Building blocks of crime?


For a variety of reasons, the strictures levelled at the so-called local “block culture” by female cleric, the reverend Dr. Lucille Baird, are not likely to meet with universal agreement locally. Indeed, we observe that most of the related comments to her discourse on social media have been generally unfavourable and condemnatory. 
According to a report in Monday’s edition of the Barbados Advocate, Dr. Baird, without reference to any study or other source, agreed with the assertion that many blocks in Barbados are hotbeds of crime. She proceeded further to argue that these congregations should be outlawed, presumably in order to forestall the likelihood of future criminal activity.
She also called on their members to play a critical role in our economic development: “We are importing food and they are on the blocks sitting down all day long? They can work! Plant potatoes, cassava, yam and eddoes…” 
For one, her recommendation of prohibition is contrary to our constitutional ethos of freedom of assembly and freedom of association, both guaranteed rights readily endorsed and availed of by other segments of society including the members of Dr. Baird’s church. Second, the link between the block and crime is largely anecdotal and an easy one to make especially by a disgruntled victim looking to ascribe culpability on another person for the loss of their property. Third, the inherent national penchant for the underdog, what might be termed a “cuddear” (God’s dear) philosophy, is more likely to provoke sympathy than moral obloquy for these mainly poor, inevitably black, and mostly young individuals that constitute the social subset of the Barbadian block.
Nor did Dr. Baird’s appeal to theocracy assist her case. She related that many young persons, including those on the block presumably, “did not know God, the Ten Commandments the Lord’s Prayer, Psalm 23 and what the Bible looks like”. In a jurisdiction that guarantees freedom of conscience and of religious belief, this might readily be perceived as offensive although, we hasten to add, it appears squarely within the remit of a Christian pastor.  The nascent “bashment culture” also felt her wrath as being “not our culture” and she echoed the sentiments once voiced by a local Minister of Education that “spirits are real” and that their acceptance might be the causa sine qua non of so much crime in Barbados. For her, this phenomenon exists “because we endorse the bashment and wuk-up spirit and (thereby) open the door to other spirits”. 
For all the likely unpopularity of her homily, it is nevertheless difficult to defend the propagation of the block culture as offering anything of creative or other value to Barbados. This is not to say that there may not have been once on the block some who have gone on to contribute significantly to the island’s development, but it may also be argued that while these individuals were “on the block”, they were not “of the block”. 
We advance the view that these youthful assemblies may indeed be reformed to contribute in a creative way to the nation. They are not all populated by unintelligent ne’er do wells and, with proper effective guidance, they may be directed towards such pursuits as art, sculpture and drama to the benefit of their communities and themselves. It is time that the block be called upon to play its part in national development and to no longer see itself as a victim of our social progress that has left behind and ostracized.

Barbados Advocate

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