Violence Like a Volcano by Marjorie George

 

In Dominica, violence is like lava from an erupted volcano, seeping and weaving its way into the lives of the youth; destroying the norms and burning the true feeling of culture to a hard crisp. The Dominican youth of Generation X are turning to violence because they do not have another means of expressing their pent up emotions. The reason for this is rooted in our education system and its remnants are the high influx of unemployment and violence. In the High Schools, the curriculum does not include courses in the humanities such as oral communications, or theatre production. They concentrate only on phonetics and sentence structure, thereby limiting the students’ potential. The humanities courses are very vital as it would provide the High school students with a venue to verbalize their emotions in public speaking courses thus preventing them from expressing emotions into violence acts. In theatre production, they can use role-play to act out their feelings in a controlled area, acting out folklore stories about our culture, which involves helping others and looking out for each other. This would give them a new meaning to culture and life and what it means to be a unified people. If students are encouraged to use role play and public speaking skills as a medium of expression, it would lessen the violence.

However, many locals believe that the violence stems from the violent movies, like "Rambo" and "Terminator" for example, and MTV videos, with artists like Eminem, whose lyrics breathe out a fireball of violence. However, Downing, in Questioning the Media, defends that by saying "television is part of culture" (p29). But it depends on which culture is portrayed on television. The youth, they argue, are bombarded with American television, leaving them to adopt the American culture and lifestyle and forgetting theirs. Television is a medium of information and learning can teach our youth many things including violence, and entice them to copy these violent acts. However, education can be a useful deterrent to violence. The Prime Minister of Dominica, Pierre Charles, in a statement quoted in the local newspaper stated that "prolonged exposure to such media portrayal [violent movies], will only result in increased acceptance of violence, as an appropriate means of solving problems and achieving one’s goals" (Carlisle). However, I beg to defer. I am a stickler for action movies and I have not turned out to be violent. I do not use television to solve my problems.

Television is a process of communication and understanding, not necessarily a pawn for violence. Although the MTV rap videos of this revolutionary age can be explicit and raw, my sister loves the program and she does not commit crimes. The reason could be because of our upbringing and education - not television. So it can be argued that if the youth are properly educated, especially at the high school level, and further encouraged at home, they would not be so prone to violence. My sister and I had a lot of support from home apart from school and this could have explained our non-violent nature.

Violence can be further curbed if parents could be advised to take better care of their children (Jolly, 67). Teenagers would not be so prone to violence if parents were to play a more active role in their children's after-school activities. Parent-child relationships have proven to have positive influences on the behavior of children. If television is argued to be a source of violence for teenagers, then parents need to exhibit more control over what their teenagers view on television and who they associate with. If parents assumed more control over the violent movies and MTV Videos, the young people would be less likely to join gangs, do drugs and be violent. When there are reports of drug possession in school compounds, where one 13-year old was arrested for drug possession, (Liverpool, 3b), then parents are need to be more involved. For example, my mother makes it her duty to listen to all the music that my baby sister buys before she lets her keep it. Since most parents cannot control everything that teenagers do, or watch on television, other steps need to be taken to prevent violent acts. According to Bishop T.D. Jakes, parents need to "give a vision to our children to prevent them from going into drugs", which is most likely a path to violence. Without a vision there can be no positive reaction. When I was younger, I was not allowed to watch television during the school week. Instead of being idle, my mother would encourage me to make tamarind balls and lemonade, which we called lime juice and sell them outside in a makeshift lemonade stand. It would just be two chairs and a table, with my box of coins and jug of lemonade with paper cups. This gave me something meaningful to do and also prevented me from being open to violence and gangs. In an online chat with Miss James about the real reason behind teen violence in Dominica, she says that “the reason why kids get into gangs is because they are idle”. After completion of high school, "there are limited jobs and gang and crime life seem more profitable" she continues. But if these kids had learned the simple lessons I did by building a lemonade stand, which taught me the value of money and working to achieve it, they would not be so eager to join gangs and get rich quick. This is just one of the roles parents play in influencing their kids and drawing them away from gangsters. But how can education help these parents themselves become better role models?

