By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
August 06, 2019
Last Sunday, four of the five Sunday columnists of this newspaper wrote about the crime problem that confronts the nation. The Sunday Guardian also published a long investigative piece on the subject. On Monday, Archbishop Charles Jason Gordon talked about the pervasiveness of crime and concluded that ours is “a culture of disrespect.” At a fundamental level, it is more an economic-philosophical than a moral question. Left unattended and incorrectly analyzed, it will lead to greater degeneracy.
In a highly readable obituary on Alfred Marshall, the English economist John Keynes wrote:
“The subject of economics does not seem to require any specialized gifts of an usually high order… [It is] an easy subject at which very few excel! The paradox finds its explanation, perhaps, in that the master-economist must possess a rare combination of gifts…
“He must be mathematician, historian, statesman, philosopher—in some degree… He must contemplate the particular in terms of the general, and touch abstract and concrete on the same flight of thought. He must study the present in light of the past for the purposes of the future. No part of man’s nature or his institutions must lie entirely outside his regard” (The Economic Journal, September 1924).
Last week I called on the government to suspend the Toco-Manzanilla Highway (cost $2-5 billion) and to pour those funds into educational, cultural, and social programs for our younger people. Such programs should be intensified during August holiday and continued during the school year between the dreaded hours, 3 to 6 pm.
My critics would say that the money for the Toco-Manzanilla Highway has been accepted on certain conditions from different funding agencies and international lenders. If the government cannot be released from that commitment, then we should find equivalent funds for that program. After all, Republic Bank made $2.4 billion last year, so finding equivalent funds should not be a difficult assignment.
The prime minister outlined the seriousness of our condition at his Emancipation Dinner. “He lamented that although slavery had ended centuries ago, things seem to be going in circles. Because it began with blood, the loss of value of life [sic]. And today we are well into the 21st century and, if one might be a little cynical, you might want to think that we are recreating an environment we have known once before, particularly for African people.…
“I want to call out to you to say let us use Emancipation to acknowledge our history, our past, our ancestry, but let us add to that a requirement for those of us who are alive here and who have responsibilities, whether it is in the home, in the church, in the school and in the street, to accept responsibility in the context that we are not yet fully emancipated” (Express, July 29).
I am sure the prime minister knows that slavery was primarily an economic rather than a moral phenomenon. If the past was as horrendous (and it was) and things are getting worse, the answer does not lie in increased moral suasion since the moral is always imbricated within, or even prior to, the economic. More thought ought to be given to the economic aspect of the problem.
In 2004, I responded to Selwyn Ryan’s article “The Meaning of True Emancipation” in which he asked if we are “truly emancipated” or possess “full cultural emancipation.” I wrote:
“Freedom or emancipation does not come from or by pronouncements. It comes from activity in the real world and what we do to transform that world and make it livable.… It also consists in having control over ourselves and nature and implies disciplining our passions, be they sexual or otherwise, as we seek to achieve collective goals…
“In a way, there is no such animal as ‘true emancipation’ or ‘full cultural emancipation.’ People are like projects. We are always in a state of becoming, the critical questions revolve around the ideal (what we should like to be) and the real (how things really are) and how to integrate them into an ongoing source of inspiration” (trinicenter.com, August 19, 2004).
No one is ever “fully emancipated” but we enhance the liberation process by setting up and participating in projects that create an environment that shows we care for the mental well-being of the least amongst us, increasing their intellectual capacity, and reducing the violence that inheres in our present condition. It’s an unending dialectical process.
On July 26, Merle Singh-Sebero was killed by a bullet to her head. Her grandson lamented: “You can’t walk in the night because people are watching you. When they are robbing sick people who are mentally challenged, what will they do again? They will kill everything, even your dog” (Express, July 27).
Lord Kitchener says that the road make to walk on carnival day. The way things are going we will not be able to walk on any road on carnival or any other day. Perhaps, the time has come to think about development in terms of people’s ability to walk the road, freely and unobstructed.
Because it began “with blood” and the brutifying of our people’s sensibility we need to look at the optimal conditions that can release our people from living under conditions that dehumanize them. In doing so, we may need to look at the spiritual/intellectual food that we offer them.
Morally uplifting sentiments must be accompanied by “good works.” In the New Testament, James asked: “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he has faith, and have not works?”
Oh, that we may walk on our roads at any time and place.