Leroy Bean: ‘For years, the camouflage of materialism seemed to cover the spiritual and social erosion of our little island’. *File photo

Leroy Bean: ‘For years, the camouflage of materialism seemed to cover the spiritual and social erosion of our little island’. *File photo

In recent weeks there has been a lot of discussion in the media and the talk shows about gangs and the direction which the country should or should not take in regards to or under the banner of finding a solution.

Many have suggested more legislation with tougher prison sentences. Many have even suggested a truce or that we should legislate mediation.

For the most part, from the surface, it seems like the perfect solution. However, I believe the root goes deeper than that. This is difficult to accept in a society that lives in denial, where we bury our heads in the sand and believe the problems will go away.

With that in mind, let’s touch on a few pertinent points that have contributed to the increase in gang violence. 

In the early 1960s, Bermuda’s struggle for civil rights was evident, thus bringing about the civil changes that we now so much enjoy. Such a move ushered in equal opportunities that were so desperately needed among blacks.

In the 1970s, we saw booming tourism and the local trade industry that was self-sustaining. Many Bermudians took pride in these industries, both the hotel industry and the local trades, for example, masonry, carpentry, plumbing, electrical and so on — only to find the very foundation to be shattered by the closing of the Technical Institute while at the same time allowing the hotel industry to die.

The move ushered in the era of exempt companies. I am not blaming exempt companies for what is happening in our society; rather, I’m merely pointing out the facts that are necessary for the rebuilding of our community.

During this time, many Bermudians were excited as the exempt companies seemingly filled a gap left by the dying industries of trade and tourism. The economic stability temporarily filled the void of our country. But at what price?

For years, the camouflage of materialism seemed to cover the spiritual and social erosion of our little island.

Success

Many low-income families found themselves working two and three jobs to attain this thing called ‘success’. 

Many landlords started to increase their rents either out of greed or to try to pay their high mortgages to save their oversized homes that they may never live in.  Unfortunately, the real effects were experienced by the grassroots people, forced to work two and three jobs just to pay rents, leaving the children home to raise themselves without proper supervision.

What a vast difference from the 1960s and 1970s where it was normal to go to church and school and if the parents were working, we had an extended family — neighbours or close relatives — that filled in. With this structure gone, who is directing and mentoring our children?

Today, who is teaching them about relationships with God and our neighbours? A lack of parental guidance has not afforded our kids the right to get a proper education and this has thwarted the ability to process the necessary and relevant information to make sound decisions. We all need to get a good education, a job and to be healthy and be accepted and validated by our loved ones and peers. When this is absent, young people will go outside the normal structure to achieve these goals.

Many turn to gangs for a sense of acceptance and belonging and fulfillment.

True change will not come by way of a truce, hard legislation or harder prison sentences. All of these, as great as they sound, are working from the outside in.

True change can only come by way of rehabilitation that comes from the inside out. True rehabilitation won’t need hard legislation or more police.  External suppression or oppression only restricts, it does not bring a true change of heart.

Rehabilitation allows the individual to be fully equipped and grounded spiritually, academically, psychologically and socially.

Pastor Leroy Bean runs the gang intervention group CARTEL.