By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
January 27, 2020
IF one ever believed the PNM Government could solve the present crime epidemic in the country, one had better think again.
It is unlikely to do so for the simple reason that neither our Prime Minister nor Minister of National Security seems to understand the magnitude of the challenges that face our civilisation or way of life.
Dr Keith Rowley has reduced our crime problem to a breakdown of family life among Afro-Trinbagonians, a micro-unit in our social fabric. He argues: ‘Some of the factors fuelling crime include the breakdown of the family unit, particularly in Afro-Trinidadian homes, the lure of easy money and family members turning a blind eye to criminal activities of other people in their homes’ (Express, January 22).
A scrupulous reader may want to ask, is this the primary or secondary reason that accounts for the rising crime levels in black communities and the larger community as a whole? Are there any other factors that may conduce to the antisocial behaviour of black youths throughout the country?
Questions: Do black folks commit crimes because they are black or because of the social and economic conditions in which they live? Are Afro-Trinbagonian families self-sustaining entities that are responsible for their own problems or are there other exogamous factors that cause or contribute to their conditions? Must they look to their own resources to solve their problems? If so, why do they elect governments?
The Prime Minister declares that the level of violence taking place in our community is a spasmodic thing. He says that T&T is a violent society and that the ‘level of violence flares up every so often, and this is one of those periods.’ (Is he serious?) He continues: ‘What we are experiencing now is an inability to restrain that violence at every level, among our schoolchildren, at the homes between spouses, in the streets between persons who are actually strangers.’
This sounds to me like a description of a serious social breakdown, but the PM does not see it that way. He sees it as an episodic moment in our violent social history that will pass away on its own accord.
Nowhere in the Prime Minister’s remarks is there any suggestion that there may be external factors that lead Afro-Trinbagonians to act as they do. Nothing is said about who brings the drugs and the guns into the community; nothing is said about socioeconomic disparities of this community compared with others; nothing about how we can reduce these disparities and increase the economic opportunities and resources for Afro-Trinbagonians.
Italy is undergoing a tremendous demographic crisis: not enough births to ensure the country’s survival. The authorities do not go into people’s bedrooms and ask why they are having less sex. They seek to understand the sociological, economic and cultural factors that are leading to Italians having fewer babies.
Mario Valerio Lo Prete, a specialist on Italian demographics, believes ‘the driving factor behind the low birth rate is a sense among the young that their economic future is bleak and unstable, not simply a slow economy and high youth unemployment.
‘People on the streets are not economists; they are not studying debt to GDP numbers, but they can sense that Italy’s large public debt means there will be less money in the future.’
Matteo Salvini, in his foreword to The Empty Cradle of Civilisation asked: ‘Are we a country facing extinction?,’ to which he answered: ‘Unfortunately yes. A country that does not have children does not have a future.’ (Financial Times, January 19, 2020) Any study of what affects a country’s development or dissolution must look at the internal and external factors that drive its citizens to behave as they do. Afro-Trinbagonians are citizens too.
It is simplistic to suggest that Afro-Trinbagonians are self-destructive people who cannot hold their own people to account and/or report the crimes their children or their spouses commit. Might it not be that they have a better understanding of why their children and spouses act as they do rather than the politicians and their economic exploiters? It is significant that First Citizens made $1.06 billion in profits for the financial year 2018-19.
If we do not understand the magnitude or nuances of the problems one segment of the community faces, it is hardly likely that we can mobilise the tools to solve them.
The danger in the Prime Minister’s prescription is this: if one treats the symptom of a disease (such as a rotting toe) rather than the cause of same (diabetes), one is likely to see the slow ravishing of the patient’s body which ultimately leads to death.
The violence in T&T cannot be reduced to those who want to commit crimes and make people fear them and a tendency to perpetuate violence. Nor can it be reduced to those people who want to create ‘a sense of fear and panic in T&T about what they call the runaway rate of crime.’ (Stuart Young, Express, January 17). The crime epidemic that we are experiencing cannot be reduced to the malignant impulses of certain individuals.
There is nothing wrong in offering these young people the promise of something called ‘ambition’. But it would be better to listen to what they have learned from their life experiences and what discourages them from striving to achieve a good quality of life. In our trying to understand the problems confronting our children we should not confine our diagnosis to their shortcomings alone or the condition of their immediate family.
Perhaps it would be better to ask how we, the larger society, might have contributed to their missteps along life’s way.
None amongst us is without blame.
6 thoughts on “Who is without blame?”
This is a serious situation which has detrimental long term consequences. The prime minister is sleeping at the switch, not only on the issue of crime, but on most consequential issues in T&T. He has delegated responsibilities to certain inside members of his cabinet because he is incompetent and these cabinet ministers themselves are either unqualified or incapable of competent management and leadership.They are too busy politicising every issue in an attempt to convince voters that they should be re-elected
The chief of police is on a daily gun talking ego trip pronouncing at every opportunity instead of quietly focussing on the onerous tasks before him, the primary task being to clean up his own police force.
The big question is, can the Opposition do any better?
It is not much crime but the level of callous criminality involve in the act of violating another human being. I often wonder if these criminals have family or grew up in a loving environment.
My father told me on many occasions “son trouble easy, easy to come but hard to go”. He was right once you align yourself with Lucifer he ensures your casket is loaded with gold (drug money). In my culture the law of sowing and reaping is deeply embedded in our psyche. Therefore, we think more than twice in the act of violent social misbehaviour. We think about our families, the shame our parents would carry, what about the neighbours, what would be their thoughts. Criminals do not consider these things but dream about a life of a lot of money, girls, and endless partying. Southerners were horrified when a 19 year old black male and his two friends one paralyzed and the other dead, abducted two doctors who were relaxing after a tiring shift. He will be charged, he even had a smile on his face whilst exiting the court. One look at his dead friend Facebook page and you can see the hunnies, and the carefree life of pomp and pageantry he lived. Such a life requires a lot of money. Even if it is a short life.
