As most people are well aware by now, one Mr. Richard Gaglio, is fighting for his life at the Hospital after being shot in the chest at the conclusion of an organised gambling event at his home. I personally do not think I know Mr. Gaglio, and I certainly hope that he recovers from his injuries. I also hope that the perpertrators of this crime are apprehended and removed from the streets.
There has been a predictable outburst of indignation over this most recent crime, and this has expressed itself in two main currents, especially in light of recent trials. One – and this one the most obvious on the various blogs – is to attack the PLP government for leading to an increase in violent crime. This trend is, I feel, prevalent amongst Whites. The second trend has been a reinforcing of social conservatism, reflected in calls for a return to ‘family values’, ‘christrian morality’ and a number of draconian punishment schemes, mainly increased prison sentences and a return to corporal and capital punishment. This latter trend is much more predominate within the Black community, and is, I feel, the line that the PLP leadership will be advocating.
I do support the notion that certain actions (and inactions) by the PLP government have certainly failed to reduce crime to the degree that should have been done. In particular I feel that the fixing of the education system has been too little too late to date. I hope that the reforms to the education system currently being slowly introduced will bear fruit in a decade from now, but we must accept that more could have, and certainly should have, been done in the last decade. Additionally I fear that the approach to social rehabilitation in the correctional system has been more talk than walk to date, and this has failed to break the cycle of recidisivism. Much more can and should be done in this area. Certain actions of the leadership have also reinforced a mentality based on bling, that is crass materialism and a culture of entitlement, even to the point of disregarding laws and procedure rather than rationalising the system. I can certainly see how this may contribute to our ongoing problems.
As to the social conservatism, I agree and disagree. In particular, while I support increased prison sentences, this is a bandaid approach, and without investing in social rehabilitation and preventing the root of the problems in our society, this will not work. But the current sentencing system seems to be almost ludicrously farcical to date, with the sentences being increasingly misleading (for example Selessie’s previous convictions for rape). One hopes this area in particular is now being addressed. However prison time should be an opportunity to make our streets safer by removing antisocial elements from society for a period of time, and to rehabilitate these individuals so as to prevent their continuing sociopathy upon their return to society. I have little time for appeals to family values or christian morality which are essentially the same thing. This only breeds a generation of hypocrites and stunts critical thought. It would be far better for society to focus on developing critical thought and empathy in order to create the capacity for ethical behaviour as opposed to mechanical morality. Corporal and capital punishment serve as no detterent to crime, provide only temporary satisfaction to the victims of crimes and creates either further damaged human beings or a sense of matrydom.
I am wary of crime being converted into a political football of fingerpointing. While some criticism is certainly valid, and I am in no way trying to prevent that, my concern is that in so doing we fail to roll up our sleeves and get busy rebuilding our communities. Furthermore, this fingerpointing can in no small way ‘big-up’ the criminal lifestyle by giving these individuals a perverse five-minutes of fame. While there is certainly much that the government should have, and can still do, there is also a lot more that each individual citizen can do.
We currently live in an increasingly atomistic society, a collection of households rather than a neighbourhood, workers instead of co-workers. We increasingly surrender to the bystander effect and an idea that ‘its not my problem’. Every citizen however can contribute in various smalll ways to repairing our social fabric, be it becoming active in our neighbourhoods through community organising or neighbourhood watches, or becoming a mentor or tutor. We can also build activities within our workplace for our mutual benefit. Many people already do this, but far too often we do so more on paper than anything else, tossing some coins into a tin and putting a sticker on our lapel for a day. This is not enough.
While the above is certainly an interesting debate, and one that will be expanded on (and misused even by those who seek to totally absolve the government and turn the tables on those who focus on the government), I am particularly concerned about the prevalance of organised gambling in Bermuda, something that this recent incident certainly brings to greater light.
With the current leadership being very much pro-gambling, this incident may very well derail their attempts to legalise it. I personally am opposed to gambling beyond small-scale social activities such as raffles and bingo, though even these I have issues with. My main concern with gambling is that it both serves to separate money from those who are most desperate for a better life (and in so doing end up worse, to the benefit of those who are already well-off), but also for the social impact that gambling cultures. This is both the bling, short-term gratification mentality, but also the criminal elements that seem inescapably connected to gambling, as this shooting seems to reinforce.
I am curious though about those that attend these underground organised gambling events. My eybrow was particularly raised by mention of a union official being present at this event. While citizens are free to do what they will, the presence of a union official at such an event is bound to raise some questions amongst union members who are struggling in the current economic climate.
I reckon once the immediate furore of this incident dies down, the popular positions regarding gambling, strong within certain sections of the community, will become further opposed to its legalisation. And there may be some political fall-out as a result of both this incident in question, and its clientele.