Sunday, January 11, 2015

Rising in the Time of Politics...

For all of my life I have been an independent thinker. I do what I choose and I make my decisions based on information that fits my needs or is aligned with my core beliefs and does not require much external input. This has served me well in every endeavor save politics in Trinidad & Tobago, because in politics in T&T one is expected to be a cookie cutter cut out, an exact replica of the ideal supporter, one who agrees sycophantically with every decision, who never questions errors or mistakes but rather defends them fervently, and one who does not pause to observe the dissonance between what is preached and what is practiced.

I simply cannot do it. I bring real thinking to the discussion. I have a very analytical mind. My love and patriotism for my country is unconditional, and my service is given freely. The last three governments have all implemented policies and projects that began as my suggestions, the current government built a campaign slogan (Rise, you remember that?) on a proposal I submitted to the Congress of the People, a concept of social engineering that equalizes all communities, a twinning of 'at risk' or 'hotspot' communities with their closest successful neighboring community, where the successes are emulated as much as possible to bring as many of our citizens to a common space of national identity, and from there we could all 'rise.'

It was based on many factors, most of all observing the children of communities such as Westmoorings and Valsayn and comparing their lives to those of Cocorite and Beetham, and postulating that, if all children had the same benefits, the same full lunch kits, the same transportation to and from school, the same relative safety to play, similar extra curricular activities to harness the energy of youth we might see in short time a true national identity emerge, a real 'Trinidadianess' that allows the ideals of the anthem to come true, where ever creed and race could find an equal place.

Now there is a reason that Tobago is not being included in this as their problems, while many and definitely worthy of addressing, are not built around this type of social separation that is creating generations of haves and have nots as in Trinidad, squared off now against each others like strangers from the same land.

But back on point. 'Rise' would have gone further. It would have asked questions as to the drivers behind the ridiculous illiteracy rates in the hotspots, not so much as to ascribe political blame (there are of course people to be blamed, but the blame game alone solves nothing), but to find real and workable solutions. How do you tell a young man 'hustling' for a dollar at a traffic light to 'get a job' when he can barely sign his own name, much less fill out an application form or, once successful past the interview stage, function in a society heavily dependent on communication? Until we start to address the causes of these things we will not understand the frustration that drives our youth to pick up guns to get all the nice things that a job affords, and we wont get past the blood lust now sweeping the nation, celebrating each new successful 'bandit kill.'

I have suggested to the last government and this one that we should create a policy of 'literacy first,' that anyone requiring to access any government jobs, contracts, housing or state assistance of any kind should be made to prove their literacy, and where illiteracy exists, mandated to do a literacy course that teaches the basics and makes it possible for that person to understand what letters are and what they communicate when assembled in deliberate order. Until we treat with the unemployability of much of these young people, we will be actively creating gang members and criminals simply out of lack of choice.

It went further. My proposal also suggests that anyone arrested and charged of any crime be also tested for literacy as it is an internationally accepted fact that hopelessness and the inability to find adequate employment that drives many to a life of crime, and where found to be illiterate, 'sentenced' to complete basic literacy learning along with whatever consequences for the crime committed.

We have to come up higher. There is more. Children who are raised in homes where there is enough love and communication learn things such as values, ethics, character and the other important yet ignored intangibles that make a human whole and functional. The absence of these ideas leaves a void that is filled by the negatives and misinformation in the popular culture, literally moulding deviant minds, and I will deal with that in depth in the follow up column to this one.

Until we are willing to treat with our disadvantaged citizens from a developmental point of view,  until our policies are predicated on creating hope and opportunity where handouts, dependency and the seeds of crime exist we will never solve the problems of poverty and violence. We need to forget this notion of First world Nation status and focus instead on creating a properly constituted, properly managed society for all this nation's citizens. That is a Vision 2020 from which we could all rise.

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