Time to Rewrite the Social Contract

By Raffique Shah
August 29, 2010

TrinidadiansWe have a new Government, a new dispensation – call it what you will – in place. But change, if it’s going to happen, seems, at this point like being in the middle pack of a snails’ marathon covering all the 100 feet. You ask yourself, especially when you come from the Baby Boomers generation, will change come before I die? Will I live to see my country, my people change for the better?

I am not, like many of my generational siblings, asking for us to return to the “good old days”. Many things in our past were bad. Remember hookworms? Chiggers? Chinaponium? Walking for miles, barefoot, to get to school? Kicking a heavy leather football sans “tugs”? Batting without gloves, stones guards, pads and helmets, against bowlers who were hunks?

If I disappoint my “siblings” by not calling for a return to those primitive but daring exploits, I won’t apologize. On the positive side though, it was that generation, and the one before, that stood up and fought valiantly, though mostly in vain, for the betterment of our countries. We dared to challenge “Massa”, colonialism and racism. We opposed war (especially after Hiroshima). We wanted to be left in peace to make love, listen to good, wild music, and maybe to smoke good ganja.

But amidst this seemingly hedonistic lifestyle, we also strived to educate ourselves, a small number achieving university education (for which they and their parents worked and paid), others acquiring skills that would enable them to earn a living, and yet others successfully tilling the soil. We, and our parents before us, worked damn hard for what little we acquired, which in most instances, was not much beyond what was required to live on, without having to steal from others.

If we sinned, it was in breeding a new generation that found life too easy. We provided them with luxuries like transport to their classrooms (so they forgot the naturalness of walking), money to buy fast foods for lunch (they never savoured good sada-rpto amd fru-aloo, or bake abd buljol, or even wind-pies-with tap-water). Some afforded their apples-of-the-eye private gyms or music lessons-no simple jogging or table tennis, or learning pan music under tamarind trees.

So while we enjoyed good times and endured bad, we rolled with both. However, we spawned a generation steeped in dependency. Let’s be realistic. Even those who benefited from free schooling (note, I did not say education) expect to start at the top of the ladder. Others who threw away these opportunities have morphed into the gimme-gimme gangs, whether it’s whiling away time on URP projects with guaranteed earnings, or acquiring their wants (not needs) by robbing, even killing us. We are now victims of the beasts-in-human-form we spawned.

What is officialdom’s response to the overwhelming negatives that pervade the society? Pamper them some more. Maybe they will feel sorry for us and actually learn something. Hell, we are spending $83 million to give them laptop computers. We spend $2 billion on GATE. One minister (either Fazal Karim or Tim Gopeesingh), said under-achievers are clogging tertiary institutions.

At workplaces, many “graduates” just occupy space but do little or nothing to justify their salaries. They treat the public they are paid to serve like globs of gobar. The senior officers, those who can make things happen, seem preoccupied with their looming pensions – not with leaving rich legacies, with advising ministers on matters that require urgent attention.

Case in point: within two weeks, two sections of the Hochoy Highway collapse, compounding daily traffic nightmares. Tell me, who are the people responsible for checking on the integrity of our nation’s main arteries? Were they sleeping so they missed these mishaps in the making?

And why must they, along with deviant police officers, errant public sector workers, enjoy security of tenure” It is high time my trade union comrades stop defending the indefensible! A new social contract is long overdue. With a new Government in place, it may well be the right time to rewrite and archaic system, put in place a concordat in which productivity, dedication to duty, and proper work attitudes count for something.

I am sure the delinquent police officers I wrote about last week remain neatly ensconced in uniform, with not even an investigation held to find out if they were culpable. In a new world, the real world, they will be skating on their backsides, job-hunting without references. Junior and senior public officers who hinder progress ought to be similarly dealt with, with the full backing of their representative unions.

I should add that I am not shielding supervisors and managers who oversee this sea of sewage that passes for work ethic. You cannot have unproductive or delinquent workers without ineffective or deviant managers. Fire their backsides too! It happens in the private sector, so why not in the public sector? Are there sacred cows and fattened calves in the latter?

Bull, I say. This country will remain steeped in stagnation, quite unlike the BRIC exemplars, for as long as we pander to the worst facets of human misbehaviour. From top to bottom, we must be prepared to clean the Trinidad and Tobago stables, flushing the “bull-purge” with high-pressure hoses.

Forty-eight years after independence, we must refuse to accept mediocrity at all levels in our society.

9 Responses to “Time to Rewrite the Social Contract”


  • Raff, there was a gap betwen the days you remember, and where we are now. It was called the seventies- a time of Jack Parr whisky and paper dresses when outsiders came in by droves to suck the wealth out, and give us new lifestyles that were to our detriment. We “hated” Dr. Williams because of his “negatie lists” which included some TV programs, certain magazines and so on. Immediately, putting these things on the negatie list made the demand for them greater.

    Those were the days when one word from the neo-colonial bosses could have doomed you to stay at the bottom rung of any promotional ladder, until kingdom come.

