The declining Virgin Islands moral culture
The callous murders of Kendoy Penn, Nickeria Smith, Alston Penn and Ashburn A. Dawson point to a community that has compromised its moral culture. The question is asked: has the Virgin Islands sold its soul to Mammon?
Unsolved murders increase as significant numbers of people in the community help cover up the murders and protect callous murderers from legal apprehension, sanction, and action.
Life has become cheap in the Virgin Islands, especially the life of the local native male. This is a national tragedy.
The Virgin Islands’ moral culture, built over decades, from the days of slavery is in severe decline. It has been replaced by the pursuit of a meaningless materialism: a new culture of greed, callousness, and wickedness, is on the ascent. The culture is becoming criminal and mindless.
The country is losing its moral core. The moral compass- the part of a culture that directs the morality of a country- has lost its wholesome direction.
Culture is living history. Culture is the crucible that holds the community’s values and morals. Culture is the soul and heart of a society. Culture is a complex organism that requires special care and protection. If not, culture is destroyed. And along with a destroyed culture comes a declining and dysfunctional community.
The Virgin Islands is swiftly losing a moral culture that was built over generations. The chicken of poor morality has come home to roost.
A majority expatriate population, black and white, rich and poor, down island and European, has not helped the local culture. And despite enormous progress in building a multi ethnic and cosmopolitan society, still, too many residents look at this society as merely a profit center, a home away from home, and not their precious home and habitat. Too many expats are unwilling to participate in the local culture and local community. This is a part of the reason BVI traditions and values are on the decline.
OK. The proceeding story is the final narrative in a three part series.
Now Caribbean culture is a mix of Africa, Europe, North America and Native. This is what gives Caribbean culture its attractiveness and unique flavors. It makes for free, democratic, and peaceful societies. Racism and intolerance exist. But there is a cosmopolitanism that makes these islands in the sun colorful, cultured, urbane, and friendly. Freedom and democracy in the Caribbean are the legacy of a violent and bloody history narrated from the earliest days of slavery, through to late 1950s nationalism, and the civil rights and black power movements of the 1960s.
There is no doubting the fact that societies with a high degree of tolerance, personal freedom, and respect for human life and human dignity thrive. On the other hand corrupt and despotic leaders plunge their societies into conflict and war.
OK. The people of the Virgin Islands and the wider West Indies possess a traditional, colorful, and musical culture. The Virgin Islands are also a religious community. Virgin Islanders, as a result of a history of slavery, and colonialism, are accepting of the status quo, fatalistic, and peace loving. However, the rapid change from an agrarian community to a 21st century services economy has had its cultural implications and ramifications.
Paradoxically, materialism is a threat to the country’s prosperity. Materialism, the mad rush for what is actually worthless in the long term, is destroying the rich heritage of Virgin Islands community. How? The country is in such a ‘mad rush’ to develop and ape certain foreign cultures, and its citizens so anxious to acquire the worthless lifestyles of the “Mr and Mrs Jones’ subset,” that the Virgin Islands is forgetting what truly matters: the rich historical and cultural legacy, upon which everything, especially social and economic prosperity ultimately rests.
In the sprint to a material El Dorado, the country is destroying its most precious asset: its rich cornucopia of traditions, values, and norms. It is exchanging its golden goose for a “scrawny duck: its golden egg for an empty shell.” These islands are losing their very essence.
Too many people live above their means. Too many own highly leveraged houses on the hill that will never be fully, joyfully, and happily occupied. There is no longer the concept of neighborhood. People only ever meet at the ubiquitous funeral: “see you in church or at your funeral are an appropriate and truthful greeting.” Personal debt is a mounting problem. The village no longer exists.
The older world, the yesteryear of cordiality, warmth, and community, has been replaced by a society filled with anger, hate, anxiety, hypocrisy, and frustration.
Youth feel entitled, not knowing that entitlement ultimately leads to mediocrity, failure, and crime. Deviant behaviours are on the increase. Deviancy has blossomed into violent crime and growing criminal culture.
There has been an astronomical 272% increase in the British Virgin Islands prison population since 1997, a period of approximately 20 years. This is a near threefold rise in the number of prisoners. The majority of prisoners are young men under the age of 30.
Paradoxically, and with all the new found wealth, poverty, crime, mental illness and loneliness are all on the increase. Commentators and academics will argue that this is the price you pay for modern prosperity. This Old Boy is not that certain it is.
The Virgin Islands has forgotten that true prosperity is not the number of large homes that sit on the hill, and the Cadillac in the garage. True prosperity is a state of heart that understands that true wealth begins with love of community, good character, and trust.
But whose fault is that? Like everywhere else, we love to blame others for society’s woes. We forget that the problem with the material culture is that it comes with terrible baggage: greed, selfishness, even wickedness. But, for certain checks and balances in place, a feature of Overseas Territories watched over by an “aloof” but “frugal” Britain, many a Caribbean jurisdiction would be in bankruptcy today, with even greater and more grievous social consequences, such as dire poverty and unsustainable crime.
For all the “talk about independence” Whitehall, or the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, remains a critical link and artery buttressing and maintaining fiscal responsibility in Overseas Territories. But for British oversight, the lid on financially irresponsibility would have been twisted off, emptying treasuries in OTs and exponentially increasing deficits and overspending, leading to increased poverty and slowing economic growth.
Overspending is not synonymous with economic stimulus. Stimulus is intelligent and thoughtful economic policy. Stimulus is always conducted with economic sustainability and viability as a backdrop.
Being a faraway “overseer” of overseas territories, British oversight has attempted to stem the flow from the burst pipe of fiscal irresponsibility in many countries she oversees.
At the root of this “excessive and ostentatious governing culture” are the greater excesses of a ‘stupid rush’ for the material by populations who starting in the late 1970s became prosperous as defined by western social and economic theory.
Government is not a gravy train, but a manager of scarce resources. However, government and governed are in a symbiotic relationship. Government is a reflection of the wider culture. And whatever drives that culture drives government.
Without a Big Brother in London watching over these jurisdictions, many OTs would have experienced West Africa’s tragic fate of disastrous economic and social contraction, a conundrum that has led to squalor, poverty, terror, and conflict, and that is threatening the very existence of numerous countries in Sub Saharan Africa.
That is the last thing Overseas Territories need.
Connect with Dickson Igwe on Facebook and Twitter