A failed society

| 27/09/2011

We are in the midst of a major social crisis in this country at the moment – as I write we have had the 5th murder of a young man within eight days in Grand Cayman. First let me sympathize with loved ones and parents, because regardless of what the circumstances are, these young men are still our sons, nephews, cousins, and family and friends will love and miss them. 

Some people take the dim view of these reportedly gang related killings that “ooooh, let them kill themselves – they will soon all be gone.” I cannot share that sentiment unfortunately, because we are losing what should have been productive men and women of our society, Caymanians we should all have been proud of instead of mourning their loss. Also, there is no one in their right mind that could believe that what is going on is good for Cayman in way, shape or form. We are a tourist and financial destination and this is very, very serious to both of these pillars of our economy. Local businesses are hurting because people have started to stay home and hide behind their walls and the stress of living and being afraid is killing people. Need I say more? This is unacceptable – pure and simple.

The police can only do so much, although their role in trying to curtail this violence is critical and they must perform at the highest level and with proper resources. At the end of the day, they are all we have as security. We have no armed forces or any other protection.  The government must support the police and provide these resources and we must ensure our judicial system sends a stern message that these acts are intolerable. We have an overflowing prison, and it’s also time to look carefully at whom we imprison and who we don’t in this country – there are alternatives for lesser crimes and we need to utilize them. With limited space, we need to reserve much of that for the criminal element we have fostered and nurtured in this country, and this brings me to a very important point that I wish to make in this forum at this time.

I grew up at a time that was peaceful and good in this country (in the 60s & 70s) and when family values meant something and respect was the order of the day.  But it was also a time when those who led this country, because of who they were and the status they and their families held, could get away with just about anything. We were backward and undeveloped, and it was easy to rule and keep the people ignorant and beholding unto to you, to continue to lead them as if you were Moses leading the Israelites to the Promised Land.  

Education ministers who were in charge at the time refused or were unable to develop a system for all the people, through the creation of a full-fledged trade school as an example, or sadly with use of restricted scholarships to the chosen few because of the “elite” status they held, or the relationships with their parents.  Unless we forget, or for those that don’t know, we had a technical unit in JGHS up until 1980, when I left there from 6th Form. This contained Woodworks, Metal Works, Auto Mechanics and Technical Drawing.  This was put there by the pre 1976 administration under the Comprehensive School System.  It was dis-banded for no good reason, or for reasons only known to the Unity Team Administration post 1976. 

These two main factors (lack of scholarship availability and graduating or releasing ill prepared students) resulted in many leaving school without being equipped and ready to take their rightful place in our society.  Back then, of course, everyone got jobs because Cayman was taking off in the 70s and 80s and the bounty was much, but it was always to be crumbs from the table and not to sit at the table, except for the chosen few.

Our people were dis-enfranchised from ownership and expanding their horizons because of these poor education policies. These people went on to become parents (many also ill equipped for such an important role or, because of their economic standing, they were forced to work two jobs and kids were left alone with inadequate supervision and guidance) and their kids are the same ones that are now caught up in this mess. 

When Mr Truman Bodden (Education Minister for 12 of 16 years between 1976 – 1992) was told he had gangs in the schools, he denied their existence and said we only had groups. He was also the recipient of a study at the time that pointed out the juvenile delinquency problem Cayman was starting to have and said that it would lead to criminality at an early age, and he refused to accept this as well, saying the lady who did the report must have been studying Jamaica, and not Cayman.  I wonder how he feels now when he is sitting there writing and criticizing current and recent administrations and pretending he has all the answers to Cayman’s problems, when he can be credited in large part for not arresting the major social problem we have today. 

Many know this and speak of it in whispers, but it’s time we call a spade a spade, and I am not a hypocrite! People like Mr Truman and others of his time have helped to create the mess we find ourselves in, and although he will likely rant that I am wrong and find every reason as to why, in his heart he will know it’s the cold hard truth.  This is said not just to lay blame, but for us to analyze as a people and not ever again make the same mistake or allow it to be made.

Now to the parents out there, your role is the primary one and most important of all.  First and foremost you have to be parents.  Remember you reap what you sow.  You have to know what your children are doing, who they are with and where they are.  It’s OK to say “no”, folks!  The community cannot parent your child, although they can and should assist as the village we are.  You have to set the rules and guidelines – no parent should be saying “I have no control over him or her”.  It simply means you failed in the beginning (early ages) and spoilt them.  If that’s the case then turn them in – report them – or suffer the consequences of their actions. That’s the reality.

