I had a conversation with two friends a few weeks ago on my television show The Vigilate Dialogues that was enlightening and put me to reflect on how as a society we have come to oversimplify, politicise and/or ignore our problems and behave as if someone else should solve them.
As Albert Einstein wisely said, “We can’t solve problems with the same thinking that created them.” We talk about our social ills for a time but go no further than that… talk. It is as if we are leaving the problem solving to someone else. Who that someone is I don’t know, but in the meantime I think it’s time we do something.
My friends and I started off questioning the origin of the recent increase in crime and violence. For those of us who can remember back to 10 or 20 years ago, our Virgin Islands has changed in positive and negative ways. Amidst a rising gross domestic product, burglaries, assaults and gun incidents were far and few between. Now murders, domestic violence, bullying, assaults and child abuse top the police blotter in alarming numbers. But we know that this is the fruit, and we wanted to get to the root of the matter. Life is about choices, and we need to ask what choices we have been making to land us where we are — and what different choices we need to make to solve the problem.
So we started excavating and ran into obvious things that we have become insensitive to. We realised we have chosen to “forget” ourselves. The first root we hit was the family, which is the building block of any society. Our moral standards have shifted and we have forgotten our biblical principles that rooted the life of our community in generations past. We have “forgotten” to teach our children good manners and respectful behaviour from an early age by modelling it. We can’t use profanity in front of them or teach them to lie and then wonder later where they got it from. We have “forgotten” to teach them good work ethics because we want to make life easier for them, but have done a disservice instead. We have “forgotten” that washing dishes and keeping our rooms clean did not cause us to be admitted to the emergency room, but taught us the sense of responsibility that has taken us far in life. As one of my friends put it, it’s “time to brakes up” and assess what’s going on. We have “forgotten” to show our children love and affirm them when they do good and discipline them when they need correction instead of shaming them.
Instead, we have taught them hate, envy and unforgiveness by our own treatment of family and neighbours. We perpetuate the crab-in-the-barrel mentality from the plantation era. We have not countered the negative messages in media and entertainment that teach selfishness, greed and pride.
One of the many profound things said in this conversation (and there were a lot) was a point made by an elder to one of my friends that the only time we get together these days as a family and community is for funerals. Ouch! What I concluded from that is we have relegated ourselves to a reactive stance rather than being proactive. We have become insensitive to the police and ambulance sirens and fatalistic headlines and seemingly accepted the current state of affairs as the “new normal” because we aren’t coming together to push back and say, “Enough Is enough!”
A few months ago, after the third murder of the year, I knew in my spirit that it was time to do something. It was time to say publicly, “Enough is enough,” and more importantly to do something about it. So as all revolutions start, like-minded people came together and started planning. Over the next few months, I will host a series of conversations on The Vigilate Dialogues and social media where we are going to get to the roots of what is afflicting us and act. No more complaining. Instead, problem-solving is the attitude of the day, and we need to demand action from ourselves and stop gathering in cemeteries to bury our future in the ground.
As Morgan Heritage puts it, “We are living in the last days. Nothing can save us but the truth. And if there are no youths today, there is no future. The life we live must be beneficial for their future.”
By our actions or inaction now — by good or poor choices — we will bury more young people from needless violence or train them up for a successful future. Let’s continue to change the conversation for a better Virgin Islands!