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The effect of materialism as a root cause of crime

Published: 
Saturday, August 11, 2018

The crime situation is so appalling that the nation breathed a sigh of relief with the confirmation of a Police Commissioner. The new commissioner has to muster and use all of the leadership and managerial skills he has acquired if he is to make an impact.

While he may not have a honeymoon period, one expects that he would have started some introspection and some deep analysis. One expects that he would appreciate the importance and value of ministries like Social Development, Community Development, Education Ministry and the Ministry of Local Government. The criminologists, the social scientists and communities must be brought on board. He must have the support of every First Division officer and the others will be taken care of. He cannot do it alone.

I am certain the new Commissioner will have a good handle on the root causes of crime. He will appreciate that the literature on the root causes of crime has shown that teenage criminal behaviour has its roots in habitual deprivation of parental love and affection going back to early infancy. He will appreciate that a lack of a mother’s strong affectionate attachment to her child and the lack of a father’s authority and involvement in raising his children contribute to behavioural disorders and deviancy and criminal behaviour later on in life.

My concern, however, is the role of materialism as a root cause of crime. The criminal is just responding to the message that the goal in life is sensual pleasure and that success in life depends on the acquisition of those objects that make such sensual pleasure possible. The media saturates us daily with that message.

If you are poor, you feel you need a 60’’ colour TV to be happy; if you are rich you feel you need a new yacht. No amount of wealth is ever enough. So we have crooks from all income levels. The poor crooks commit crimes so that they can get what they think they need; the rich crook commits crimes so that they can get what they think they need. The street crook robs people so he can buy some nice clothes or drugs; the corporate crook robs companies so that he can buy 50,000 acres of land or a new jet. In all of this crookedness, there might be murders going along with it.

Our materialistic society teaches that the acquisition of wealth and power is the goal of life, the more wealth and power you possess, the more “successful” you are considered to be. If you are materially poor, you are considered a failure in life. So obtaining material wealth is not only essential for your direct sense of gratification but also for your feelings of self-worth.

In other words, you feel only as valuable as the things you possess and control. To achieve such economic development, you may end up engaging in illegal activity – in other words, you may become a crook.

If our new commissioner understands this practical knowledge as one of the factors in the root cause of crime, then he, with the support of all the others hitherto mentioned, can effectively deal with the criminal problems facing us today. Only by knowing the real root causes can an effective solution be found.

Cuthbert Sandy,
Point Fortin

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