Voice of the Common Man

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Hilly Bennett

A Glance at POVERTY AND CRIME AND VIOLENCE

By Hilly Bennett

Journalists have been reporting on the damaging impact, the useless violence in the streets of the ‘Old Capital’ and other areas of Belizean society.

An editorial has identified the “root cause of crime as today’s criminals being bred in economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods.”

The article identified poverty and joblessness as the culprit and cause for crime. Writers advocated for monies to be allocated to social programs with more government involvement in the downtrodden communities of this country. Corruption has also been cited as the root cause of poverty, crime and other social ills.

However, the American Journal of Psychiatry, suggest that the root cause of crime may be biological and not social. The theory proffered that some people may be born with brain deficiencies making these individuals prone to violence. These shortcomings are said to be brought about because of insufficient nutrition, due to poverty. The result is that children up to three years of experience have a degeneration of the many millions of nerve endings not getting linked up, or not combining suitably.

Consequently, parts of the brain become deficient, resulting in various kinds of learning disorders reflected in slow learning skills. Quite possibly, this is where the climate of violent tendencies is cocooned. The offshoot to a criminous environment.

Criminogenic environments are environs where the negative forces are more numerous than those forces that create decent law-abiding citizens. These become the habitations of inner-city children growing up surrounded by adults and older youths who themselves are delinquent. They will, undoubtedly, negatively influence the character of these children. Often times, it is the adults who entice the children into criminal activity. These environments are pernicious to the moral growth and development of children.

Moral poverty has been defined as the poverty of being without loving, capable and responsible adults who teaches the young right from wrong. The child fails to feel joy at other people’s joy, pain at others pain, satisfaction when one does right, and remorse when one does wrong.

Additionally, the absence of individuals who teach morality by their own everyday example and who insist that the children follow their example contributes to moral poverty is counterproductive.

Thus, the underlying cause for the festering situation of crime and violence is the crumbling of the primary social institutions – the family, schools, churches, honest politicians in government – at a time when they are needed to be towers of socializing strength.

Most importantly, governments disregard to address the vicious cycle of poverty and inequality contributes significantly to the festering anomaly. Therefore ‘Sedi’ Elrington’s words, “the root cause of the problem is poverty,” lends a hollow ring. As Senator Isabel Bennett, in her Belize Times contribution ‘UDP Needed to Have Done the Work’ alluded to that “what is of utmost importance is the Work or No Work on the part of the government” to create and sustain a society that has ZERO TOLERANCE FOR CRIME.” She submits that incidents of corrupt behavior by politicians, police officers and public officials have a negative impact on the ‘fight against crime’.

I must warn that the war will be lost unless the principles of representative democracy are honored and enforced. It is hoped that engaging with this article, written in all humility, will help to point out where we are as a Belizean society and help us to figure out where we can go in the matter of revitalizing our society. Aluta Continua, the struggle continues!