Folks, no one is safe when society runs amuck, not even those in authority.  Our citizens deserve to live in peace and our visitors and investors expect no less.  Now we have a mess to clean up and something that has taken 20 years to create because of visionless leaders will unfortunately take another 20 years to fix. There is no quick fix and you can bring in all the security you want, pray all you want, have many meetings, and change laws etc. (all good things), but we have a serious social issue and the chickens have come home to roost.

Some of the things that must be addressed post haste is making sure we get a proper education system in this country.  It must be available to all, must be affordable to all, must be a comprehensive one, where no child falls through the proverbial “crack” anymore.  Each one must be given full attention and given every chance to succeed.  Technical and vocational studies are a must.  We should be producing our own plumbers, carpenters, electricians, painters, masons, mechanics, artisans, and the list goes on.  We will always have a need for foreign workers in this country, but it should be after full employment of our own qualified Caymanians.

Special abilities and needs must both be identified from early in a child’s development and taken care of accordingly. One is to push a child along in his naturally gifted direction and the other is to address needs and concerns early and correct them. Our social programs must identify delinquent parenting, and it must be dealt with, and the children put under proper supervision or in proper homes. Too many kids have to look to their peers for guidance and this is a “no, no”.  Many times this type of guidance is the wrong one leading to major problems down the road.

Businesses must also play their role and allow mothers, in particular, more time with their children. Fathers need to step up to the plate and be fathers as well.  Too many fathers are making kids and just moving on to make some more with another partner, boasting at the end of day how many he owns.  How many you are a “dad” to is what’s really important, guys, not how many you made.

Young people need more outlets – today we have many sporting facilities, but we still lack real wholesome family activities. Organized outdoor activities that burn a lot of energy up are what is needed.  For example, sports parks, outdoor theme parks and race parks and others will keep them busy, entertain them and be great energy outlets. This will help to avoid negative distractions. Fitness requires commitment and dedication and that’s why sports are so important. You have to be fit to be good. Also, areas for the community to socialize and inter-act with each other in a wholesome way are very important.  This strengthens communities.

These ideas above are in no way exhaustive but just some of the things we should be looking at. Our churches have to be more pro-active in their approach and leave the sanctuary and take it to the people. The church is important whatever the denomination, as everyone needs a moral compass and they play a big role in its development.

The problem as I see it, and I have always said, is that we have developed our country and forgot its people, except for the lucky ones. We cannot proceed in this manner as the “have nots” will look one day and crave what you and I have. They don’t care that you worked hard, all they know is that they want it and don’t have time to get it, or are not equipped to get it the right way — through hard work and commitment. So their answer is simply to take it from you or me by whatever means, usually through violent acts.

The loss of these five young men should not be in vain. It should be a wake-up call to families, leaders and this country as a whole that we are going about things the wrong way. In our haste to chase the almighty dollar we have forgotten or put aside what made these islands wonderful in the first place — good honest principles, hospitable ways, and a deep and abiding faith in the good Lord and his teachings. It’s not too late to act, but we must act fast as a community, as each day the water gets deeper, and soon many will drown.

May God bless us all and may God bless the Cayman Islands.

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Comments (29)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    A few questions I ponder when reading a piece like this:

    How many current and former politicians have been arrested for violence, drunkeness or being disorderly? Role models for whom? 

    We talk about the good ol'  days a lot. When did the trend of dead beat Dads start? Was it a decade ago, two decades ago, maybe 5 decades ago? How engrained is this in the local culture? How come it is rarely spoken to- is it accepted that easily? I would like to see an article written to explain the actions of men who freely father children with numerous women and then have virtually nothing to do with them. 

    I would like to hear from teachers with regards to Parent Teacher days- how often do Dads attend? What is the ratio of moms to dads? 




  2. Anonymous says:

    I only hope you take your own advice

  3. Anonymous says:

    Of course how can the youth be expected to avoid violence when elders, and so-called local leaders, resort to violence themselves?

  4. Anonymous says:

    I'll admit that I didn't read the article, but the headline and the author bring to mind a recent incident involving the BEATING of someone, something that should be considered on the same level as shooting someone. 

  5. Anonymous says:

    There we go again pointing fingers.

    Please remember the old familiar saying "It takes a village to raise a child".

    Why is it that everything that goes wrong a politician past or present gets blamed for it. I truly believe that we should each take our responsibilities seriously and stop blaming others for your failures. The Politicians, Police, Ministers, Teachers I could go on and on they can only do so much but if the children are properly disciplined from early and taught to set high standards for themselves some of them may escape the kind of life styles alot of them are leading. Teach them to be leaders not followers.

