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‘Bermuda today is a dysfunctional society of enablers’

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The number of women brought before the courts for violent offences and civil matters as a result of unpaid bills is on the rise.

Coupled with the prevalence of absent fathers Magistrate Juan Wolffe has warned that the effect on young women is now as prevalent as it is with young men.

In part two of an extensive series, the Magistrate discussed recent court trends caused by antisocial behaviour.

“Feelings of abandonment are quite serious in the psyche of both genders. Gone are the days of Bermuda as we know it,” he said.

“Bermuda today is a dysfunctional society of enablers. And there was a time when I would hardly see girls in my court, they were the safe bet.

“I knew we were having a problem globally and in Bermuda when I began to see more young women for offences of violence, fighting and chopping people up.

Anecdotally he has also heard about girls and women facilitating gang activity by being look outs or passing on information by cellphone of intended victim's movements.

“Women are now mimicking the behaviour which was once prominent with males,” he said. And that for him was a clear indication of a “breakdown somewhere”.

“Maybe mothers are not doing what they’re supposed to in some cases. We have young girls going around mimicking sexualised behaviour just by the clothes they wear.

“The message they’re sending to other people, it’s unhealthy, it really is. While the courts are not a panacea, I think we’re the depository of social ills and we’re the last resort.”

Mr Wolffe presides over Bermuda’s Drug Court where he sees the results of addiction firsthand.

He declined to disclose his position on decrimilisation or the legalisation of controlled drugs. The more pressing issue for him is the inclusion of alcohol “under the umbrella of drugs”.

“I will not comment on my opinion as to the decrimilisation or legalisation. But as far as I’m concerned, every effort should be made to ensure that our children don’t use any form of drugs at all.

“Whether it be cannabis, crack cocaine or alcohol; I’ve seen it have too much devastating effects on our people,” said Mr Wolffe.

In a dysfunctional society of enablers he said alcohol abuse is deeply entrenched in Bermuda’s culture, he also admits that changing the mindset is an extremely tall order.

“It's the excess drinking that concerns me, it's the abuse of substances that creates the problem.

“I’m seeing young children in court who are consuming more alcoholic beverages, more cannabis or herb. And there’s a correlation between that and their performance, not only in society but also in school.

“I wonder what is the educational level of some of our children — something is clearly not working.”

For him at least it has become abundantly clear that “young minds are frequently altered at a much younger age” by drug abuse which includes Bermuda’s number one legal drug, namely alcohol.

And it’s taking an immeasurable toll in education and when it comes to basic lifeskills, he said.

“I don’t know how my sons are going to turn out, we don’t know, none of us know how our children are going to turn out in the end.

“At least we need to be able to say that we did all we could possibly do to ensure that they stay on the straight and narrow, if they don’t then that’s a matter for them.

“But I don’t think that many of us are even giving our children that chance,” he said.

Despite the downside, on the upside he concluded: “I still have a lot of faith in Bermuda, I still have a lot of faith in this country.”

And he longs for the day when his sons like others “don’t have to worry about whether or not they’re from town or from the west”.

“I hope and pray that time comes when my sons won’t have to worry about riding up to Dockyard, through wherever and be okay; or the fact that they’re from the east that’s a problem.

“I don’t want my sons living in a Bermuda that’s 21 square miles where they have to be worrying about that.

“People don’t talk about it openly but we have to talk about it. How do you have young men who cannot leave town in 21 square miles but nobody’s saying anything.”

He stressed that by citing his concerns he does not have all the answers or solutions to the antisocial problems at hand.

“There certainly has been a deterioration in values and principles across the board, the lines between right and wrong are clearly blurred,” he said.

“What concerns me constantly is our failure as men to look after our children, not just financially, but by spending real quality time.”

And he’s convinced that “it’s not a coincidence” that far too many young people end up on the wrong side of the law to the point where it has become an intergenerational problem.

“We have this underbelly of the subculture that’s growing, its spreading and we’re not talking about. It will get to the posing where its going to be uncontrollable,” he said.

“I don’t know why we don’t talk about it, whether it’s politically or whether we’re ashamed of it, or we don’t want to air our dirty laundry. But we need to have that discourse, that conversation, because we’ve got problems.

“Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of good work being done, efforts are being made and I know that resources are tight but I don’t see my docket getting any smaller and it’s getting worse.

“At some point we have to break the cycle and our men need to step up to the plate with women in the interest of the children.

“Today we have fathers who have no problem going to football games with their boys but have a huge problems taking their own sons to the game.”

Until the real underlying core issues are addressed he said the intergenerational breakdown will continue.

This series continues in tomorrow’s paper looking at the effects of the recession and reputable buisnesses not paying social insurance and taxes to keep businesses afloa, and a call for the regulation of debt collection.

Magistrate Juan Wolffe is concerned about the rising trend of antisocial behaviour on the Island.
Magistrate Juan Wolffe is concerned about the rising trend of antisocial behaviour on the Island.

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Published January 22, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated January 21, 2013 at 11:49 pm)

‘Bermuda today is a dysfunctional society of enablers’

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