Most parents themselves are not educated enough to even see a vision for themselves, far less for their children. Some of them are so poor that they are more concerned about how to get food on the table than to monitor what their kids watch, usually at friends’ homes. There are some kids who never hear the words like "I believe in you, I think you are doing a great job", or even words as simple as "I love you" (Nimmo). Parents who are more encouraging and loving can make a difference in the lives of their teenagers. However, if parents are unable to control what their kids watch or to give them a vision, the schools with the educated teachers are more suitable applicants for the role.

Again, even though the education system is changed to enhance teenagers' creativity, perpetrators of criminal activities are not being punished the way they should. As Jolly puts it in Paths of Development; "the attitude to the criminals should be radically changed" (90). The punishment need to be stricter and harsher for these criminals. When teenagers see that crime really doesn’t pay then they would not be discouraged to keep away from it. The jail houses are designed like hotels and the ‘guests’ are treated like kings and queens. They are more comfortable than they would be at home and so they do not really feel like they are being punished. Personally, I believe the jail birds should be fed once a day depending on the severity of their crime. They should be flogged, especially if they hurt minors and the elderly. The adult men rape young kids even four-year olds, and they are put in jail to be fattened. The law needs changing. The court system needs to take crime and violent acts more seriously. The laws against criminals should be harsher and criminals should be punished not honored.

Teenagers honor and admire television actors in the violent action movies; so since television has been blamed for the increase in violence, especially after the millennium, maybe it can be used to lure teenagers away from crime. Outside influences such as satellite and cable programs have spread throughout Dominica, and there is no way to hide from it. But starting in the schools, television viewing should be used to positively influence the students. Action movies that tend to be a magnet for the creative and artistic teenagers can be used as a learning experience. If the students were to role play their favorite actors and use it as a form of learning, they would be less likely to reenact the violent actions in public. For example, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger are actors that play explosive roles in many action movies that are swarmed with violence. When the Terminator says "I'll be back", he doesn't mean he'll be back for coffee. He usually means he’ll be back to finish the job that he started, i.e. destroying and killing-terminating. Role playing these expressive roles of these actors would allow the students to act out the violent roles in ways that they perceive it, while enhancing their creativity under the supervision of teachers. The moderator would constantly inform the students that the exercise was for entertainment, and what is portrayed on television is fiction. They can then express their thoughts in writing and discussions about what the actors really portray and compare it to what’s happening in the violent-stricken world. Their perspectives can then be used as a learning experience if possible.

The learning experience doesn’t stop with the interpretation of the television programs. In order for the youth to regain their true culture, which violence has somewhat destroyed, they need to be educated about the past. We could rejuvenate our culture by having skits with the theme of famous folklore that teaches us about crime and the community, and then contrast the two role plays. The comparison will enhance their critical thinking skills and allow them to broaden their perception on violence and culture. Learning about our culture can help in the fight against violence in a controlled and safe environment. The youth would imbed in them the lessons of the folklores that convey messages to us about who we are as a people. In theatre production, these stories can be acted out in skits as part of the curriculum in school. Most of the stories are usually told in Creole, which is our main dialect, and they are humorous; but the moral applies to how Dominicans see themselves as a people, and they teach us the values and the norms of the society. They give us an inside view of the communal aspects of our culture, with story lines of close-knit communities and neighborly neighbors. These stories also help us to realize our strengths and weaknesses, and how to overcome them. Our traditional stories and folklore apply to the issues surrounding our culture, like stealing, the lack of education, and the violent acts that are eroding our culture.

The stories my grandmother told us about stealing, considered a crime, are usually used to teach kids about the negative rewards of this criminal act. There were no televisions and entertainment was in the form of story-telling and, as shown in this story, fruit-picking. However at the end of the stories, there was always a lesson to learn about. The most popular stories are those of a young illiterate boy called Doom-doom. He was always up to no good, and found himself in the stickiest situations.

