3 Apr 2008

Crime, criminals and me

For several days now, I have a friend from Trinidad who is visiting - a holiday to see England whilst catching up on old times.

A chance remark led me to some random thoughts...

While we were walking in the main shopping area of Birmingham, we chanced across two police officers in full uniform. My friend wanted a photo of them, part of the whole souvenir/keepsake/memento thing.

The chance remark came came when she said that in her almost two weeks here, she has hardly seen police on patrol, yet she is surprised at how well-behaved and orderly the people conduct themselves - from driving in an orderly and lawful manner to keeping the streets clean by dumping litter in garbage cans. She was amazed that people obeyed the law so willingly.

That led me to thinking. Why is it different in the UK? It can't be that the people are different; Lord knows we have a whole population of West Indians and Trinidadians/Tobagonians here.

Can it be that discipline is forced onto us by the cameras located everywhere? Or that the police are also in plain clothes or unmarked cars patrolling? Is it that the people are more disciplined simply because they know they can be caught, or because in themselves they have a sense or morality and ethics and standards to want to have a better society or community?

Why is it that we as West Indians (or Caribbean citizens) cannot behave the same way at home, or desire the same society we cherish when we are abroad?

Here, the same people who would push and shove to get into a cinema in the Caribbean would queue up all orderly even for a bus. How can a short flight of 8 to 9 hours change a lifetime of indiscipline? That's literally changing overnight. So several decades of bad habits are dropped in the space of a few hours. I guess the person who said it takes 21 days to make or break a habit got it wrong.

It can't be that punishment and deterrents are excessive here. I dare say, the courts here are more liberal than those in the Caribbean, the punishments not tainted with prejudice, (or Shermie's self-righteousness) nor are the criminals subjected to the abuse by police or prisons officers as in Trinidad and Tobago.

My friend is still surprised that there is no appearance of enforcement of laws that one can perceive while out, there is just the perception that it works. No police officers to bully you (speaking to them is a joy; they actually address you as sir, madam, or miss as the case may be). Nope, these lads and lasses are polite, well trained and disciplined. Oh, and fit!!

I think all in all, we know what it expected of us here and we condition ourselves to be disciplined enough to follow through on what is expected of us. Not so in Monkey Island.