In 1886, the US abolitionist Frederick Douglass said “where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel, that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”
Violent crime and gun violence that has occurred in this country over the last few years tell a sad story. During the 2002-2008 crime wave, the country was precariously perched on the edge of a cliff. People were afraid and many experienced incredible tragedy and life-altering trauma. Today, even with several changes of government since that period, the fear has not fully subsided.
The recent surge in crime has left many confused and scared not only on the streets but also in their homes and at the workplace. The painful incidence of murders and armed robberies occasioned by gun violence have unsettled the nation and awakened us to the reality that somewhere, our youths have taken a wrong turn.
Our youths are feeling hopeless and helpless in a society that they believe has abandoned them. Many have fallen by the wayside due to joblessness and poverty, and are shooting from the belly of poverty in order to survive.
The plight of youths has generally been neglected and shockingly misunderstood by the ruling elite. The government is continuing like its predecessors to ignore the hardships, pain, suffering and poverty being experienced by youths. There is now greater uncertainty as a result of a string of broken promises and a failing education system. Many have turned to crime as a form of rebellion against authority and society.
The national discourse is filled with an abundance of choice words including poverty, joblessness and crime that have stirred immense concern that the country appears to be travelling in the wrong direction. Guyana is at a crossroads and it has become urgently necessary for the ruling administration to understand that the forgotten youths are essentially rebelling against society which has turned its back on them.
Unless youths are given decent paying jobs and are respected for their skills, the social well-being of the nation will be in jeopardy. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said: “Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.”
As a people, we have to be firm in order to achieve the progress that our forefathers and other pioneers had forecast. We have to help our troubled youths to overcome their tribulations that are being manifested in the gruesome forms of crime such as murder, gang violence and armed robbery. The government cannot continue to be oblivious or be in denial of the socio-economic realities that have depressed youths across the country, thus causing them to turn to crime and other illegal activities.
At the same time, the government has to show genuine concern and sympathy for the citizens who are reeling from the crippling fear of the criminals, who continue to wreak havoc. It is the consensus opinion of the citizenry that the cabinet has to end the fear that has pervaded society. But for this to happen, the government must provide hope to the youths, most of whom are impressionable and would do anything possible, including committing unspeakable criminal acts, in order to survive.
Let us not forget that the youth of a nation are the trustees of its prosperity. Any nation that neglects its youth endangers its future. We sincerely hope that this is not what awaits us.
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