One lesson Doom-doom had yet to learn was about touching things that did not belong to him. The story goes on to say, that Doom-doom, would stealthily sneak into one particular farmer's yard every evening at about 7 O'clock and pick the juiciest fruits. The farmer, unsuspecting of a human thief would think that his fruits were eaten by an agouti or mongoose. His neighbor, however, informed him that a young boy would come into his yard every evening, and he, the neighbor, found it suspicious that the boy never used the front gate. Therefore the farmer decided to do his own investigation. One night he sat on his porch, in the dark, shotgun and flashlight in his hand and waited for the intruder.

Sure enough, at seven, Doom-doom started out on his adventure. He crawled under the farmer’s fence, as usual, climbed up the tree and picked the juicy mango, he had spied earlier. As soon as he picked the mango a bright shiny light was in his face, as bright as the blazing sun. It was told that his dark skin turned almost white when he realized a shotgun had been placed firmly on his butt, and the farmer had caught him in the act. The farmer just said, "Put it back." Doom-doom kept apologizing, "sorry sah! Sorry sah", but the farmer only continued to say "put it back", keeping the shotgun firmly on Doom-doom's skin. Doom-doom, scared out of his wits could only ramble "ok sah, I puttin' it back, I puttin' it back", while he stayed for hours trying to reattach the mango back on the tree by licking it.

How does education fit into this story you may ask? Just as how Doom-doom was trying to stick the fruit back in its place, likewise, Dominicans are trying to piece together their fragile culture, with education. Doom-doom was illiterate and he could not find other meaningful ways to spend his leisure time. At a young age, Doom-doom had dropped out of school and had no job. His lack of education led him to a life of crime. If young boys are entering this life at such a young age, then there must be something wrong with our education system. The morale of this story taught many young boys to think twice before they went off on a stealing spree. The feeling of safety with neighbors looking out for each other was another message from this folklore. It should be noted that television did not exist during that time, so it could not be a factor behind stealing, which was then the main criminal activity. In this era, with the saturation of violent television programs and less of creative educational programs and especially after September 11th 2001, the youth are readily engaged in more violent criminal acts and not just theft. Bomb threats at Government offices (Anonymous) and drug trafficking are just a few of the many things that are sweeping throught the nation.

Carnival is a time when the entire Dominican community unites to celebrate life and culture. However, more violence erupted and swept through our 2002 Carnival Celebrations. The sad part is that it occurred during a time when we all come together violence separated us. When the revelers stepped out on the streets they were adorned with colorful and creative costumes and danced to the local music. Then the lava from this volcano came spewing down on the crowds, destroying the beauty of the celebration and marring the masqueraders' feeling of safety. Officials were confused as to the reason why the youth would commit such horrible acts. There were reports of gun shot wounds, stabbing, raping and death in this past cultural celebration. Family members turned on each other. One young man wounded his brother, who was protecting their mother, and died, on his way to the police station to file a report (The Chronicle). Young people defy the law by bringing broken bottles, knives and cutlasses to inflict others with whom they are rivals. These gangs use Carnival as an opportunity to stage their gang wars, hurting innocent civilians in the process.

This stage play is not the fiction that is shown on television, which many believe is the reason for teenagers turning into a life of crime. These actions are due to the education level of our youth. The youth use Carnival as a scapegoat to vent their explosive emotions that they have not learnt to control. Television can influence this behavior, but education can control it. And in order to control and eventually eliminate this violence, the education system needs to be revised and altered.

Controlling the youth of Dominica can prove to be very challenging. Many of them have not been able to finish their high school education and with no other means of getting a high school diploma, they remain unemployed. This can be very frustrating in a country as poor as Dominica with limited jobs available. When I graduated from high school in 1994, with honors and as Head Girl, I had difficulty in finding a job at a bank, which in Dominica is considered a prestigious institution. One year later, I was able to finally secure a job at one of the local Credit Unions, not because of my qualifications, but because I knew someone who worked there at the time. Situations like this can frustrate a lot of young people well-educated or not. When they are left unemployed, and no where to go their feelings are kept buried but violently nurtured. This frustration is then seeped out into violence actions as a way to convey their feelings. The rigid education system is frustrating the youth.

