‘Where Is There?’

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
November 21, 2022

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeThere is a wonderful exchange in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland between Alice and the Cheshire Cat that is relevant to Karen Nunez-Tesheira’s quest to become the leader of the People’s National Movement (PNM).

It goes like this:

Alice: “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

The Cheshire Cat: “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”

Alice: “I don’t much care where.”

The Cheshire Cat: “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”

Alice: “…so long as I get somewhere.”

The Cheshire Cat: “Oh, you’re sure to do that, if only you walk long enough…”

Nunez-Tesheira’s long-shot challenge to Keith Rowley’s leadership led me to ask: “how do you pick a road to somewhere when you don’t know where you are going? How do you get there when you don’t know where there is?”

Anyone in T&T who wishes to lead the PNM (and/or the society) must address three questions—How do we empower black people in the society? How do we tackle the spate of crimes in the country and the constant flooding that is our daily lot? And how does one approach the under-performance of black children in the under-performing schools?

Over the past few months Prof Roger Hosein of The University of the West Indies has been linking the spiralling of crime with the decline of our society. A few weeks ago, he asked: “How can you have an intelligent conversation with anybody when the murder level is so high? Who in their right mind will invest here in the way they will want to invest? Half the money will go into burglar proofing, another part has to go for security guards. Every time you hear a noise, you have to go outside and check. If you are a researcher, what type of productive output will you get? If you are a shopkeeper and every ten minutes you think someone will rob you, how much economic activity will you get done? Your talent and capacity will be diminished by fear.” (Guardian, October 30.)

There is much truth in Hosein’s observation, although I am not too sure crime necessarily diminishes the intellectual output of a serious scholar. Sometimes it increases it.

Hosein also claims T&T’s economy has been on a downward slide since 2015. He asks: “What has been the impact of seven consecutive years of decline on T&T’s economy? In particular, how has it affected the distribution of income across different occupations and industrial groups and across geographical lines?” (Guardian, November 17.) I would have preferred if Prof Hosein had told us how such a declining economy impacts those black males who live at the precarious edges of the society and the commission of crimes.

Just as important: do these young black men commit crimes because of the colour of their skin; the social conditions in which they live (poor, under-served communities); or because of certain biological impulses? In this context, Richard Dawkins, the author of The Selfish Gene, argues that we are not talking so much about “conscious motives”, but of “the basic impulse of biological drives”.

Since Nunez-Tesheira wishes to lead our country, I was wondering what her thoughts were on the questions posed above. Since economics alone cannot explain human behaviour, I was wondering if she had given any thought to a more comprehensive solution to these fundamental problems.

A few days ago I was speaking with a medical doctor. He informed me that the social environment in which young men live can increase their testosterone levels. People with higher testosterone tend to be more violent and are more likely to survive in a calamitous environment. Dawkins reminds us that “you can make some inferences about a man’s character if you know something about the conditions in which he has survived and prospered” (The Selfish Gene).

The second question has to do with the under-performance of black children in under-served communities. Over the years commentators such as Theodore Lewis have talked about how the constant diminishment of our human talent in these schools has left a large proportion of young black people uneducated and prone to violence. Almost always, they end up working at fast-food joints or as security guards, guarding the very properties that were responsible for their debasement in the first place.

This situation is not unlike what we find in many American communities. In spite of all the attempts to raise the academic standard for African American students, and the use of race as one of the criteria to increase black enrolment at the university level, “US primary and secondary schools are still highly segregated by race, and the situation is worse today than it was 30 years ago” (Financial Times, November 14).

In our case, it may be a combination of race, class and an indifference to the sanctity of these young lives that keeps us from advancing their well-being scholastically, socially and culturally. How, indeed, can we grapple with the urgency of this problem?

As Nunez-Tesheira asks PNM members to support her candidacy, is she willing to stand up for the improvement of black people? Is she willing to articulate a programme that speaks to the rampant crime, the miseducation of black people, and the flooding that has become so prevalent in the island?

Like Alice, I ask Nunez-Tesheira, “Which way should we take from here” and what is the vision of the society you wish to create?

Like the Cheshire Cat, I would advise: “Whatever you do, please speak your truth firmly, publicly and privately, and be prepared to defend the interests of all people, no matter in which circle you happen to find yourself.”

7 thoughts on “‘Where Is There?’”

  1. “Over the past few months Prof Roger Hosein of The University of the West Indies has been linking the spiralling of crime with the decline of our society”

    “Dem fellas like they don’t care”…my friend exclaimed in exasperation. My other friend said the same thing “those in authority don’t care about the people”. Then the long discourse into look at roads, the poor drainage, the landslides, nothing is getting fixed always some excuse. When citizens sees problems not being addressed they begin to lose hope for a better nation. National morale drops considerably. It is near Christmas and my friend said business “dead”, nobody buying or have money to buy.

