Fear (and the long term solution that is ECD!)
I am constantly struck by how fearful so many people in SA are and how our history has perhaps made us especially so. Especially the history that made some people very rich and privileged and others so very poor and powerless.
There have been several break-ins in our street – a quiet, green, northern suburbs Joburg one. As I have lived in the same house for 20 years I know some of its slightly older history. And we have been properly robbed 3 times and once with very much with guns. I can’t count how many times our bicycles have been taken and my son had his cell phone stolen on the 50m he walked from his school bus stop to our home. And we were not the only ones of course, there were car hijackings and some other very nasty experiences for people. Of course electrical fences went up, more slam lock gates and increasingly more militaristic home guards employed. But we now have a what’s up group in our street and so of course we know immediately when things happen. It is frightening naturally, traumatising too and we all feel more fearful and worried. And I feel very sorry for those who have just survived an attack of this kind.
I don’t really feel that crime has increased (I don’t have any proof one way or the other actually) – but I am certainly been made more aware of others experiences and the feelings they have – as well as the actions these feelings are pushing forward – road closures, extra guards and so on by being in more digital contact with my neighbours.
It is a reality to be afraid in this situation. Of course it is. But I am also aware of an ‘us against them’ feeling– not entirely race based, although there has been a little of that. The armed robbers have been nicely non-racial after all.
And what we keep forgetting is that criminals were once small children and a child brought up in a vulnerable situation (whatever the colour of their skin) is more likely to become a criminal (or have other problems) than those brought up in a secure home and environment. Criminals are often created by the time they are 7 years old –especially those who are violent and have a dangerous lack of empathy. Children only learn to care for others if they get enough care themselves...
At the same time I know that all of us fear most those we have wronged or those we feel must be envious of us. Or those we don’t understand. Which of course is why we are contemptuous and wondering about other cultures until we have practises explained and can find parallels in our own cultures. And in SA many people were wronged and are still being wronged. And the rich poor divide just keeps growing. So whether it is race or class dividing us and creating guilt or fear or anger or envy we have it. In spades.
And it blinds us to some very real truths.
The first I believe is that we can build the highest fences and use the biggest guns but we can still not be safe from attack. Only a more equal society will create greater safety.
And only understanding the challenges and fears of others will make a more tolerant society where we are able to work together instead of against each other for more peaceful communities.
Policing must protect communities rather than be a threat to them. And good policing works hard to prevent crime and to catch criminals. And a good justice system does not hand out extra-long sentences – but it does effectively punish AND rehabilitate those among us who have trouble behaving lawfully.
Poor communities are even more riddled with fear. Neighbours do not complain of noisy parties or music as they fear of physical attack. Criminals are not reported for fear of reprisals. People fear being falsely accused of something and beaten to death should they raise their voices against wrongs. A young thief can be burnt to death and no-one will speak about who did it. A woman can be beaten by her husband every weekend and no-one will stop him especially if he has powerful political or criminal connections (sometimes both). Children can be abused and everyone might know about it but until the child is nearly killed no-one does anything about it.
People fear the police, do not trust them as some policemen have been known to work with criminals and accept bribes, resent them for not coming when they are called and fear becoming witnesses because of possible revenge taken by the criminal’s family – criminal revenge of course...And the police also are understaffed and under resourced – and often under-trained as we know. The reality is that police can take days to respond to reports and by that time people have closed ranks and dealt with the situation on their own. Or they have decided that it will take too much courage (or too much danger) to press the case.
So we who can afford some protection and are not afraid of complaining when we believe the police are not adequately serving us are actually rather privileged and are living in far less fear than our much poorer sisters and brothers. That is another truth by the way!
It has been PROVEN that children attending a good pre-school are 80% less likely to do violent crime even if they come from really violence ridden communities. Think of that! And support initiatives like ours! That is a long term and sustainable reaction to our crime ridden situation. And will make a less fear ridden society for our children and grandchildren. So our solution for you is “Put your money into #FlyingChildren! “