Frustrated young girls are joining gangs, and there is a need to do something about that. Because teenage pregnancy is so prevalent in Dominica, many young girls do not get a chance to finish their high school education once they get pregnant while going to school. According to Trouillot in Peasants and Capital, "a young unmarried mother finds it more difficult to reintegrate socially than the father of her child" (265). Once a girl gets pregnant, she is expelled from school, while the father is still allowed to continue his education, especially when he has not openly claimed responsibility for the unborn baby. When the young girls are expelled, they remain lost. There are no other institutions available to enable them to complete their high school education and this leads to them to more frustration and gang life. When the young mothers are unable to finish high school they miss out on job opportunities. The lack of education makes it even more difficult for young mothers to find a job that pays well enough for her to take care of her new family. They are so frustrated they seek other avenues to provide for their family; and they end up in drug trafficking, prostitution and other criminal acts. The education system is so rigid that is does not allow for these young parents to return to school to complete their high school education; a valuable stepping stone for life's journey and a deterrent to violence.

Our education system should be more flexible to allow young mothers in high school to continue with their high school education. In the United States, teen mothers have the opportunity to finish high school or at least achieve the equivalent high school diploma or GED (Anonymous). In Dominica, we do not have a GED system, and once you are expelled because of pregnancy, there is no way back in. A teen mother is unable to enroll in another high school once expelled. As mentioned earlier, a high school education is very important for the future of our generation. This level of education instills values that are useful for the student's adult life and will help in preventing violence. In the high schools there are opportunities for learning self-discipline and responsibility through creative workshops. Without it (self-discipline) the "scientific and technological knowledge [we learn from school] can be self-destructive" (Jolly, 27). Our facilitators of learning must have, imbued in them, the values which they want to teach the students.

Teenagers need to learn in schools how to verbalize their feelings. Oral Communications is a way to help the youth put into words how they feel, what brought about the feelings and what they want done about it. If they do not learn the skills of public speaking, they will continue to be violent, since it’s the only action that they get a response from. When they act violently, the public react with more violence or with complain and worry. The youth feel that they can finally get through the public when they commit those crimes. But crime is not the answer to solving their problems. They have lost their voice and can regain it through public speaking. This course should be added to the curricula with role play and creative writing. These criminals may call themselves artists, but their creative perspective has been blurred into thinking that violence is the only way out of their frustrated easel. They can learn all they need to about voicing their emotions in the humanities courses at school, as long as the education system is flexible enough to allow the students cathartic self expression to be let loose.

If the school system is too rigid and imposes pressure on our youth, they can become frustrated. The high school crimes in the different parts of the world always caught the public off guard. The Columbine massacre which transpired in 1999 was so horrible; but everyone concludes that the teenagers who did the shootings were acting out their frustrations. In Germany, in May 2002, a similar incident occurred when a 19 year-old killed 16 people at his school before killing himself because he was frustrated. Kids are building up their frustration and releasing it into violent acts. As in Dominica, in Germany there are not many colleges and the high school tests are competitive because it determines space at the college. Dominica has only one College available after high school. The tests that the students take are extremely rigid and students can feel pressured. I myself remember feeling so pressured that I slept with the tapes “Where there’s a will there’s an A”, and woke up tape-drugged, thinking it would help me pass those examinations. If the students fail the exams, there can seem to be no hope.

The demanding academic system definitely is a factor for the violence in Germany and in Dominica. If the rigid system can cause students to bring guns at school and to actually open fire on students and teachers, killing themselves in the process, then we can all see that there is a problem with the education system.However it is not only in Dominica where our youth use violence as a means of cathartic self expression. Although I expect this kind of violence in larger countries with larger cities and endless entertainment, I never expected this act of violence in our small country.

