Looking back to 2004 when I first left for Nashville to attend university, my greatest fear was getting a roommate who would “chop me to pieces after they roofied me, put my body parts into plastic bags, and bury said body parts all over the South”. This not so irrational fear was an echo of my mother’s fear as a parent sending her precious offspring to school in the United States where 9-11 happened, where Columbine happened, and where VA-Tech would happen. As televised, the US just seemed to be the most dangerous place to be. Reports of lax gun laws, mass murders, and drug wars made me look to my home country as a safe haven. But looking through my Facebook stream this morning which had previously been bombarded by confirmation of the 2013 Boxing Day Junkanoo Parade victors, I’m not so sure anymore.
Just last night, someone, or some people, gunned down a play ground and Junkanoo shack, their unprejudiced bullets hitting 7 people. That’s right, bullets don’t discriminate, they can harm anyone and anything, unless the shooter has a good aim and an intended target. But a lot of these punks, yes punks, don’t know how to shoot a gun properly so they spray about 10 people in the process, mostly because they themselves are afraid of the gun’s “recoil”. So they shoot BLINDLY. They have no respect for the weapons they wield, or the lives that they take with them. But how in the hell have we gotten to this point? How has the Bahamas, my little island home, managed to drown itself in this violent gun culture?
FACT: 2013 will go down in Bahamian history, not because of the achievements of it’s people, but because of it’s rate of violent crime per capita. This is not something I am proud of. So I have to ask, what’s wrong with my country?
A lot of my fellow schoolmates, friends, family members are asking others to stop blaming the government and law enforcement. I agree, to an extent. The government now, and governments past have had a hand to play in all of this. But not the hand you think. As much as we should like to blame the generation Y through generation Abbreviation (they just refuse to spell things out, part of what’s wrong with the world), I have to think that this problem started a long long time ago, probably around the late 70′s, when we (the government) decided that in order to grow economically, we needed to have all the things that other 1st world countries enjoyed. We needed to be consumers, and by consuming, we are able to compete. But the problem with consuming is that you need to PRODUCE to CONSUME.
Tell you two stories, then I’ll make a point, I promise.
A few years ago, my cousin Nadia and I went to Junkanoo in June in Freeport, Grand Bahama. We stopped to a local Chicken Shack one (for all my foreign friends, its like fast food, you walk up to a window, order food like chicken and fries, cracked conch, lobster, ect). While waiting for our food, we sat down cause it was hot and I was feeling lazy. Anyway, not too long after I sat down. Some guy, older cat, probably about 29-32 years old but alcohol, and “that hard knock life” ran him down so he looked to be about 40, started talking to me. He told me how he could send me to school cause he was so rich, from “running these streets” and tried to give me 50$. I of course, politely told him “No, thank you, I am already in school, I got a loan, I worked hard, saved money and my parents help”. This for some reason pissed him off. It made me wonder what women were bamboozling this guy into thinking that a 50$ contribution was enough for school. That couldn’t even buy me a used O-chem text book off of Ebay, but I digress. He looked at my watch, it was a Guess watch that I bought on sale for maybe 70$, and asked “Das a gucci watch aye?”. I respond, “No, its a Guess watch. I can’t afford Gucci.” He says: “Well I guess I was just guessing.”
That was actually pretty funny.
But I got up to get my food, and heard him shout, “Well carry ya 2$ outfit then!” I couldn’t help but to inform him that it didn’t even cost me that because I caught the 99 cent sale at Wet Seal. This pissed him off even more. I’m not ashamed of cheap outfits. I’m quite frugal.
The point here is that this guy was about 10 or more years older than me, and he thought that money, and luxury goods were somehow a measure of the value of obviously himself, and everyone around him. At that point I was already too comfortable with myself and who I was to be worried about what I paid for my clothes. Why? Because your body changes, you get fat, you lose weight, you fill out, or get fit, and your clothes don’t fit or become warn, then you discard them or make something new from them. This is especially true in this day and age where very few items are handmade, and not manufactured in sweat shops so the quality SUCKS ASS.
Anyways, in general, who you are doesn’t change dramatically unless something dramatic happens. You normally hold on to a set of ideals your whole life. But not these people. They’ve been enticed by a culture of excess. This life of over-consumption where desire and need become confused very easily. The problem here again though, is that in order to CONSUME, you have to PRODUCE and these people produce by any means necessary, taking a life is a small price to pay for a Lexus, Rolex, or Air Jordans.
My second story is a Facebook story. Some guy in my feed was ranting about people who only make 150$ ”flossing” like they are “ballers”. First thing is, I barely made out what this guy was saying because I don’t speak the same English he does. There were words missing entire syllables but I got the gist of his argument. Of course, me, being the troublemaker I am, said something a long the lines of ”What does it matter how much money a person makes, as long as it is an honest living?”. He went off of course about how I needed to learn to read, and they he was saying they need to only celebrate when they “got their paper up” and not a moment before. I politely un-friended his ass. I don’t want silly people in my stream spewing vitriol to good, hard-working Bahamians, no matter how much money they do or don’t make. You see, I think that a person should be proud of being paid for their work. A low wage is nothing to be a shamed of if its EARNED wage. The low wage is a reflection of the employer and the labor laws that govern said employer.
Anyway, point here again is the valuation of the quantity of money versus the quality of the work done to obtain said money. If this is the kind of pressure being placed on the average human being of average integrity, then imagine the pressure being placed on those people who subscribe to the media’s portrayal of excess and what makes who popular and why. There are people from good homes with awesome parenting who get tempted by the lifestyle of the rich and famously excessive consumers when they start working high income jobs, in certain financial districts. They start to live way above their means and then Ponzi schemes of Madoff proportions are dreamed up in desperation, or worse greed.
Is this really what we want from people? Is this really what we expect from them? What happened to appreciating people for their character and how hard they work, versus what they have?
The valuation of the person over their possessions starts, as most of my classmates and friends would put it, starts at home. When parents teach their children the difference between need and desire, when they teach them that what you have doesn’t define who you are, when they teach them that things have far more worth when you work for them rather than when you take, appropriate, steal, cheat and lie for them, then this problem of over-consumption might just go away. Maybe people will start ignoring commercials that tell you “YOU NEED A BENZ” to be respected. Maybe people will start buying things of quality that were made to last rather than to coerce you into buying the upgrade.
I’m not saying that consuming less, and living more simply will stop violent crime. It can’t. Even if all is done right, there will still be teen pregnancy, rapists, and psychopaths. But maybe if people didn’t feel the need to impress by having lots, they might see the value in education and personal development and these things would occur far less. Let’s be real, these people aren’t killing for food, water or a roof over their heads. They’re killing because they think that by having what you’ve worked hard for, they will be someone.
BTW: All the countries that appear to have their shit together agree on one thing, in order to have a productive people, you need an EDUCATED and PHYSICALLY ACTIVE people.