Violence in Jamaica The Jamaican society is very much a restless one, adopting from developed and developing countries around us and pioneering change at unprecedented rates. We are torn by conflicts over basic goals and direction, yet always sustained by the vision of a bright future as the last, best hope for mankind.
We are a society of inconsistencies-a country of remarkable natural beauty, but pollution is quickly becoming a problem; a society of high ideals and dedication to promoting peace, but with a long and harsh record of social injustice and violence; a people and country of exceptional material wealth for the many, but dire poverty for the few. These are the things of which problems are made. When we deliberate on the Jamaican society, we can see problems of varied sorts, economic and social. As an attempt at maintaining clarity, the focus will be on social problems to be seen in Jamaica.
Greater emphasis will be placed on the problems of crime and violence, unemployment, adolescent pregnancy, and poverty. The question is asked as to whether or not these social problems are attributed to a lack of ethical teaching and practice. The view is that while there is knowledge of ethical teachings, some aspects of the ethical teachings and practices are not properly taught or there is a drift to more contemporary views on some ethical matters, which eventually leads to the problems to some of the problems we now face in society.
The social problems we have in Jamaica are interlinked; they feed upon and reinforce each other, and interweave into a coherent blanket, covering us all. 1 One of the problems that has become prevalent is that of unemployment; youth unemployment, especially is on a rise. In October 2011, a Barbour force survey was carried out by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STAIN). The number of unemployed persons in October 2011 was 159,700, an increase of 10,700 (7. 2%) over the 149,000 in October 2010.
In July 2011 unemployment was 151,900, an increase, over this quarter, of 7,800 persons (5. 1%). The unemployment rate of 12. 8 per cent in October 2011 represents an increase of 0. 8 of a percentage point when compared with 12. 0 per cent in October 2010. 2 One begins immediately to examine the causes of unemployment rates being so high. Changes within the economy has affected many and resulted in many Job losses. The fall in remittances, which is already depressing demand for goods and services, will also serve to worsen the downturn in output in several sectors.
For most people, what matters most about the deterioration in the economy is its effect on the availability of Jobs. Young people, in particular, who have borne the brunt of the country’s weak performance in Job creation over the past 30 years, have been disproportionately affected. But do unemployment rates really have to be so high? There have been the creations of several programs to aid persons, especially young people who are affected by unemployment. One such initiative was the Young Entrepreneurs Programmer (YEP)3, which trained young people on how to run their own businesses.
Since the Prime Minister, Mrs…. Simpson-Miller took up her mantle as leader of Jamaica; she has propelled an initiative which she calls Jamaica Emergency Employment Programmer. 4 However, not many people have been making use of these initiatives. Many of these individuals do not want to work, but still want to reap benefits. They would not mind ethical teachings about work? No, it is not. Jamaica is predominantly a Christian society and therefore, has a strong foundation in Christian Ethics. We find that many of our laws are based on the moral laws to be found in the scriptures.
The traditional view of Christian ethics as it relates to work is that it is viewed as a virtuous duty that has been mandated by God both before and after the fall of man. Idleness was viewed as a vice. Paul, in his ethical teachings, suggests that a lazy person, who is unwilling to work, should not be fed. Persons in the older generations still function according to this ethical teaching. They often relate to us the younger generation about how they had to walk many miles to the family farm, and how they had to plait straw and it continues.
However, there has been a more contemporary view of work. A lot of people now see work as a burden and therefore, prefer to stay at home or on the street corners and become a parasite on the working people of society. Jesus, in his ethical teachings, taught that one ought to love his/her neighbor as him/herself and that we should be concerned about our neighbors. 6 However, there are those who use this premise to remain parasites on people as they believe that their neighbor ought to share what they have.
Poverty is also a major problem in Jamaica. Poverty is the lacking of basic human needs such as health care, food, clothing and helter. People are considered living in poverty if their income falls below a certain level or what is called ‘the poverty line’. The poverty line is the minimum level of income that will enable a person/persons or families to have an acceptable standard of living. Believe it or not, a large number of persons in Jamaica today do live in poverty (some abject poverty) despite the programs implemented to aid in such instances.
In a publication from the Planning Institute of Jamaica, current poverty levels are said to be between 18 and 20%. 7 A number of factors have influenced the poverty level in Jamaica. They include the general level of education, disproportionate wealth, gender discrimination, ability, power and some would argue – poor social and economic policies. Interestingly, there now seems to be a trend in society where parents, especially single mothers complain that they live in poverty and yet they somehow find the money to change their hairstyles every week and to buy clothes to go to parties.
They deprive their child of the right to education and a meal. There are those, however, who find themselves in some real challenging positions. Paul and Jesus, in their ethical teachings commended that we look for each other. Sadly, many of us who are in a position to help do not think that we should lend a hand to someone who is in need. Crime and violence constitutes one of the greatest social problems facing Jamaica at this time. Over the past two decades, Jamaica has experienced an unparalleled increased in homicides and violent assaults.
