This month we interview, Don Barker, the author of the book Fear Factor which is an analysis of crime in Jamaica and the search for solutions.
Q: What inspired you to write the book?
Answer: The original idea for the book came out of my university thesis. I had become very good friends with a distinguished Canadian (now retired) lawer (and a QC no less) who was interested in the situation in Jamaica and who reviewed my thesis. He felt that it was so good, that I should expand it into a book.
Q: Why the name the fear factor?
Answer: “The Fear Factor” describes the phenomenon of a reduction in the crime rate accompanied by an increase in the rate of fear and concern about crime. This phenomenon is caused by the increasing randomness of crime – caused by the government policies against organized crime. For example, most gun crime used to be confined to inner-city, urban areas. The spread of crime to uptown, rural areas and towns increases fear in the society because nowhere is now safe.
Q: In your book you mention you are a “self imposed exile” from Jamaica. Do you have any intentions of moving back to Jamaica?
Q: Your book places blame on both major political parties in Jamaica for crime. With that being the case what roles should both parties be playing to fight the crime in Jamaica?
Answer: To get out of the way of a solution! Most of the resources for my solutions would flow from my proposed National Regeneration Trust (NRT). This requires a constitutional amendment which requires the approval of both political parties (see pages 62 & 63 of the attached). A summary of my solutions can be found starting from page 62 in the attached. However, to sum up, Jamaica’s crime problem is a symptom of a basic problem – a lack of economic development. The current debt path serves the interests of an economic and political oligarchy. This oligarchy is in control and will not easily give up this control without a fight. Things happen for a reason. Jamaica’s situation is not an accident – it is by design. Designed to keep the people powerless and this oligarchy in control. I cannot stresss this enough. Our leaders are not stupid uneducated people – most have degrees and some Phds. Everything happens for a reason. The underlying lack of development and the current economic focus on a debt based economy benefits the political and economic oligarchy in control. How they benefit is beyond the scope of my paper but it involves the limitation of entrepreneural risk to the local and overseas holders of capital i.e. giving them a risk free way to continue to grow their capital – at the expense of Jamaica’s overall economic development.
Q: What are we currently doing right to bring crime down?
Answer: I recently reviewed my suggested solutions and not one of them has been implemented. Crime continues – no surprises.
Q: What we are doing that is wrong?
Answer: 1.The government crime plan is based on disrupting the “organised crime gangs” without dealing with the “crime factories” that produce them. Success against one gang leads to the formation of others. Sometimes the gangs splinter into several. Power struggles within the gangs can also lead to more murders. “Stable” gangs could actually lead to less crime!
2. No civilian oversight of the police.
3. The “crime factories” are a symptom of the lack of economic development of the
county. This issue is not being tackled.
4. The underlying issue of a lack of economic development which leads to the social problems of Jamaica.
5. The myth that Portia Simpson rose up from “the bowels of the working class” and therefore would not be loyal to the ruling political and economic oligarchy. This myth was spread by the media including normally astute journalists such as Mark Wignall and Wilmot Perkins. Portia Simpson Miller has been loyal to the PNP for decades. What posessed people to suddenly believe that she would suddenly change her spots – except maybe desperation?
Q: What is the biggest factor that impedes tackling crime in Jamaica?
Answer: As I said before, Jamaica’s situation is not an act of God, an accident or inefficiency – it is by design. Without a mass understanding of this and the people letting go of the illusion that their leaders have their best interests at heart, nothing will change. Popular uprisings can go either way – look at what happened to Afghanistan with the Taliban but there are cases in the former Soviet Union of where popular uprisings have led to a decrease in state repression. It is my hope that a popular uprising will not be necessary but that those of true goodwill in the society will prevail over the present oligarchy in control – however, I doubt it. One other thing, sometimes people get to a point where the struggle to survive consumes them so much that they cannot do the fundamental things necessary to change their situation. Then, only outside intervention can do it and the outside world does not intervene with sovereign states until it is too late i.e. the situation is terminal and irreversible in a lifetime.
Role of movies? I do not think that the media or movies play a very important role in crime in Jamaica. Even if it does, we cannot insulate the island from such media anyway as the world is now a global information village.
Q: Do you think we should implement Marshall Law in Jamaica to solve the crime problem?
Q: Were you able to speak to Area Dons while doing research on the book?
Answer: No. While I lived briefly in a garrison community (Seaview Gardens), I only dealt with the “soldiers”. However, on two occasions, I did meet two other Dons but this was well before working on the book.
Q: What are some of the interesting interviews you did for the book?
Answer: No interviews were done for the book. The research was taken from printed material and the internet.
Q: What are some of the interesting stats/info you found while analyzing the data for the book?
Answer: Very little stats were used in the book – we all know the extent of the problem. Enough analysis! This book was solution focused.
Q: Did you get any feedback from the “movers and shakers” in Jamaica whom you mailed a copy of your book?
Answer: Yes – both positive and negative. Not surprisingly, as the book attacks the political, social and economic establishment in Jamaica, the establishment press (the Gleaner) savaged the book in its review. However, Mutty Perkins featured the book extensively on his program and Paul Chen Young gave it a very favourable review. Other “non-movers and shakers” have given me positive feedback.
Q:What can people living in Jamaica do to have an impact on crime and how the authorities/government address this issue?
Answer: Wake up from the illusion that their salvation lays in the existing partisan, political process. I quote from the book: “The current situation in Jamaica is not due to an act of God, the failure of the family, international conditions, or any of the excuses given by the authorities – including the oft stated ‘lack of cooperation from citizens’. Rather, it is a direct result of actions taken (or not taken) by the elite in power. Therrefore unless actions are taken immediately to correct the situation, there is no chance of halting the downward spiral of the country.” Once the Jamaica people realize that the present situation is by design, they will then need to find the courage and energy to implement the necessary changes. There is no sign of this on the horizon. The talk shows sound like a stuck record dealing with the same issues over and over ad nauseum.
Q: What can Jamaicans in the Diaspora do to have an impact on crime and how the authorities/government addrsses the issue?
Answer: Despite the lip service to the contrary, Jamaicans abroad have very little effect on events in Jamaica. We do not even have the right to vote. Although remittances are now Jamaica’s single largest source of foreign exchange, these remittances are the lifeline for our families in Jamaica so Jamaicans abroad do not have any economic leverage as the government knows that Jamaicans abroad do not want to stop sending these remittances, However, Jamaicans abroad could be the financial catalysts for a third party willing to implement the needed Constitutional cap on debt that is needed. The road to do this will be a long, hard one. Jamaicans abroad would have to spend working vacations in Jamaica to assist but in the final analysis, Jamaicans in Jamaica have got to get the job done.
Q: If you had the power to change one thing that would have an instant effect on crime, what would that be?
Answer: A Constitutional change to cap the debt as I had mentioned earlier.
Q: Any other comments?
Answer: The Constitutional cap and management of the debt is needed to provide the resource flows to implement my suggestions to deal with crime. When I left Jamaica years ago, I hoped that my prophecies about the future would be wrong and that I would be able to return. Alas, things have become so much worse. In Jamaica, the same things are being tried over and over again. It is a fool who keeps doing the same thing expecting a different result. There is no sign that the first step – the Constitutional cap and management of the debt will be taken. Until this is done, everything is just rhetoric as there are no resources available. Therefore, the fear of crime in Jamaica will continue to remain high – even if there are slight reductions in the crime rate. That is THE FEAR FACTOR.
You can visit http://www.edutec.org/ to learn more about The THE FEAR FACTOR.