As usual I check my Facebook daily, most of my links to news are there; my friends are there too. My early morning stop at Facebook therefore means ‘get up’ greetings; reminders to send warm thoughts to a friend or relative celebrating an anniversary. It also means catching up with the wider world by way of news clips liked and shared by friends plus offerings from news sources to which I subscribe.
Today, a piece of news chilled rather than warmed my heart as it should have given my history. The Mail Online article headlined “The shoe with-inbuilt GPS that tracks Alzheimer’s patients – and gives their relatives peace of mind,” brought me fear, not joy.
I read and digested what Andrew Carle, a professor at George Mason University’s College of Health and Human Services in Washington said. I agreed with him that the shoes could save lives and avoid embarrassing and costly incidents with the elderly.
My grandmother who raised me was a sufferer. She lived with us in her matrimonial home until she died. Her children and grandchildren were her only care givers. We took shifts; watching her in the back yard or the front yard, on alert even while she slept. So I have countless tales of our experiences filled with worry and pain but fortunately for us these events always ended in joyful relief.
Our best endeavours were often thwarted when she wanted to escape us, whom she probably thought was her captors. She would set off to visit her mother whom she thought was calling her to do chores; or she wanted to get to the plantation so that overseer wouldn’t dock her pay making it difficult to feed her 13 small children. So I know.
But this statement from Professor Carle truly pained me:
The device is hidden! That hurts because I live in the Caribbean.
My Caribbean has a persistent problem with domestic violence and that came to mind as I read this Alzheimer’s-related article. It brought back memories of credible horror stories from acquaintances about the lengths which boyfriends, husbands and ex-partners have taken to track down ‘their women and girls’. The phone calls to friends and relatives re-checking stories; the inspection of mobile telephone and the associated interrogation about calls; the misuse of GPS mobile phones trackers … I have heard a lot and these women have endured much more. So I said, “Here comes another tracker … another tool which could be misused and could lead to violence.”
Perhaps my mind was stirred because a few moments earlier I had read a Facebook poster from Red Code for Gender Justice which proclaimed, “In many Caribbean countries such as Barbados and the Bahamas, domestic violence murders make up nearly or just above HALF of all murders …”
I have heard and read about the verbal abuse; the slaps and kicks and sometimes tragically, the stabbing, shooting and choking which often results when the accused partner does not, in the opinion, of the other partner pass the interrogation. What is seldom recorded is the anguish, the economic deprivation and more importantly the permanent psychological scars which this domestic violence inflicts on children.
As usual when such matters enter my head, I research the topic. I did so. Alas another area known but not focal in my thoughts emerged. Human trafficking!
The Caribbean Human Development Report 2012 – which I have attached – described this as a “growing concern … (which) creates insecurity among Caribbean women and men, though it does not exclusively affect those groups.”
“Criminal networks in Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, and Jamaica are increasingly becoming involved in human trafficking. For example, investigative work in Antigua and Barbuda and Barbados recently discovered that the majority of prostitutes in the country were immigrant women forced into the sex trade.
The investigation uncovered at least 80 women who were told they would be earning decent salaries as bartenders, masseuses, hotel workers, or dancers. Instead, the women, who were mainly from Guyana, Jamaica and Saint Lucia, were forced to serve as sex workers in nightclubs. The investigation determined that organized crime groups obtained the cooperation of immigration officers and senior officials, who were frequently bribed to allow the women into the country.”
You may now ask why I’ve linked this to a chip in a shoe. Recently a newspaper reported how these ‘modern day slaves’ are forced to walk in twos when going out and are kept under surveillance by their ‘slave masters’. I therefore see this device as another tool, another aid for those with ill intentions.
At the price of about £250 or $750 in my Barbados currency, the tracking sneakers may be regarded as too expensive especially for a jealous partner to buy; but who knows what someone will spend to satisfy his desires?
Friends will say that as usual, I am over analysing, over thinking. If you agree with them but your awareness of domestic violence and human trafficking has heightened, well take that as the true purpose of this post. But I can only be honest to myself and the Alzheimer’s article reminded me that a product made to serve a positive purpose, is too often used for ill will.
My history helps me to share the joy of caregivers, relatives and friends of Alzheimer’s sufferers and to applaud the development of the shoe tracking device but I am also a Caribbean person, a woman and a mother and it has brought up some pain.