    The parents must also be positive role models with the way they dress, not be tardy for work or have a high level of absentism from work because if the kids see you having that kind of attitude some of them are bound to follow your footsteps. Their attitude will probably be" if mama or daddy can do so then how come I can't'.

    Please remember Ossie you were once a part of the system that you saying is responsible for failing the Cayman people. This not the time to throw stones.

  6. Anonymous says:

    The elected people need to lead by example, but unfortunately this upcoming generation has witnessed nothing but disgrace, corruption, greed and unprofessional and childish behavior by the ones who have been trusted with running the country's affairs (and that is something that has been going on for a long time and not just over the last two years).

    What do you expect if they grow up seeing everyone bending the laws and regulations, getting ahead by calling in favors, parents living and spending beyond their means, parents breaking the traffic laws on a daily basis or marching to school to tell teachers how to do their job???

     Of course they have been brought up with the impression that we are a lawless society (which is something that is now actually true) and that they can do whatever they want.

    The change and example need to come from top down, TOP DOWN! So perhaps you can convince your friends to start there!

    • Anonymous says:

      Our young people are doing exactly what they see our politicians doing! Sourrounding themselves with lots of money, women and not working to earn an honest living!

  7. The Truman Years says:

    Much of what you say is correct Ozzy, I say we line up all those who were charged with running the place and who have failed our society so desperately as a result of their incompetence in Heroes Square and sentence them each to 50 lashes of the Cow Cod, we could make a weekend of it.

    I'll bring the beer.


    • Chris Johnson says:

      Good article Ozzy. You made many points. We can much of the blame today on this Government but in all fairness previous Governments going back 20 years must share the blame. It is critical for the next generation of Caymanians to stand up and be countered. They will receive the support from all of us. The current disaster has to change otherwise we are heading for a Turks and Caicos situation and they have less crime!

  8. Anonymous says:

    how about deporting any gang member and their parents from the island upon conviction?

    • Lorry says:

      The vast majority of gang members are Caymanians – where are you going to deport them too – Little Cayman? 

  9. Caymanian Boat Captain says:

    The criminals all need a "cow cod" on their ass to make them "see the light and keep their head's to the wind.   🙂

  10. B.B.L. Brown says:

    Mr. Bodden, you are "right on" in your assessment of the situation in the Cayman islands.  The reasons given for the failure of "the system" concerning our youth are laid out in your article if anyone wants to know what is wrong.  However, I believe one MAJOR cause wasn't mentioned, and that is television, where murder and mayhem, sex and violence, distrust and rebellion are served up every day to young impressionable minds.  I am not in favor of censorship, as this is infringement of the public's right to choose, but there are ways to prevent this garbage from being placed before our children.  Do you suppose our leaders….. whatever parties they adhere to…. could take positive action to prevent this continuing tearing down of character, trust, honor and integrity of our future generations?

    • Anonymous says:

      Yeah? How about the PARENTS decide what their kids can watch and what not to watch. Where are the parents in all of this???

  11. The Prophet says:

    So Mr Osborne what have you been doing to contribute to saving the youth.  It is all about you scratch an X for me and you have a job.  You are a big businessman, but how many  persons have you  genuinly  helped in your community except me myself and I. 

    • Caymanian and Proud of It says:


      I take offence at your rhetoric about Osbourne Bodden.  He is the only former politicion that I know that you can go to in a time of need and get assistance and a hug.  What have you contributed to the betterment of the country?  If you live in a glass house, you should not throw stones.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Osbourn you have hit the nail on the head. But, you too had your chance to make a difference.The party politics is as bad as the gang culture and sadly this too is helping to the destruction of the country and its youths. When either party is the house  the favours and things that get done is to party benifite, affiliates and contributers, the avergae man on the street is left out of the closed door meetings and deals. No child left behind…. well we did just that when we committed millions of dollars to build monumental buildings instead of dealing with the real issue. Parent accountability, early child intervention in all schools, teachers who are accountable, fathers that are held responsible, technical and vocational school, hospitality training school and the list goes on. We as a people are tired of the rethoric and excuses. You are a better future canidate as an independant as your time was wasted by your party and you need to hold them responsible for allot of this mess we are in as well. Keep the faith Osbourn you are a great individual and I think we have not heard the last from you and take my advise and represent yourself. Peace out………Ital One

