The daily newspaper headlines over the last decade or two reads like a gristly tale. The same depressing stories blare from our television sets, and even watching the news is a traumatic experience for those who have not been bludgeoned into accepting the horrible truth – that we are all at risk. We are sitting on a giant barrel of gunpowder, towards which a lighted fuse is inching day by day, and apparently there is nothing we can do about it. Or can we? There are those who believe we are simply reaping the volatile fruits of our vocal inactivity, our sensationalizing of tragedy, and the daily destructive compromises we make.
Since the early 1960’s, the crime situation has been spiraling out of control. But what have we done about it? Nothing. We have simply cast dissatisfied remarks, blamed each other, and flood the airwaves with useful suggestions. In the meanwhile we wasted precious resources on security, funeral expenses, medical bills, and psychiatric treatment while crime grew by leaps and bounds. Our crime levels break unenviable records everyday and the media announces the daily toll like lottery numbers. At the end of every year, month, week, day, minute, we eagerly anticipate the final body count and find great pleasure in comparing the ghastly, mangled statistics. Our eagerness to see the sensational and the gory is what keeps crime reporting going. It never crosses our minds that our youth might be motivated to give us something negative to look forward to.
To make matters worse, our prisons have now become institutions of learning where ex-cons matriculate to the outside world with new skills and perspectives to unleash on defenseless citizens. These are the things we need to talk about, not about the tragedies unfolding on soap operas, the crazy dress of fashion models or the eccentricities of the rich and famous. We should demand that our leaders put in place policies to stem this incursion. We are content to munch on frivolous matters while things with serious implications are overlooked. In the same way we make compromises with crooked politicians, drug barons, gunmen, and other scum of our society, providing we are not at risk. But we are all at risk and the sooner we face that reality and act accordingly, the sooner will we apply the brakes on our rapid slide towards total anarchy.
The increasing crime wave is a clear indication that things are falling apart and the surest warning that we are headed in the wrong direction. But even though crime is a phenomenon of most urban areas of the world, it doesn’t have to happen to us. We can stand up and be the light in a world of darkness. But we must act now. It is time for us to take back what has been taken from us for we can no longer afford to sit and watch others take and corrupt what we have worked for with blood, sweat, and tears. The toll that crime demands is too costly for us to pay, but we must pay unless we can somehow harness the tremendous power of our collective action.
The criminals in our country have stolen from us billions of dollars – more than enough to pay our outstanding multilateral balances. Think of how far this could go towards improving our existing infrastructure and reviving our ailing economy. And while we are being hopeful, it will not hurt to think of how corporate crime has destroyed confidence in our institutions, how it has sucked the lifeblood from our commercial life, and how it holds the potential for devastating destruction. We owe it to ourselves to break this deadly stranglehold or become martyrs to ensure that our children have a future.
But where do we start? We can maybe start by remembering a time in our distant past when our country did not have the appearance of a “country under siege. A time when the persistent specter of violent crimes had not yet redecorated our urban landscape with barbed wire topped fences, burglar bars, armed guards, and attack dogs. A time when anybody could walk anytime in any neighborhood anywhere without fearing that they would be robbed, raped, or riddled with bullets. Imagine too a land of integrity where people say what they mean and mean what they say. Think how nice it would be if there were no murders, no domestic violence, no gang feuds, no ethnic confrontations. To most of us this may sound like a dream, but it can become a reality. This idyllic paradise of ours can be healed of its infirmities, but first we must act. For while we remain vocal and inactive we are affirming the rights of deviants in our society: encouraging them to wreak havoc with our lives and our minds.
Decisive action must therefore be taken now if we nourish any hope of recovering from this deadly disease that we have allowed to proliferate out of control. We must realize too that we are working against time for with each passing day the burning fuse gets shorter and shorter. We must shackle our fears, gather our collective will, and focus our energies on effective solutions – solutions that can only work if we can be persuaded to shake off our insomnia and rise to the challenges that face us.