I feel defeated

By Raffique Shah
July 10, 2024

Raffique ShahIt bothers me that I woke up from a sleep that was not exactly restful, scanned the early-morning television programmes, switched to international news, saw Britain’s new Prime Minister make his way into 10 Downing Street and I didn’t even know his name. I didn’t know how his Labour Party came to win the election, and what worries me most is that I don’t care. In fact, for much of this year, governments have changed in a manner that should have meant something to the people, if not directly to us in little Trinidad and Tobago, but that too didn’t mean a thing to me.

Of course, this is all part of growing old. Beside falling victim to a disease that doesn’t exactly help, crime had become a main staple of my life; I guess it’s the same for most people of this country and many others like ours throughout the world. Once you stay in touch with current affairs, be they local, regional or international via electronic, print or the worst of them, social media, you will be gripped by the body count from murders and war, if nothing else.

To escape the gore that is crime, many of my life-long friends tell me they simply switch off their televisions and radios and hardly read the newspapers—that’s how they escape the real world and the huge problem that is crime. Mind you, as geezers we all hope and pray that we do not make it on the list of crime statistics, given the frequency with which they bump off the elderly these days.

Let’s take it a little further now. My generation and the ones before and after had some common-sense solutions that would have brought to an extent then, as they may work now, an alleviation to the crime situation. But then, that’s not wholly true. If my compatriots from those generations had anything substantial to add to the “solutions column” of crime, the country might have been spared the current bloodbath that has reached crisis proportion today.

Those three generations, born between 1920 and 1970, will have held all the critical positions in crime fighting. We—and here I include myself—will have led many social programmes that may have reined in crime. We will also have headed the crime-fighting agencies (yes, Randolph Burroughs was merely ten years older than I), the education systems and been responsible for any successes or failures and where they came from.

In a word, if Trinidad and Tobago messed up from as far back as World War I, then we would all have to share the responsibility for its current state. Not personal, mark you: I am taking no blame because those my age, or a little older than I, had influence in nurturing young folk who became ­invariably exemplary citizens or, at worst, part of the mass that live off the fat of the land.

The generation after mine is where we find the engineers who helped with the transitioning of the economy from oil- to gas-based, the doctors who help upkeep our healthcare system, the innovators, the teachers who continue to mould the great minds of the future, those who made the pan what it is today. We shaped the denominational schools to be as prestigious as they are today. Sadly, it is after this where it all went wrong. Well, not all, but it went substantially wrong.

So, whodunnit?

Our grandchildren are the top gunmen terrorising their own families and training the younger ones in the household to work at every level of the criminal industry. And, believe me, it is an industry, a very fast-growing one, the kind of growth we’d like to see elsewhere. Crime is like a well oiled and maintained machine.

I almost forgot to mention the Godfathers of crime, mostly men my generation and older who inserted their wiles at the highest levels of politics and industry, creating their own empires where politicians fed off them and fleeced the national coffers of millions, nay, billions, maybe tens of billions or more over the years between Independence, where our people held the purse, owned the contractors, shared in the contracts…you get my drift.

It was they who created the various national schemes that did not provide organised labour but organised banditry instead, ave­nues for loyal party hacks and even grassroots supporters to feed at the trough.

The said schemes referred to above and sundry others shared by larger-than-life bandits disguised as ministers, contractors, even priests and soldiers, stoking this fire that threatens to consume us. I do not feel angry; I feel sad and defeated. My country needs good citizens but here I stand lame, near helpless.

I feel defeated.

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