Irrational? Common Misconceptions About Poverty in Jamaica (Part 3)

Here's Part 3 and final of our  exciting “Irrational” blog series!


Our "Irrational" series explores common questions people may have about those who suffer in poverty in Jamaica. Join us as we find out some perfectly logical reasons to a few of their so-called "irrational" behaviors!

*To be clear, the behaviors we present are not the actions  of every poor Jamaican person. Plus, the factors we discuss do not, by any means, provide a full explanation behind such behaviors. They are simply some possible answers for us to consider when confronted with conduct we do not comprehend.*

The previous “irrational” behavior we examined was this: Why Have So Many Children They Can’t Afford? Click here to read that blog.

Now, on to our final question:  Why Risk Your Life to Join a Gang?

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3. Why Risk Your Life to Join a Gang?

Gangs are extremely dangerous groups that often result in the death of its members. Why would anyone want to join them? Why not stay on the safe side? Jamaican anthropologist, Herbert Gayle, wrote on why gang life is so attractive to young men in Jamaica. Many join gangs as an escape from broken homes. Absent parents. Conflict in the home. Weak parent-child relationships. Most persons from Jamaican gangs have these tragic home lives in common. It is rare for gangs to have members coming from nurturing homes.

‘Nothing to Live for Anymore’

Many perpetrators of gang crime once started as victims. A friend may have been killed. A family member may have been raped. The house of a loved one may have been burnt. Such grief can destroy the hope in any human. Such deep cuts will naturally lead persons to want revenge. Gang life allows them to punish those who hurt them and gain some sort of justice. Also, those who undergo such trauma, often feel like they have ‘nothing to live for anymore’. So, a dangerous lifestyle in a gang no longer scares them. Death is not a deterrent. For some, it is the hope.

A Desperate Need for Provision

Thirdly, gangs provide economic help. Simple. Many people in poor communities cannot access quality education. Besides, although they attend school, boys normally drop out by age 16. This is partially because males are seen as the providers. So, if a family struggles, the girl tends to stay in school while the boy goes off to hustle as way of helping. Hustling consists of risky behaviors such as gambling, stealing and gang life. As Dr. Gayle put it “Gang life pays.”

Justification ... Or Empathy?

None of the reasons listed here are meant to justify negative and harmful behaviors. They are only meant to help us better understand and increase our level of empathy for those who are less fortunate than ourselves.. They reveal a thought process which one adopts given one’s limited life choices and circumstances. Chances are, we would be behaving in a similar way if we had to walk in their shoes. Hopefully, these few explanations have shed new light on some of the decisions made by those who suffer in poverty.

A New Possibility of Change

But that is not the end of the story. We all know of stories which show that, once people grab onto hope, they can eventually change the way they think about their circumstances. Instead, they can move forward to plan a better, brighter future.

We should go out of our way to understand those around us. Once we take some time to grasp the mindset behind their behaviors, we come closer to knowing the truth. And the truth is often this: the actions of others are rooted in both logic and emotion, much like our own. By understanding this, we can now empathize with and respect them more. It is important to understand the people we try to help, as this teaches us how to help them better.

What Do You Think?

If you have any questions or think we left anything out, let us know in the comments! Also, if you can think of any other questions people may have about poverty in Jamaica, please comment below! We'd love to hear from you!

See You Soon!

Thanks for reading our series on Misconceptions About Poverty!

Check back here each month, as we post more stories about Jamaica, our outreach ... And more!

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