Sunday, March 22, 2015

An Assault on Decency...

It is Sunday morning and I have just spoken with Vernon De Lima who gave me a chilling account of the trauma he and his wife both endured in the wee hours of the morning at the hands of gun toting criminals who invaded their home and terrorised both he and his wife, beat them brutally and mercilessly and left at least one of them for dead. Emotionally i am torn, livid with anger that two such decent people could be put through this at their age, sad for them and their loved ones to have to go through such an ordeal, frustrated for my country.

Immediately after speaking with him the next call i placed was to former Minister of National Security Gary Griffith who is himself incensed over the matter and upset over the whole thing, frustrated that so much good work that was having such a serious impact on the crime situation is now thwarted by cheap politics.

I do not want to politicise this but how can you escape it?

This is a country that routinely boasts of its wealth, yet has produced an 'underclass' of citizens so out of touch and disconnected from the main they exist in a violent and lawless dimension of their own, and it is only when the decent and the law abiding come into savage contact with these beasts do we remember again, having forgotten only hours earlier, that something is badly broken in Trinidad & Tobago.

I was in the process of writing my weekly column for the TNT Mirror when i got the news, and Vernon's decision to go public with the matter redirected my attention and focused it here.

How are we to fix this?

The 'average' Trinidadian and Tobagonian are different people depending on which side of the 'divide' you were born, but why should there be such a divide in the first place? Why such a disproportionate allocation of the national wealth that some people are allowed to succeed while others fail so badly they see the first others as targets and prey? We are a nation of one point three million people. A dot in the scheme of real world politics, why for so much government and governance for such a small place we do such a piss poor job? Why would we not have been able yet to take control of the growing hot spots from inside out, enact by law mandatory literacy, create zero tolerance models against all manner of violent crime and successfully enforced it? Why haven't we been able to secure our six hundred and forty combined square kilometers of coast line to prevent drugs and guns coming in unchecked from the South American mainland, while Cuba's three thousand eight hundred kilometers have been closed shut for fifty plus years, with nothing being allowed in or out unless searched and approved on either side?

What's the difference, political will? Are we in fact a narco-state and there is truth to the rumors that the drug barons prevent us from enforcing our laws? I put to you that crime as a political issue is a non issue and of benefit to no one, but crime as a national issue remains the most important issue after the distribution of this nation's wealth and a conversation we need to have outside of politics.

Nothing shows the lie of the illusion of the socio-economic harmony of T&T that the advertisers try to sell us as the contrast of the serene and manicured Westmoorings community when compared to and contrasted with the indignity of ghetto life one mile away in Cocorite among the residents of Waterhole and Harding place, who live cheek by jowl in board huts with mud floors, trekking up and down steps carved out of the bare earth in unregulated communities not served by any real government save and except for gang control enforced through violence.

How do we tolerate and accept this, knowing full and well we have more than enough money to do better? Do I demonize those who choose the violent way? Routinely and as a matter of course, but to do so without recognizing that they only exist in that squalor because of the hidden will and unspoken agreement of us all is to myself be telling a lie.

Vernon De Lima is a dear friend of mine, he, his wife and children are beautiful, caring and decent people and this should not have been allowed to happen to them. Like every other victim of crime they did not deserve this in any way and we need to own and account for that.

At some point we are going to have to stop playing political games and grow up to our responsibility to each other. At some point we as a people have to put personal selfish wants aside and deal with the collapse of our nation state. We quote often that the strength of the wolf is the pack, yet we omit to remember that the flip side is also true, that the strength of the pack is the wolf. This is not about lock up and lock down as much as sometimes I wish it could be. This is about removing guns from hands that have been hardened by rage and poor choices. We need to invade these ghettos and fight to redevelop them altogether. There will be those who cannot be commanded by laws and for these we have courts and jails and they should be made to pay for their own decisions. For the countless many others who only want a better life and to access what the national anthem offers we owe them as arbiters of power, simply by us being higher up on the social ladder we are obligated to create a space and bring them up higher. It is in our own best interest as it is theirs, and again I say again and again, this is the conversation that we need to have.

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