    They were the days of inquiry ito the Garment Industry, and a woman at the Chaguaramus hearing saying out loud on TV, what else the boss wanted for giving her a wuk.(It was a wukover he wanted, same like the Chinese shopkeeper who fathered many children with the women who took goods on trust).It was the time right after the first wave of free university education(I went i n 64-67), when people with a certain vision of who we are started the Unit Trust Corporation and such projects.
    We were proud of who we were, and we had friends all over the colour scheme.

    Then something began to happen in the eighties- a period of you go to your corner and I go to mine. Big money was flowing and fuelling not only big dreams but big crooks, big missionaries coming to “save us from sin” and getting filthy rich in the process.We lost our way. The poor areas of East POS and some rural areas became flooded with cheap drugs. I wrote a piece ,published in the Express in March of 1984, that spoke of rampant drug abuse among school children. Because this concided with so much extra noise in the town, no one seemed to notice how loud and excitable the school children were.I saw it on Frederick Street a day when tranquility shut down early,because of no water.

    We hve continued to slide, with racism continuing to rise.
    Violence too, has escalated, and people who failed to notice that Belmont Methodist had holes in the floor through which teachers fell, or that the Anglican school by the Flyover,(POS) looked about to fall over,and Santa Cruz RC had the steps fallen away, began to complain that children in the north were wasting time in school. It was the time when a panel of socil workers and businessmen in central, concerned about family sexual abuse,produced the video “Shattered Lives”; today, the descendants of those same businessmen may say “you being racial” even though the girl documented her abuse before her suicide.
    Dr. Ian Millar, my sons’doctor had said “make sure they know how to do things with their hands” what foresight! We abandonned doing things with our hands, for storebought, as you said, and could not understand why we stay poor.Poor people become desperate.The story continues later.

    • We have continued to slide, with racism continuing to rise.
      Linda.

      What racism??? Only weak people need race to survive. They become racist because it is the only way to get attention and government symphathy. As my good friend from the “black power” movement of the 1970s used to say “there is only one race the human race”. I agreed with him. Hitler wanted to impose his racist view in the world and where is he… The Klu Klux Klan tried the same and now where are they… The whites in South Africa tried to make racism the state law and all came crumbling down… The PNM tried to bring in racism into T&T and where are they… They all fall down like humpty dumpty.

      Trinidad does not have a race problem. All Trinis are related. It is only the African American special agents sent here by the American Black Caucus whose primary focus is on race are the one stirring this artificial race pot. Afro Trinis do not have anything to complain about in the area of race because they have been the prime beneficiaries of the racist PNM programs. Over 80% of government jobs went to Afro Trinis. Police, Coast Guard, Army, Sautt, in fact any service in T&T where you are required to carry a gun is filled with mainly Afro Trinis. Nothing wrong with that. However, some would want Afro Trinis to mentally become enslaved to the spirit of victimhood for the sole purpose of controlling them. They interpose their own ethnocentric bias on the minds of the unsuspecting Afro Trinis. This after they govern T&T for about 50 years. We will not fall for such stupidity. After all everyone should benefit from the national patrimony, not only Afro Trinis…And it is long overdue. Now watch how the racist comes out of the woodworks like the coackroaches in heat…

  • “I am sure the delinquent police officers I wrote about last week remain neatly ensconced in uniform.” Yes Uncle Shah , and they are going to remain right there waiting to sock it to some clueless Canadian foreigner Commissioner , unlike your Trini Brigadier who has to deal with unrepentant ,lawless, weed smoking, civilian abusing ,Tethron soldiers ,that remained ensconced in military uniforms. Perhaps this doom and gloom is Panday’s , and Shah final revenge on the nation.
    Something tells me that within the next four years or less ,more of our citizens would be bombarding the foreign embassies across the nation, in their quest to permanently leave this crazy country, led by Mandam K and her change agent bandwagon. Many just ain’t buying , and perhaps they have been spoiled by PNM quick fixes, and life of painless leisure, hummm?
    I feel your pain Uncle Shah, but I have reminded you guys, along with local intellectual ,African guru Chalkdusk ,that there was only one magician to ever grace our country , and his name was Ram Kirpalani.
    Remember him? You should, for he was the only man to come from India bear feet ,baggy pants, and really scrunting , with perhaps 50 Rupees in his pocket, and miraculously converted that to 100 million all by his lonesome, with absolutely no help from any single Trinidadian , whether government ,or employee.
    In the case of your new regime , they are attempting to do the impossible as well, and not even Papaniza, Father John from Mt St Benedict, or any Hindu /Baptist flags praying , and or Rosicrucianism / Lodge child sacrifices , can save them.
    Let me spell out the challenge ,our cheering fat cats media agents are ignoring. They include, trying to achieve change , by doing the same nonsense as practiced by the two last respective governments ran by Basdeo , and his so called ,arch nemesis Manning.
    The clock is ticking my friend. You are correct , and perhaps that is what your new leaders are banking on- young people today do not have the fight in them like you and Rex did as naive, idealistic ,25 year olds back in the days.
    I guess one of two thing occurred, environmental poisons from oil and gas made them soft , and complacent , or dilution of the species, brought on by PNM political gerrymandering escapades in unmentionable selective enclaves across the nation.
    Now who is to blame for that?
    There is still hope that one of our better schooled national Sir Vidia , may write a novel and offer better hope. It’s why we need all hands on deck . ‘Me think’ however, that Sir Vidia , who is an ardent anti colonialist ,may frown on neo colonialism as played out in our country ,first, by Canadians Uncle Hart, and now Uncle.. , what is our new Edmonton /Trini Commissioner again?
    As the wisest women to ever lived used to say aloud in my presence, “Lord put a hand , and if you can’t put a hand, then put a foot,” on this confuse nation,that’s obviously devoid of any real leaders.
    You know what , in the spirit of giving back,I would take the initiative and do like another Nobel writer- who unlike Sir Vidia our non patriotic hero, still cares about his home- in my African Ibo brother, Wole Showenka , and write a play on the precarious political state of my country , like he did on Nigeria. I will name it ‘Six of One ,& Half – a Dozen of the Other.’ Sound good?

