Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Finagling Pirate

By Marcus M. Mottley, Ph.D.

I have waited thirty days before responding to the recent award that was bought and sold to one of Caribbean’s most dangerous pirates.

I had to wait to respond reasonably... (not that my tone here is reasonable). I was in shock that our leaders... our leaders - some of them trusted, some of them even beloved... some of them to whom we now look for a new direction... That those leaders could make a decision like that. Or that they would keep something like that secret. Or that they would allow such a decision to fog forward... fully well knowing how most Antiguans and Barbudan's would react.

They demonstrated no less than contempt for the people... knowing that the deed when done... would be done... their hands soiled... and some of their pocket books well oiled... or with a promise of at least - a little pirate grease.

The unforgivable and damning sin of it all is that the reward was transacted by Antigua and Barbuda. It would have been bad enough if the pirate had finagled it from some other bribery responsive, small island Caribbean nation. But, no... it came from Antigua and Barbuda. Our weak knee’d, beggie-beggie, kow-towing leaders, felt that they had to place a copper sword across that pirate’s shoulders. Remember this... pirates don't want copper... they want gold. And when you see them accept copper... there is gold hidden somewhere, not far off... hidden in the mangrove or buried in our beautiful white sands!

No wonder one of the other really deserving award recipient of international acclaim is purported to have felt that his/her moment ‘in the sun’ was cheapened by this disgraceful demonstration of brown-nosing by the hat-in-hand, under-the-table, submissive ‘decision-makers’.

And can you imagine the nerve of this pirate that he would say that those of us who objected to his brazen finagling of the award... that we objected because of ‘envy or jealousy.’ All that remains is for us to find out in the next few months, who gets grease, how much grease they will get, and what they will use the grease to do.

Of this I am certain… whatever they thought they would get from this… they won’t. That grease will never turn to butter. Mark my words: Nothing good will come of it! Not for them!

What really bothers me is not so much that the pirate is after our birthright… Thieves and pirates are always out to pilfer, filch or ‘finagle’ your property away from you. What bothers me is that our week-knee’d leaders have thrown their arms wide-open to allow the pilfering and filching of what is not theirs to give.

And yes… it is from Antigua & Barbuda that he wheedled and wangled the award. But, it seems as though, this pirate has ‘captured’ the minds of much of the rest of the Caribbean.

He certainly has wheedled his way and inextricably entwined himself into West Indies Cricket… And our Cricketing greats… just like our week-knee’d politicians… have opened their arms – and their pockets – to his wheeling, dealing and manipulating!

Let me emphasize this prediction of the wheedling, wangling and finagling… “Nothing good will come of it!”

And forever more... that award has been tainted.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

"Young People" and Crime!

By Marcus M. Mottley, Ph.D.

In his 2006 Independence address to the nation, Prime Minister the Honorable Baldwin Spencer outlined the various pre-election pledges that his government had already fulfilled only two and a half years into their tenure. The Prime Minister also highlighted a number of the challenges which they and the nation face. One of the challenges he highlighted was the concern his Government has on "the issue of crime and violence in our nation especially the recent upsurge among our young people."

It is undeniable that there seems to have been waves of violence that have shocked many of us to our very core. This is not the Antigua and Barbuda that we know. However, there are several concerns that I would like to raise on the issue of the increase in violence.

Some of the acts of violence perpetrated on our citizens receive huge amounts of publicity. These include break-ins, robberies, and homicides. However there are other acts of violence that are as rampant that do not receive such high levels of publicity. And indeed these other acts of violence do not get high levels of public outrage. These include rapes... particularly against children, and family violence that does not include murder.

As a matter of fact, when some of these crimes are committed, there seems to be as much sentiment blaming victims and providing some measure of sympathy for abusers.

I am not sure that the Prime Minister's comments about "crime and violence" in the nation did justice to the crimes against children and violence within families. As a matter of interest, his focus on the "upsurge of violence... among our young people" at the very least, might lead some to believe that a major amount of crimes are committed by youth. While I cannot scientifically challenge that assertion, I can also say that no one has supported it with facts and figures.

In addition, while some youth experts identify "young people" broadly -from birth to 35 years of age, when the general public hears 'youth' or 'young people' they most often think of teenagers or those in their early twenties. (Of course, it also depends on how old you are... My 92 year old mother thinks that I am among the 'young people'!)

Here is my point: We need to be very specific in identifying what the problems are, who are at risk to become victims, who are at risk to become perpetrators, and who are already perpetrators.

The Prime Minister went on to say that his Government believes that "our young people are this nation’s future; they must be physically and mentally prepared for it, in addition to possessing the right values to govern and make sound decisions."

