Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Friday | January 2, 2009
Home : Letters
Controlling a society
The Editor, Sir:

Those who study sociology and do research tell us that lawbreakers are people who fail to respond to two kinds of control - first, self-control, and then, external control.

Self-control, we are told, comes from the unwillingness to offend or disappoint our family, fellow-workers or fellow-students, fellow-believers, or members of our group or community. Home, school, religious group and community are the 'institutions' that give us our values, so that we develop a conscience that will hold us back when we are tempted to forget those values.

When conscience is not enough

External control is needed when conscience is not enough to control us. Sometimes this control is actually a reward, when other people make us feel good, or we earn something we want, if we obey the rules and laws - the instructions that help a society to work smoothly.

The other form of external control is punishment, which ranges from a scolding, or being deprived of privileges, to physical pain, imprisonment, and even death. If home, school, church and com-munity let us down, by not helping us to develop the self-control, and if the opportunities to feel good and earn rewards (such as wages) are not there for us, then we may be tempted to risk punishment to get what we want (whether it is material things, or just respect from others), and the risk will seem less if we don't see other people getting caught.

We have to wonder, sometimes, if the people in authority (in homes, schools, religious groups, com-munities, and in government) have understood all of this, and whether it really influences the way our society is planned and managed.

I am, etc.,




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