Violence is just as volatile as volcanoes, and like a volcano when it erupts can cause much harm. In Dominica, the dormant volcanoes are not a threat to the islanders, but the violence has not been able to remain as dormant and is causing havoc. We have to face the facts that violence is spreading through the country like volcanic lava and is creating balls of fiery hatred in the hearts of the youth. Having recognized that, we must be cognizant of the fact that for every action there is a reason underlying it. So what has been noted as the cause for all this violence? The youth are frustrated because of their socioeconomic status which stems from their illiteracy or lack of jobs. They have no other venue to voice their emotions, and these boiled up emotions cannot remain silent any longer. They are voiced out as crime. But there is a way to tune that voice and stop the violence. Education is now viewed as the deterrent to this violence. It can be used like liquid nitrogen to freeze the lava of violence. Violence can be prevented from reaching to other youth and from harming our Dominican culture by using education. Our youth are not educated in a manner that gives them the flexibility and skills of communication. In our high schools the limited curriculum has stalled the creativity of the future generation. We need to teach our students non-violent ways of conveying their feelings to the public using role play and oral communications. Teachers need to listen and be more attentive and give students a forum to express themselves with guidance. They need the key to unlock their explosive emotions and a medium to contain them in a non-violent manner. Education is the key to keep this volcano dormant and to help with the regain of our communal culture.

As U.S. President Bush said in his speech to the nation, on March 11, 2002, for the remembrance of the Attack on the World Trade Center; “every civilized nation has a stake in its outcome”. We as Dominicans have to be willing to regain our jihad and end the violence, in order to actually see it through. We all have a part to play in helping the future nation find their true, non-disruptive voice, and use that voice for the prevention of violence in Dominica. Education, as a catalyst, can be used to deter the flow of violence.

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

 

 Ali, Azrad. "Caribbean News Roundup-Dominica". Caribbean Life. 19, February 2002: p2.

---. "Dominica leads decline in GDP among Eastern Caribbean states". Caribbean Life. 05, March 2002: p5.

This short article deals talks about the debt burden that Dominica is experiencing, the loss of manufacture plants and tourism. Also it relates information on how heads of the Commonwealth are coming together to find ways to eliminate terrorism.

Andre, Irwing G. & Gabriel J. Christian. In Search of Eden: The Travails of a Caribbean Mini State. Pond Casse Press. Maryland: 1992.

Anonymous Interview. Online Chat. March 25, 2002

Anonymous Interview. March 31, 2002.

Anonymous Interview. April 7, 2002.

Anonymous Interview. Online Interview. April 29, 2002

Anonymous Interview. May 1, 2002.

Education in Dominica is limiting the students’ potential. It does not allow them to be creative and to think on their own. In the United States, Teenagers are allowed to continue with their High School education even when they become teen mothers.

Anonymous Interview. April 23, 2002.

Barber, Benjamin R. Jihad vs. McWorld: Terrorism’s Challenge to Democracy. New York: Ballantine, 2001.

This text gives an account of how Barber looks at McWorld and how it is destroying culture. Special attention was paid to how television as a pawn for McWorld, is slowly taking over the culture of indigenous peoples and people of foreign lands.

Charles, Rubia. Interview. March 31, 2002.

A teenager’s point of view, on the effects of MTV on Education and the youth of Dominica. "We watch MTV to find out who's wearing what and to learn the new dance steps. I do not think Television is making us violent" (Rubia).

 "The Carib Indians". Indigenous People- The Caribs in Dominica. Delphis. 2000. Accessed 02/24/02 <http://www.delphis.dm/caribs.htm>

The Carib Indians are the native Dominicans who live in peace and harmony on the island. They are the second inhabitants of the island after the Ciboneys. They have been regarded as fierce and war-like but they are gentle people.

"Dominica". Lonely Planet World Guide/Destination Dominica. Lonely Planet Publication (2002). 02/27/02 <http://www.lonelyplanet.com/destinations/caribbean/dominica/printable.htm>

Downing, John et. al. Questioning the Media: A Critical Introduction. Sage Publications, Inc. California: 1990.

Media has always been blamed for aggressive behavior. But just as someone can learn violence from the media, so too they can learn not to be violent. Television alone is not responsible for violence.