I don’t think that TnT can return to the good old days of civility, humanity and respectability. Once you step out of your house you not sure of returning home. The grim reaper is on the prowl looking for a weak black boy filled with enough hate for his life because of an absence of love. No parent a life filled with misery. He would be the chosen one to pull the trigger and fell the next victim. But can he be stopped? Hardly likely, his sub group of criminals aka gang members depend on him to reap the reward of a few dollars to buy the niceties of life. And so with great certainty we await the next victim or victims…..
Selwyn Cudjoe asks the very relevant question, “Do black folks commit crimes because they are black or because of the social and economic conditions in which they live”? And by the way Selwyn leaves out an important corollary of that question – what are the causes of the social and economic conditions in which black folks live? To which the propagandists have the simplistic political answer – “it’s the Government”. And they leave out the most important factors – history and its attendant sociological and economic consequences. Because that’s what has done to blacks in Trinidad after slavery – coop them up in barrack yards in little areas up North and other urban areas, make it difficult for them to buy land after emancipation while giving away acres of land to newly arrived indentures, throw them into the color coded society where they were at the bottom of the pack sociologically, attack the political party that tried to fight for their rights through scurrilous propaganda that goes on today and now Selwyn Cudjoe, in his analysis, suggests the solution can be found in the ideology of the far right politicians in Europe, Italy in this case. I wonder if Selwyn knows who he is quoting, what they represent, or if he is intellectually out of touch with the cutting edge of ideas or if he is consciously putting out coded messages that would disturb the reader if he or she knew what they implied.
Matteo Salvini, who Selwyn quotes in his article, and who wrote the foreword to “The Empty Cradle of Civilization” is a far right politician, he is a neo-nationalist who believes in the ideology of white nationalism. The declining birth rates in Italy and the influx of immigrants of color represent a crisis for Italy and Europe for the far right. They believe that they are being replaced by non-white immigrants and their solution is to make Europe white again. Here are some quotes from Salvini: “The final objective is not to distribute the migrants among various European countries but to prevent them from entering Europe and from departing from Africa.” “We need a mass cleansing, street by street, piazza by piazza, neighbourhood by neighbourhood.” (Cleansing meaning getting rid of immigrants) “The defense of our values and our identity requires regulation of the Islamic presence and Islamic organizations in Italy.” “I tell the truth and they call me a fascist, a racist, an ugly, dirty, nasty, xenophobic populist.” “I will do everything I can to renew a new Rome-Berlin axis” (referring to the Hitler – Mussolini pact).
One British newspaper, The Guardian, claimed “Matteo Salvini vowed to turn ‘words into action’ in his drive to root out and expel thousands of nomadic Roma from Italy as he shrugged off critics who said the far-right interior minister was adopting illegal policies reminiscent of the country’s fascist past.” The Roma (also known as gypsies) are descended from Indians from North India who settled in Europe centuries ago. Salvini politics and his ideology resemble that of Trump, and Boris Johnson. He is highly regarded by Trump’s former adviser, Steven Bannon, who thinks of himself as uniting the far right movements around the white world. That Selwyn Cudjoe would use Salvini as an example of someone working out a solution to the problems of civilization shows that Cudjoe and the UNC, for whom he seems to be advocating, are moving towards a far right ideology. Selwyn, Jearlean John, and their Committee of Black Opportunists, (COBO), look like they don’t mind being used as front men and women to cloak and disguise that far right ideology.
The year 2020 started with 3 brutal murders. It was a lovers quarrel that saw a girl dead, hogtied and throat slit. Along with two male family members. Then another beautiful young lady in south was shot and killed by her previous male paramour. This was followed a few short days ago in central by a man killing his beautiful wife and then performing a self execution in the most gruesome manner.
Who is to blame here? A neighbour of mines some 30 years ago found out his wife was giving him a serious horn with her boss. He called her up and read her the executioner guide to paradise or in this case hell. Then he hurried home to find his wife with the police who arrested him and throw him in jail. Uttering a death threat. He could not go back to his home. In a court settlement she got the house. Then she decided to sell his house not letting him know. A birdie whispered to him the day of the sale, he raked and scraped and purchased back his own home. The wife all along thought the boss was going to leave his wife and marry her, he flatly refused to leave his wife for the good sex she willingly provided. As a cut tail dog she went back to her former husband and beg his forgiveness to which he flatly refused to reunite with her. Now this man was dragged through the mud and contemplated killing his wife on many an occasion. He had a godly Christian lady who pray for him and talked him out of the temptation of doing the devil work. It was not easy.
Some of these men hold things inside and then explode. If you are going through such tabanca, please go to church or find a good councillor who could keep you mentally stable.
There now seems to be accepted that black people are not successful because they never received land in 1834 when slavery was abolished. However for the past 65 years they have been showered with opportunities by successive PNM governments, including free housing, well paying jobs in the Police, Army, Civil Service, and Oil and Gas sector.
Despite all these privileges they are still blaming others for their lack of progress.
The land that indenture labourers received was land in the swamp and bush areas. The Africanas gravitated towards city areas since the land bore memories of slavery. There in these communities their stories that compose the mosaic of TnT is written.
Indus people did not care much about nation building but rather the cultivation of farm lands and property rights which many family suffered breakup. Today this generation and the previous one are very concern about nation building. And many have stepped up to serve only to discover that there is a thick black cord around government services.
The root of crime is not poverty. Poor people are very proud and many live very honest lives. The root is (1) the break up of the family, that is perpetuated from one generation to the next, (2) the gang culture, (3) laziness.
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