic shift in the early 1990s led to public education being abandoned by the middle class out of fear — creating two classes of opportunity predicated on who could afford to pay. The chasm is replicated in the workplace, with one set bound for university and proper job placement, and another bound to slug it out in the streets.
In fact, if anyone cared to do an analysis, I predict that research will reveal the most infamous gang in modern times was filled with youth who, at the age of 13, could scarcely read or write. We as a collective let them down by creating a social environment for failure.
It was the misappropriation of hundreds of millions of private sector and public sector dollars that avoided any responsibility to rear the next generations. Whether it was because of economic expediency or politics, what we have today is the result of what we as a society unquestionably have built over the past 40 years.
It will take a reinvestment of equal proportion to address the situation adequately. If society as a whole cannot accept responsibility to tackle the problem, there is no limit on the depths to which the issue will descend. The future belongs to the young, and it is only a natural fact that if we do not prepare them, all we worked for will be lost.
Bermuda is a very small island and, unless one plans to live in isolation by escaping to an ivory palace like many of the rich and famous, the social classes are separated by little in landmass. What sense does it make to pile up wealth in your household when the surrounding community is poor and bereft? It won’t be long before your sons, grandsons and daughters become engulfed or victimised.
Part of the solution in resolving the violence we are witnessing is that a percentage of every dollar earned in any enterprise, whether public sector or private sector, must be targeted towards training and education of the oncoming generations. It’s going to cost us dearly and may in some instance look like waste.
This is the unwritten and unspoken mandate given to the Government. The issue is live, dynamic and real, which cannot be addressed by words or reports and committee discussions. We have to remake Bermuda with a committed exercise like that of our own version of a “Marshall Plan”.
We either bite the bullet or I am afraid the bullet will bite first.
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