In the above statement, Mr. Spencer is not talking about a 35 year old "youth". I would argue that he is not even speaking about a 25 year old "youth"! He is assuredly speaking about 13 year olds and 17 years olds... that is my good guess.

How much violence are those "youths" carrying out? Yes, yes... we certainly have incidents of some violence and criminal behavior by some young people in those age ranges - probably more at an even higher age range like 19... And yes... there might even be some budding gang behavior (apparently fostered and encouraged by a few misguided political comrades).... but the vast majority of our 'young people' are not involved in "crime and violence".

Do we have a problem among those youths? We certainly do. How do we address that problem? See my previous posting for a comprehensive suggestion. I agree with the Prime Minister that we must come together and design and develop creative solutions. And we need to do so now!

However, we have another problem. The problem of violent and criminal acts carried out by adults on other adults and on children!

We also need to find specific solutions to deal with the increase of adult criminals sneaking around our premises. We need to find solutions for the increased number of illegal guns that are owned by otherwise law abiding Antiguans and Barbudans. There are several cases of adult violence where individuals shot other adults over emotional and heated conflicts.

In conclusion, I agree that we seem to have increasing levels of violence among youth. We must address that. But we must also address the high levels of criminal and violent behavior perpetrated by adults.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Violence & Drug Prevention Training Needed!

By Marcus M. Mottley, Ph.D.

Political, social and economic leaders in Antigua and Barbuda need to come together and initiate powerful strategies to curb the apparently growing levels of violence and drug use among our youth. Despite the best efforts of our youth workers, educators, community officers, law enforcement personnel and other adults who work with youth they have not been able to stem what seems to be a growing problem of violence and drug use among our youth.

Despite the billion of dollars dumped in the “war-on-drugs” by countries around the world, the number of young people using alcohol, tobacco and other drugs has not decreased. And, despite the huge amount of other dollars spent on placing metal detectors in schools, incarcerating young violent offenders, and placing more police officers on the streets and even in some schools, violence among young people has not decreased… it is on the increase. Billions of dollars have also been used to fund the revolving door of drug addiction and treatment, building prisons, increasing the number of law enforcement officers, adding magistrates, judges, probation and parole officers, and prisoner officers. All of these things have been tried without much success – other than filling prisons with younger and younger people.

Few people would argue that a major shift in strategy is needed.

That shift must go in the direction of prevention.

The major assumption of prevention is that if young people are taught key cognitive, behavioral and social skills and presented with critical information, they will be less likely to be involved in delinquent behaviors – including violent behavior and drug use or abuse. Additionally, prevention efforts seek to address and reduce individual, family and community factors that predispose young people to adopt negative lifestyles and behaviors. Prevention programs also enhance and strengthen key protective/resiliency factors that propel youth towards socially acceptable and personally rewarding lifestyles.

In Antigua and Barbuda, there is growing concern about the apparent increase in drug use by youth and their involvement in criminal and violent activities. Political, community and business leaders have recognized that these developments pose a serious social, economic and public health threat. They have also realized that not only does violent activities and drug use and abuse pose an immediate danger to the society, but they also menace the future development of the country’s human resources – its youth. Our leaders should therefore be committed to finding solutions to this critical and growing problem.

One solution to the threat of youth violence and drug use and abuse is to train adults and youths in drug and violence prevention. Such training would involve all stakeholders from public and private sectors and the community. Participants would include Youth Leaders, Teachers, Prevention Professionals, Community Outreach Officers, Health Professionals, Parole & Probation Officers, Social Workers, Sport Coaches, Psychologists, School Counselors, Addiction Counselors, Youth Workers, Program Supervisors and Managers, Policy Officials, Training Officers, School Administrators and Law Enforcement Officers.

A drug and violence prevention training program would train participants to work with youth to reduce drug use and violence and encourage them to adopt more socially acceptable and life enhancing values and behaviors. On completion of such training, participants would be prepared, certified and qualified to design, develop and implement prevention and intervention activities targeted to pre-teens, teenagers and young adults in Antigua and Barbuda.

Another feature of a national focus on prevention would involve political, social and business leaders in discussions on how they can craft policy measures that would support the shift towards prevention. Political leaders would need to demonstrate their commitment by supporting youth and community workers, and educators with the staff and material resources. Business leaders could support prevention programs by sponsoring prevention community and school activities. Businesses could also sponsor nation-wide prevention initiatives such as radio and television ads focused on youth. Social leaders could add drug and violence prevention programming to their agenda and could serve as and provide volunteers for nationwide prevention events.

The core of all of the above ideas is centered around a comprehensive training strategy where all stakeholders (including political and business leaders) receive a minimum level of training in the scientific methodology of violence and drug prevention.