  • We worked so hard making a livlihood for ourselves, we failed to make a life for our children. I agree, we and they must now write a new concordat. At the core of it must be performance, not merely showing up; education, not mere certification.

  • Word press, what the f–k is the matter with you? You wait until I press “submit”, for my usualll learned comment on an issue, them call it ‘spammy’. what kind of an idiot is managing this site?. To prove my point it was necessary to call to specific refeences, including those made by a prvious commenter. You idiots! No wonder this spce has now become one of invective hurled at irate persons by other irate persons.

  • What T&T needs is a new generation of thinkers. We have too many school programs that are passing failing students. The social contract conducted by the PNM was one of the best. Housing, education, jobs plus corruption. Manning understood that if he gave his supporters bread and cheese they will not mind if he built a palace for himself and hired Filipinos to run it. Thus he went crazy with social programs.

    We need to re-think all of this and re-work the social programs to create a culture of less dependency and one of more productivity. What this mean is government having various consultantions to take a critical look at what needs to be done to end the “freebies”.

    Government needs to have (1) Town hall meetings,to formulate a national vision (2) Engage the academics in a re think of nationalism, (3) Built a more meritorious base education that rewards hard work. (4) Evaluate all social programs. Drop the ones that are an unnecessary drain on the treasury.(5) Develop a comprehensive five year plan. (6) Focus on building more businesses. (7) develop a set of core-values, that will direct the ship of state.

  • Shah rightfully complains about the inadequacies of the education system, the ineptitude of the public service, the incompetence of the police service, the inefficiencies of the infrastructure, and the ineffectiveness of the country’s supervisors and managers.
    He correctly emphasizes that the time has for change and for a new “social contract”. But what are his recommendations for change, for steering the country and its people in a new direction?
    He resorts to the only strategy with which he is familiar, force, and “flushing the “bull-purge” with high- pressure hoses.
    “Forty-eight years after independence, we must refuse to accept mediocrity at all levels in our society”. (Shah)
    If it were that simple, change would have automatically occurred a long time ago. “Fire their backsides too! It happens in the private sector, so why not in the public” (Shah). Surely, Shah should realize by now that this is a strategy which is not only unrealistic, but unworkable within the labor codes of most civilized countries in the universe. Actually the attitude taken by Shah, points to one of the major flaws in the Trini personality and in people in positions of power.
    Presently the belief is that the introduction of laptops, new exam schedules and tougher testing would result in an improvement in education… highly unlikely.
    Also, it is believed that a reduction in crime would result with the introduction of foreign personnel and the return of capital punishment…..highly unlikely.
    The cultural change of which Shah speaks cannot be forced on the society, a society steeped in phony colonialism, rampant corruption, antiquated thinking, and defined social classes and castes. The change recommended by Shah will be a slow, difficult and soul searching process requiring honesty and cooperative ventures.

  • beware of false profits.

  • Bad seed was planted a long time ago in T&T by very selfish people of immense power. It is no longer important who these people were just as it is not important who spilled the milk that must be cleaned up in order to move forward. Isn’t it ironic like many other instances in life in T&T that the other government always has to clean up the mess of a PNM government? Well some might say this is how life is until….a serious revolution of change comes along that begs to make things different. That’s the real change T&T struggles for. Seeing that most of T&T know how to copy others, or should I say like to copy the Americans, isn’t it reasonable to think that one day their important historic moment of 1776 will be in kind that T&T is up against in the near future. Isn’t this what most historians would agree to? Every country will have its pain of serious defeat where the worst will come to pass before its patriotic strength can emerge….just like the America we look up to. Surely, we are heading in that direction at great speeds.

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