The Will to Kill: Less Government, More Government?
— TP Saran
We have to make up our minds as to how much of the State we want in our lives, what in French is referred to as étatisme. We are not only ambiguous, but hypocrites as well. As long as things are going on fine, that is, we are getting on in our lives within the national boundary and more or less respecting the laws of the country, we do not think much about government – or the State (these two terms will be used interchangeably in the course of this article). But immediately as something happens to us or to society at large, we look for scapegoats, and among the first ones are those from other communities, or the government.
For example, in the ongoing spate of killings, the blame is laid entirely at the door of the government for failing to ensure law and order. But we must ask ourselves: to what extent can a government regulate the personal behaviour of individuals? Try to clamp down on alcohol sale, and there is an uproar from those who are in the business. Supported by all manner of advertisements to promote drinking, and the same media that rants against alcohol-related crimes glorifies, through glossy publicity, the latest brands and their virtues – and invariably featuring women who are not necessarily of less virtue, but are made to appear as such by wearing the minimum in these adverts.
Almost all the crimes that have been reported recently have been alcohol-related, and worse, directed against those who are most vulnerable: women and children. But worst of all: against close ones, those that are supposed to be of one’s blood or under one’s custody, whether in a legal relationship (marriage) or a live-in relationship, commonly called by the derogatory term concubinage. In all these situations of living together, the starting point of the relationship is, presumably, an attraction towards each other for either emotional or material reasons.
In the uproar that has followed the cruel murder of the seven-year-old girl by her drunk uncle at Richelieu, the Child Development Unit has been cited as not having lived up to its responsibility, apparently in spite of being informed. It will be the duty of the competent authorities to establish the facts and address any weaknesses that the structure may contain. But what have the religious and social organizations been doing? Where are the priests and religious heads who are otherwise so vocal about the defence of identity and language? Perhaps they should consider spending more of that energy being wasted on the guidance of the flock on how to live better lives, to take care of those they have take responsibility for or children who are entrusted to their care (whether temporary or permanent)?
This is perhaps the time for such eminences to discover afresh their true vocation and pursue it, rather than depending on government to pass more and more laws, and put up more and more of restraining structures in the hope that people will abide by or resort to them. There is a saying that an Englishman’s home is his castle, meaning that that’s his private domain in which no one may interfere with his doings. It seems that we have many Englishman’s castles, scaled down socially, in this country. But where the government cannot penetrate – the psyche of people – the community can, by means of examples and peer pressure, with the help of volunteers and genuine leaders who maintain a proximity to the people and know their ways, rather than cloistering themselves in ivory towers and issuing from time to time prescriptive sound bites which have more sound than content.
We are not going to be able to combat crimes – of any sort – merely by State interventions. It is only by inculcating solid moral values in the person that this goal can be achieved. Government’s role, apart from enacting laws for the overall security of the country, is perhaps to identify and give stronger support to organizations which are demonstrably engaged in imparting such values. There are many ways of doing so. The easiest way is to dish out some money and leave it at that. But the right way would, instead, be in the form of supporting say, resource persons or the access to or provision of materials. And seeking accountability and results through regular reporting of activities carried out and details of the latter.
This is the only way that the individual, society and government can come together to address the larger issue of law and order. Many times there have been calls for teaching civic and moral values in educational institutions, starting from the very first levels in primary schools. This has now become an urgent necessity, and instead of the useless hype about the introduction of Creole as a language, it is values that must claim the attention of the authorities. To that extent, they can be made to share the collective responsibility for what is happening around the country, and the sooner they address the problem along the lines suggested, the better it will be every citizen. Let us hope that these appeals will not be like a call in the wilderness.