"Historical Notes on the Carib Territory". Geocities. 02/24/02 <http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Agora/3820/caribhist.html>

The historical notes on the Carib territory gives further information and deeper insight on where the Caribs reside, from the riot in 1930 till today.

"Independence". Dominica’s Independence Celebrations. ( 2000). Delphis 02/24/02 <http://www.delphis.dm/independence.htm>

Dominica celebrates its independence from October to November. In this issue the theme for the Independence Celebrations for 2001 was ‘Embrace our Opportunities’.

James, Anonymous. Online Interview. April 16, 2002.

This young woman a graduate from high school in Dominica, now a secretary, believes that the violence in Dominica is the result of idle hands, not television.

Jno. Baptist, Carlisle. "Death, Violence mar Carnival". The Chronicle-Dominica’s National Nespaper.Web Page. 15, February 2002. 02/24/02 <http://www.new.../new-index.cfm?Paper=1&Date=%7bd%20%272002%2D02%2D15%27%7>

This article from the National Paper of Dominica, talks about the Terrorists acts that occurred during the 2002 carnival celebrations in the second week of February. These senseless acts of violence have police officers confused, citizens dead and many others hurt.

Jolly, Clement. Paths of Development. Imprimatur. Dominica: 1994.

Jolly, Clement. Rainbow Man- An Historical Novel. Copyright, 1993.

This novel follows the life of a poor Dominican boy who has his ups and down with education and family values.

Kessler, Ronald C., et al. Television and Aggression: A Panel Study. Academic Press, Inc. New York: 1982.

Is television watching linked to Aggression? This literature seems to think there is a link, but not as strong as we think.

Lee, Simon. "An Artist of the Floating World". Indigenous Dominica- The Caribs. Raglan Riviere (Ed.). 2000. 02/24/02 <http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Agora/3820/Caribs.html>

This is an excerpt from the article, "Indigenous Dominica- The Caribs". It speaks about the Carib Indians and how they feel about the demise of their proud culture.

Liverpool, Bonti. “Drugs in School Yard”. The Chronicle. Friday, January 25, 2002. Sec: 3B Vol. V. Paramount Printers, Ltd.: Commonwealth of Dominica.

Even though Dominica observes Drug Awareness Month in January, there are still incidents of drug related crime involving high school students. Some schools are having programs with the theme “Prevention is better than Cure”.

NBC News Conference. “9/11 Remembered”-Speech to the Nation. US President George Bush. Aired March 11, 2002.

Nimmo, Beth. Special to the Denver Post. “Columbine mom knows Erfurt Grief”. May 1, 2002. <http://www.denverpost.com/stories/0,1412,36%257E54%257E582708%257E,00.html>.

A mother, who lost her daughter to the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, speaks out about her loss and empathizes with victims of another school shooting in Germany in 2002. The rigid education system is causing students to turn to violence, because of frustration and fear of expulsion.

Riviere, Raglan. "The Carib Territory in Brief". Indigenous Dominica- The Caribs. Cakafete’s Nature Island Tour. 02/24/02 <http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Agora/3820/Caribs.html>

This excerpt talks about the Carib Territory, home of 3,000 Carib Indians. The Caribs live on this Territory in peace and harmony, retaining a culture rich in values. The Caribs are skilled artisans with pottery and basket weavers, canoe builders and artists in a small community struggling to keep their culture alive.

Sindass Productions. "Carib Nation TV-Dominica". The University of District of Columbia, Washington D.C. August 2000. 03/04/02. <http://www.caribnationtv/com/dominica.html>

T.D. Jakes. The Potter’s Touch television program. “Money Matters”. TBN. Aired 4/11/2002.

In this television program, Bishop T.D. Jakes indicates that giving children a vision can prevent them from turning to drugs and violence. Also parents need to take a stronger role in children’s lives.

Trouillot, Michel-Rolph. Peasants and Capital: Dominica in The World Economy. The John Hopkins University Press. Baltimore and London: 1988.