  13. Anonymous says:

    Well said Ozzy. Everything you have said about Truman Bodden is 100%  correct yet he now has the face to speak of the current gang violence when he didnt accept the proven reports when he was the minster for education. Truman is the brainchild of the concept Give a man a fish rather than teach him how to wish, but yet what we do? reward him with mounuments (Sports complex)

    This is the problem with our society our memories are far too short 

  14. Anonymous says:

    Mr Bodden you are right.  So are some or all of the dozen or so articles I've seen like this.  And some of the comments added to this site.  But it's easy to say "we need more of this", "we need some of that" and "it was different in my day" and then blame UDP/PPM/parents/ the community/ the police.  Cayman seems to be full of people ready to tell anyone who'll listen what needs to be done, but I don't see very many people actually doing anything.

  15. JTB says:

    Cayman is suffering the consequences of having nurtured a generation of young men who have no qualifications, are functionally illiterate and innumerate, have no male role models in their family, and therefore have no sense of belonging to Caymanian society.


    The answer to this problem is to be found in the country's homes and its schools.

    • Anonymous says:

      You were right up to the last word – the schools can do very little for the ill-mannered, unprepared, immature and wild brats that are dumped on them.  One cannot teach someone who does not want to be taught, someonewho has run wild for the first 5 years of his/her life, someone who knows no routine, no discipline and no fear of father, mother, teacher, and the police…  The answer to to the problem is found in the homes.  The answer to the problem is found with the many absent fathers who are too busy making more spawn with other gangsta-lovin girls….

    • Anonymous says:

      You act as if it is only in the Cayman Islands this problem exists.  This is worldwide.  In the UK, the US and the world over this exists and it is very well developed.  For Cayman this is very new.  It is really only a small selection of individuals compared to the entire population.  In order to resolve this the powers that be need to nip it in the bud and make examples of these individuals.

      In every culture or group the black sheep will exist.  There are always individuals that will not be positive individuals for the society.  No matter what a prison will exist.  No matter what there will be individuals that will be good productive members of society.  It is just survival of the fittest.

      Right now Cayman needs to remove these individuals involved in the subculture. aka put them in prison.  While there, yes there will be many that will continue to return.  It is unfortunate but not everyone can be saved and convinced to be productive.  

      I do believe that at the child level – under 18 – if seen as at risk, they should be given more attention and possibly sent overseas during the summer to 'training camps' where they are taught life skills.  It is also recognized that the individuals conducting themselves in this manner are on the poorer side. 

      • Anonymous says:

        Sure, this problem exists everywhere, bu the topic is Cayman and how we can solve Cayman's issues, not the US or UK or any other place on this planet.

  16. Anonymous says:

    I think it is about family and family structure, well the lack thereof.  If the parents were engaged enough in their children's lives rather than wrapped up in their own lives then some of these kids would not turn out that way

    However, being an involved parent takes hard work and sacrifice on part of the parent.  You sacrifice your lunch to speak with the teachers.  You sacrifice your social life to spend time with your children. 

    Have those things in place and it will all come together.  The schools cannot do it on their own.  The entire system needs to be revamped.  You can't expect to keep doing the same thing over and over and expect results.  That is madness.

    Have new blood in all facets such as: the schools at the head administration level, family child services, dare I say it Politicians etc.  Then have the churches involved in theschool.  I understand govt doesn't have enough funding to support after school programs….well the churches have enough!  Let them do it!  Let them arrange after school programs for the public school students.  They have the money to do it.  Now the churches can hire people to organize and supervise these public school students for a variety of activities.  EVERY CHURCH THAT RECEIVED NATION BUILDING MONEY SHOULD PARTICPATE.  THE LEVEL OF PARTICIPATION SHOULD BE PORPOTIONAL TO THE AMOUNT OF NATION BUILDING MONEY RECEIVED.

  17. Anonymous says:

    the gangster culturte should not be accepted by society….

    parents are to blame… and should be held accountable….

    • Anonymous says:

      It's all Tru Tru's fault. Come on Ozzy, this thing is bigger than any politician. There were a lot more politicians around then and now, including the education minister during your time that did absolutely nothing. You had every opportunity to use your bully pulpit but your government was so consumed with spending that nothing was done either..

      This is not something that will be solved overnight either by this education minister or ones past or by any government for that matter. Instead of tearing each other down publicly for everyone to see we should be gathering together putting out differences aside and for once start acting like the Caymanians we use to be and start looking for ways of resolving this crisis.