Many attempts made throughout the years to reduce the number of violent crimes occurring in the island have mainly been short-term measures, aimed predominantly at increasing Police mobility and firepower and have ultimately proved to be unsustainable. 8 Deontological Ethics, postulated by Plato and his student Aristotle ND modern philosopher, Emmanuel Kant speaks to this clearly. These duty centered ethics reasoned that some acts are right or wrong because of the sorts of things they are, and people have a duty to act accordingly, regardless of the good or bad consequences that may be produced. Ethnologists live in a universe of moral rules, should do the right thing, even if that produces more harm (or less good) than doing the wrong thing. People have a duty to do the right thing, even if it produces a bad result. So, for example, the philosopher Kant thought that it would be wrong to tell a lie in order to save a friend from a murderer. There are laws in the constitution that are based upon Christian ethics as taken from the moral law found in the Bible, which says “Thou shall not kill”. There are laws sentencing persons to spend many years in prison for taking a life whether or not it was intended.
There are laws to punish thieves as well. However, this knowledge does not deter individuals as there are other ethical teachings to take into consideration. One of the major problems with Deontological ethics is that is not allows acts that make the world a less good place. Because duty-based ethics is not interested in the results it can lead to rouses of action that produce a reduction in the overall happiness of the world. This gives way to the ethical position of cultural relativism. In essence, an action is determined as right or wrong according to the culture. 1 Within the overall culture of Jamaica, there are sub cultures. We find that in inner city communities, and garrisons, crime and violence for many is a norm; it is a way of life for them. In these communities, it is the duty of many of these young people, mostly men, to what the dons tell them to do. It also gives rise to Motives, which is an ethical system in which moral Judgment is an emotional expression about an action or person. 8 An example of this is a situation in which a young lady is always being abused by her father, may decide that the best thing to do is to stab him with a cutting implement the next time.
Some social conditions that were perceived as major problems a few decades ago have become less significant, not because the reality is different, but because our values and attitudes have accommodated to the reality. For example, premarital sexual activity was regarded a major problem in the forties and fifties but today values relating to sexual conduct are less rigid, and attitudes toward premarital sexuality are much more tolerant. This is due to the fact that there has been a major change in people’s understanding and use of human sexuality.
This includes the rise of varying understanding of sexual orientation and of morally permissible sexual activity. There has been a move away from the traditional view of sexual morality. It is the view that this move away from the traditional sexual ethics which has helped to propel the rise of increased adolescent/teenage pregnancy. It continues to be a major public-health challenge in Jamaica. Coupled with this, is the related trend of adolescent girls who are infected with HIVE. Anecdotal evidence points to an increasing number of adolescents who are not only getting pregnant, but also contracting HIVE.
Approximately 18 per cent of children born in Jamaica are attributed to adolescent girls. The 2008 RASH reports that the mean age at first intercourse for females 15-17 is 14. 4 and for those aged 18-19, the average age is 15. 8, and that the percentage of women aged 15-19 who have ever had sexual intercourse, is 43. 6 per cent. 12 Adolescents aged 15 to 24 years old account for the 44. 5 per cent of all births in Jamaica for 2008. The implications of this are clear. Oftentimes, the teenage mother is excluded from school and thus professional opportunities to provide for themselves and the babies.
Since the mothers are not in a position to care for themselves and their children, the burden of care rests with civil society and the reproductive health education and the financial burden the country faces. The traditional sexual ethics can be quite simply put: all sex outside of marriage is wrong. There are many biblical teachings on the issue of sexual relationships. There is a sexual code to be found in Leviticus 18 and 20 that says essentially that any sexual relationship except that between a heterosexual couple in marriage is prohibited. 3 There is the constant call in the New Testament for individuals to refrain from sexual immorality. Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 4: 3, equates avoiding sexual immorality with the will of God. However, for those who take the stance of egoism, one should act in their best interest or desires. Egoism is frequently associated with the early Greek hedonists, whose aim was pursuing pleasure and avoiding pain. 14 Descriptive egoism, also known as psychological egoism, contends that people always act in self- serving ways, though they may try to disguise their selfish motives.
Normative egoism, also termed ethical egoism, claims people should act in self-serving ways because it is morally right. Modern philosophers have added a third, conditional egoism, which asserts that egoism is morally right and acceptable if it leads to morally acceptable ends; self-motivated actions can be considered morally acceptable, if they lead to the betterment of society and the public as a whole. 15 There has been a major shift in the way persons view premarital sex. Our parents and grandparents often speak about how inappropriate it was to hold hands in public.
Yet, we find that there are persons who openly make out and in some cases, have intercourse in public. As a young person, you are considered to be weird or ‘ancient’ if you decide to wait until you are married to become sexually active. The media has a great part to play in this as you cannot turn on your television set and not see something sexual. When you talk to many young persons, they will often tell you that their parents do not discuss sex with them. A lot of what they know is wrought peers and through lessons at school. Parents often tell them not to have sex and do not tell them why.
Many are also given the impression that sex is a bad thing and that it is painful, and then end up in situations where they fool around and find that it is quite enjoyable. One thing leads to another and the next thing you know, there is an unwanted child in another few months. We cannot deny that our society is in a deplorable state. We need to go back to the traditional ethical views as they seemed to work more effectively than these contemporary views that we are attempting to cling to. The populace needs to be educated on the scope of the problems that we face.