B. Waine Kong Ph.D.
Thanks for Dr. Karen Richards piece in the Gleaner (Sunday, February 08, 2009) on “Jamaica Drowning in a Sea of its Own Violence,” diagnosing us with Borderline Personality Disorder (DPT) to explain why Jamaica has the highest murder rate in the world (64 per 100,000). Kingston is convulsing with disorder and collapsing under the weight of crime.
In the face of feeling vulnerable, the wealthy are willing to spend millions on security rather than contribute to social institutions that have the promise to uplift people and perhaps take away their motivation to commit crime. We need to recognize that no one, no matter how rich, can protect themselves from crime. We can turn our homes, cars and workplaces into garrisons and we will still be vulnerable.If we must use psychological models, I prefer Sigmund Freud’s characterization to explain the personalities in Jamaica.
I often ask friends who they believe are the most powerful people in Jamaica. Are they gunmen? Dons? Politicians? Religious leaders? Rich people? Policemen or babies? If you define power as one’s ability to quickly get what they want, then the answer is a crying child. The distressed child, who is hungry, wants his diaper changed or wants comfort will cry until his needs are met. Nature programmed us to respond urgently to children’s crying.
A child is all “id”. A child has no ability to delay gratification or consider anyone else’s needs: “I want what I want when I want it.” “If I itch, I want it scratched.” Some of us never grow out of this immaturity. “I will kill anybody who disrespects me.” These are the grudgeful and bad minded people who always want something for nothing and who want to prosper at someone else’s expense. This childish conduct can be quickly recognized on the roads from the drivers who put everyone at risk by inappropriately overtaking others because only their needs matter. The other day I witnessed an accident because one of the speeding buses decided it needed to drive on the wrong side of the road and incorrectly merge into traffic only to run into the car that had the right of way. Everyone at this point was inconvenienced; the passengers of the bus, the cars behind the accident and the driver whose car was smashed.
Ordinarily, as one matures, we learn a reality principle or the cause and effect rules of life which Freud calls the “ego”. If I put my hand in a fire, it will burn. If I fall down, it will hurt. If I steal or otherwise break the law, the police will arrest and imprison me. A healthy fear of punishment takes hold. We learn to value the rights of others and respect boundaries. If I treat others special, they will be kind and helpful to me in my hour of need. If I work hard, develop meaningful skills, knowledge and attitudes, I can find employment or own a business so I can support myself and take care of my family. If there is no family structure or if the rules of society are not predictably enforced, some people will not believe they will be punished for crime and that they can get rich quick and always get their way by intimidating others—including their parents and the police. It troubles me greatly that less than a third of all homicides are cleared up even with the help of Scotland Yard. Killers now believe (and rightly so) that they can get away with murder. Do we really want the world to believe that our country is run by “outlaws”?
Finally, Freud believed that we also develop a super-ego. Our family, our community, our religious institutions and our culture impress ethics on us. If society is successful, we feel guilty when we don’t do “the right thing”. We don’t want to be disgraced. We are embarrassed if we violate a social code like going to a funeral wearing a bathing suit. Our conscience becomes our guide. If we have a conscience, we are motivated to be kind and generous to needy relatives, the sick and the elderly. If you don’t have a conscience, a criminal may even consider robbing the most vulnerable if they have something he or she wants.
Ideally, we need a balance. We need the “id” so we can have a good time. Dancing, partying, playing games, competing, playing tricks on others, telling jokes, laughing and that whoopee feeling all come from the “id”. There is nothing wrong with fun, especially after the work is done and you have actually accomplished something. We also need to know what is real (ego strength), as well as being responsible parents to restrain the less irresponsible among us from over-indulgence and to guide and nurture the next generation. I don’t believe we ever want to be so guilt stricken that we need to beat up ourselves every time we enjoy ourselves. However, we should also learn that moderation and balance are the keys to a truly successful life.
Imagine a little jockey (our developed ego and super-ego) riding a big, powerful horse (our id). Even though the horse weighs ten times more than the jockey, the horse can be skillfully controlled by the jockey. If the horse is unbridled, however, the id cannot be controlled and we become undisciplined, unproductive and completely selfish.
As a society, if we truly want to stop homicides we can start with enforcing the rule of law for small infractions which will lead to stopping the major ones. Jamaica needs solid and unwavering enforcement of the law, first by each individual doing the right thing and in those cases in which a segment of our society refuses to do the right thing, the police can rein them in. Specifically, we should put 1,000 traffic police on the road in unmarked cars with video cameras to record the outrageous infractions that occur every minute of every day as evidence to be presented in court so dangerous drivers will be prosecuted and punished. Treat these offenders like drunken drivers. Lock them up and confiscate their vehicles. The same ten percent that is causing havoc on our roads are also our undisciplined criminals. Get them off the road.
It is going to take the church, schools, families and all the institutions of society to train the jockey—to develop our ego and superego so that law and order can prevail. I am in a constant debate with my wife about whether God blesses honest, disciplined, hard working considerate people. I believe that good people also succeed because everyone wants to do business with them and crave their company. Who wants to be friends with or do business with people who lie, cheat and commit crimes? In the final analysis, good people will always prosper because no one ever secures happiness by committing crimes.
Please visit Dr. Kong’s Blog Site: “Coming in From the Cold”… Bob Marley, for more stories on his life in Jamaica after fifty years in the United States