Acting on behavioural signs early essential
Few would disagree that in recent decades there has been an upsurge in violent behaviour from segments of our communities, with a number of factors cited as attributing to this disturbing trend. This has the police and community leaders concerned about hostile behaviour.
Although a considerable amount of violence can be traced to gang activity, which over the years has left a trail of fatal shootings, violent conduct in domestic situations has spread into the sports arena. It is having a devastating effect on our cultural infrastructure, not to mention the trauma for children caught up in behaviour that they are unable to comprehend.
Disrespectful behaviour is counterproductive and is often, as a subject, kept in the bottom drawer because it strikes at the core of family values. Having to confront it is painful for those who really care about proper standards and who support decency and respect for others.
Blaming antisocial conduct on tough economic conditions falls dreadfully flat when one recalls a period of our history when most Bermudians, black and white, had to struggle to put bread on the table. They knew through optimism and hope that tough times can test the true spirit of any community.
Just as diseases have challenged mankind worldwide for centuries, with a never-ending effort to seek cures, the problem of violent behaviour in daily life has also troubled societies globally. And in a world where violence can be found in practically every form of entertainment, including music, it is a giant task trying to raise the banner of respect and tolerance in building healthy and safe communities.
These days, the danger signs are often hidden in a maze of cyberspace technology, which has revolutionised how we communicate. Just about every child today has a device and can swim in the electronic ocean of texting, tweeting or whatever term is used to be in touch with others. The technology is also used by the Isis terrorist group to radicalise the vulnerable in different parts of the world, as they seek new recruits to spread a brand of ideology that is rejected by most of the free world.
Domestic violence is nothing new, and even during the days when families in Bermuda had a stronger base of discipline and respect, there were many tragic incidents with violence used to attempt to settle a dispute, or when anger over a failed relationship exploded with deadly consequences. In the old days, without the latest communication systems, it would often take police a while to respond to a serious incident.
For today's generation, it may seem unheard of to see a police officer responding to an emergency on a pedal cycle. Barely in my teens, I witnessed what was a difficult image to erase from memory. A number of women were screaming at another woman who was holding a child by one leg swinging it about like a toy. People were reluctant to approach her out of fear of what might happen to the child. It was a nerve-racking experience that ended after a policeman — yes, on a pedal cycle — arrived on the scene. Miraculously, the child survived without any serious injury.
Not all violent incidents are reported, and this is why in today's climate, the community needs to fully support efforts by Family Centre, the Centre Against Abuse and any other groups committed to reducing violent behaviour in our communities. They would accept that stopping all violence is not possible, but if they are able to help someone before they go over the edge, that is a step in the right direction.
Unless there is a greater effort to teach our young people, both in the home and in our schools, that problems should be solved through reasoning, common sense and tolerance, there is cause to worry for the next generation. There are no easy solutions in a world where almost every day headlines can speak of violent acts that are instantly projected in living rooms for all to see — and that includes children.
We have an advantage in our small diverse population. There are many beautiful people who work every day to keep our island home a place we should all be proud of. We have serious problems that need to be addressed, which is the case even with large countries with millions. Until we are able to see ourselves as Bermudians first, and not members of this or that group, we could fall into the trap of allowing divisiveness to rule.
The future of Bermuda will really depend on what values we pass on to those youngsters still in school. We need to pay close attention to any danger signs that threaten that future. As President Barack Obama said recently on America's controversial gun control issue: “If better gun control could stop one tragedy from happening, it would be better than doing nothing.”