A growing culture of violence

Kaieteur News

June 10, 2004

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There is a disturbing culture of violence growing in Guyana and we need to marshal all our resources to curb this problem.

Last Monday night, 19-year-old pageant queen Kenisha Baird, the reigning Miss Mocha, died after she was allegedly beaten by three teenaged girls.

This incident was a shocking reminder that all of us, especially our youth, are more than ever before, at risk of injury or death through violence.

What is even more sickening than the savage beating of the teen by her peers were eyewitness reports that a group of Mocha residents urged her attackers on and formed a circle to thwart any rescue attempt as Kenisha fought for her life, outnumbered three to one.

Many of these bloodthirsty Mocha residents were reportedly full grown adults and parents.

Anyone who is familiar with life in Guyana today knows that the culture of violence behind the behaviour of those persons – the young girls who inflicted the beating as well as the residents who encouraged them – exist to varying degrees throughout Guyana. Decent, law abiding citizens must wake up, stand up and fight and demand that our leaders take firm action to stamp out this escalating culture of violence.

Street fights and violent disputes are nothing new but the increasing violence of such encounters is a most alarming development. Disputes that in bygone years used to be settled by shouting matches, now seem to be settled more and more by flailing fists, flashing blades or flying lead.

More often than not, the perpetrators and victims are youths. Anyone who is aware of current trends in entertainment aimed at youth can easily see why many of our youth are influenced to embrace the culture of violence. Television shows, movies, video and even video games tend to glamorise violence.

The society we live in, strongly influenced by the USA’s entertainment industry, tend to make violence very appealing. This kind of influence flows against our traditional Guyanese values, which are strongly influenced by the church and family.

Clearly, we have to strengthen the influence of the church and strengthen family bonds to make any headway against the growing culture of violence.

This is a multi-dimensional problem and requires a multi-faceted approach. Social workers, school authorities, police, government administrators, church and the community as a whole must band together and work hard to create a safe environment for decent citizens of Guyana.

This will not be easy but action must be taken quickly before the problem becomes unmanageable.

It would be useful to pass and enforce ordinances prohibiting harassment, loitering or any form of belligerent public behaviour such as assembling at street corners, consuming alcohol in public and playing loud music.

In fact, it would help to enforce current laws against using profanities in public and making indecent gestures which are likely to lead to violence in many cases.

For the sake of our youth, community leaders must make a show of solidarity for stability, peace and the rule of law. By standing together, they would put aside the mistaken belief that criminal violence is really just a police problem. It is not. Perpetrators of violence do not respect anyone. We are all at risk – if not as targets, as innocent bystanders in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The sooner we take action, the better our chances of containing the growing culture of violence. This is the time for all right thinking Guyanese to get involved in a national drive to expose and thwart violence.

Unless we realise this and take urgent action, violence will just continue to grow.

If we don’t act now, more blood will flow in our streets as it did in Mocha village Monday night.