    The honourable Prime Minister said as his thesis statement for governance “ we weaning citizens off the government / treasury”. Since then money is being spent in the last seven years with nothing to show, unlike the “thiefin Kamla” who completed Diego Martin Highway, built a 103 schools, UWI South, Point Fortin, Couva, Arima Hospitals, the Point Fortin Highway, increase old age pension, gave government employees over 25% plus housing (yet the scumbags vote against her). Tribalist can’t see beyond today.

    But back to crime. The government has a massive fund raising drive. Overnight they reducing the speed limit and charging speeders $2000. Citizens are held in contempt by the nefarious actions of this government who are good at exploiting citizens. If your tire smooth a $1000 fine…and the fines are ridiculously high. The real criminals are in charge. As KPB said “ if the government not working for you, they working against you”.

    Crime will only increase, the murder rate stands at a staggering 544 homicides with no end in sight. Man get killed “he was involved in something”….

    Unfortunately all the symbols of “failed nation status” is here. A deficit at over $135 billion, due to extreme borrowing. The hidden secret is red China owns TnT economy as the Minister of finance said it easier to get a few billion dollar loans because it’s less red tape… on the upside Barbados and Guyana is doing well. The Brits and Yanks are telling their citizens to avoid parts of Trinidad or avoid coming altogether. Can’t say I blame them if the bandits don’t get you flooding will.

    Nobody cares except for a few…..a once great nation gone, in just 2 elections, we like it so!

  2. A few questions we need to ask ourselves before we can move forward in this debate:

    1. Is the under served Trinidad Black person more prone to indulging in criminal activities than their racial brethren in Barbados, Grenada and the rest of the world?
    2 . Why are there so many under served Black Communities and children in T & T when their Black Party (PNM) has been in power for more than 50 years?
    3. Will a change in Government solve some of these problems?

    Nuff Said

    1. Mitra baboo, the PNM constituents are the best served in the country. Over $19 billion was spent, just before elections, have you ever wondered where that money was spent and who were the recipients of it. Did you Mitra get a grant for $10,000 and an additional $14,000 for home repairs? Who received such?

      Since 1956, the people who received the most from the government are our beloved PNM brothers and sisters, housing, government jobs, grants etc. Mitra that is the reason the PNM is in power. No PNM constituency is under served. Please give your head a shake….Go do the research and check how much money is given to Port of Spain and Diego Martin regional corporations, then compare it with Siparia, Penal Debe corporations. I am sure you would feel like someone “taser” you.

      The PNM give contracts for schools and everything else to PNM supporters. Lara Stadium got a $19,000,000 power washing contract. Mitra do your homework go check who get that contract. Foster the latest PNM bright boy is buying up land and housing all over the place. Mitra where he get that money? You might be surprise at how much contracts he getting from balisier house…. Nuff said.

  3. It seemed predictable to me in the late 80s that the quality of education, it’s value and it’s success was already at risk . There is a very unfortunate persistent tide of plebeians which is encouraged and then rewarded .
    It is not all a loss but very stark and dramatic change must happen in Trinidad & Tobago to move beyond this boundary . De dragon will dance but to ones who know it well. Where will the stability come from , who will challenge corruption , will outstanding trinbagonians come from a few who can stand out others just scraping a life . Listen to Cudjoe there is insight .

  4. Dear All !
    Quote : ” the constant flooding that is our daily lot?
    Flooding , I know it from my 12 years living by you . Flooding was like normal and the water dissappeared quickly . Eccept one time , coming from San Fernando the Southern main road was flooded by Claxton Bay .
    But now , Sorry for you , I just read about the last three years .
    12 hours rain fall ? Unimaginabel .
    Where is There ?
    Alice in wonderland : The Leaders of today .

    You have , the World has , a World Government .
    It is Visible . HERE , in your hand , on your desk and soon according to the Technocrats , in your Head and on your dinnerplate , lab grown , ethical clean and sickness free food .

    Bon appetite ! From Italy . Good Day .

  5. The Minister Vickram Bharat has said it as plain as day- We don’t want Ramps Logistics in Guyana.

    Ramps Logistics must pack up their bags and leave Guyana with immediate effect.

    The oil belongs to Guyanese who stayed and remained. You stinking Trinis are coming to Guyana like locusts and that isn’t right.

    Tell Ramps Logistics that they are not welcome in Guyana. Go back to Trinidad.

    We don’t want your people here in Guyana anymore. We are rich in oil. Thank you for forgiving our debts, but we honestly don’t need your patronage anymore.

    Guyana is for Guyanese only. Stay away from Guyana and let us enjoy our massive oil wealth. We will live like the Saudis and Qataris and buy up the entire Trinidad economy.

    1. Yes we understand but Eric gave Burnham $500 million U.S. in oil credits. Under Panday it was all forgive, because you all were poor and it was better to help you as such out of the goodness of our hearts.

      Trinidad has over 100 years in oil expertise and Guyanese should use that expertise instead of giving everything to Uncle Sam. After all without that $500 million in oil credits Guyana would not have survived.

      We can only wish Guyana the best. And remind them to stay humble when dealing with Trinis.

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