Corrupting Our Morals

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
May 16, 2012

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeCorruption takes various forms. Sometimes it is as deliberate as paying someone to give a view that is favorable to one’s position; sometimes it involves simply stealing another man’s purse through devious means; sometimes it entails padding the payroll so that someone gets more money than he or she worked for. Sometimes it even involves using one’s talent, be it mental or physical, and placing it at the behest of the highest bidder. Sometimes it is as blatant as the acts of Calder Hart or Bernie Madoff.

It is important to point out that the tendency to participate in corrupt practices lurks immediately beneath what appears to be perfectly textured moral surfaces. In spite of protestations to the contrary, it doesn’t take much to stir up these tendencies and set them in motion. So that when “respectable” members of the community begin to show their corrupt side we ought not to be too shocked. It is a vulnerability to which many of us succumb even when we pretend to be the embodiment of rectitude.

On Friday last, Irene Medina revealed that at long last Professor Selwyn Ryan’s five-person committee had begun its work; it having been appointed by Cabinet “to enquire into the root causes of the problems identified and shown by crime statistics, particularly as it affects Trinidad males, and to suggest solutions to the problems identified.” Presumably Tobago males, a group apart, are not an important subset of the nation’s problem.

As it sets to work, it is important to remember why this committee came into being and why if it asks the wrong question; applies an inappropriate philosophical lens; contains the wrong mix of expetise its outcomes are guaranteed to be dubious. In other words, the mere desire to “eat ah food,” as Medina’s article suggests, cannot be the major imperative that impels this committee forward. In Dependency and Development in Latin America, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, sociologist and former president of Brazil, suggested that in thinking of social change, one ought “to pay attention to ideologies and to intellectual capacity to assess possibilities for change. In decisive historical moments, political capacity (which includes organization, will and ideologies) is necessary to enforce or to change a structural situation.”

One would remember that prior to the selection of this committee crime had risen aplenty, particular in communities that are predominantly African areas such as Laventille, Morvant and Maloney. To combat these crimes, the People’s Partnership (PP) decided to implement a State of Emergency (SOE) that targeted these communities. Suddenly, the government arrested black youths in those communities, some 1,600 of them. No such sweeps were made in Caroni or Carpichima, it being presumed that these “peaceful Indian communities” were bereft of the crimes that led to the declaration of the SOE.

In their haste to stigmatize and contain black youth, the government built detention camps to house these young men which gave it the distinction of being the first government in the modern history of the island to engage in such an anti-human behavior against what they consider an antisocial population. Not even during colonialism did the British government commit such a crime against Africans or, for that matter, East Indians. The high percentage of African males who were swept up by the police suggests they ought to be the subject of the study.

The committee consists of Ryan, a political scientist; Indira Rampersad, a political scientist; Marjorie Thorpe, literature professor with UN experience; Patricia Mohammed, professor of Gender and Cultural Studies; and Lennox Bernard, a teacher for 48 years who seems to be concerned about what he calls the weakness of a “learning culture in many black homes.”

The committee does not possess a sociologist, a criminologist or an economist. It does not posses a young person; three fifths of the members are over sixty years of age and it includes no one from the affected communities. At best, it is UWI-centric; go-to persons under any and all circumstances. Apart from Professor Ryan, Dr. Bernard stands out. He places a lot of blame for the social unrest on the African community who, in his words, “perceive school as a glorified day care center that will magically do what is necessary to provide society with a responsible and industrious citizen.”

Anand Ramlogan gave the committee its remit at the end of last year. He said the committee should pay due attention “to young black and Indian males in both urban and rural communities.” It would be interesting to see how a committee that arose in response to the sweeping arrest of over 1,000 young men, 95 per cent of whom were from the targeted communities, responds to “the criminality” that is supposed to exist in black and Indian males.

It would also be interested to see how the behavior of young black males, influenced primarily by Christian/African religious teachings differs from youths who are shaped primarily by Hindu theology and practices. It would also be important to see how slavery and indentureship impacted upon these two groups differentially and how their sociological formation was shaped in responses to the imperatives of their world. Using the tools of dialectical sociology, it would be good to see how the absence of jobs in Morvant and Laventille and the increasing pauperization of the black community contribute to social dysfuntionality in those areas.

Given the enormity of their task–six months is short time to come up with anything meaningful answers even if they worked 24/7. The absence of the necessary expertise; the political biases of most of the members of the committee and even their anti-African prejudices make it difficult to anticipate how helpful their report will be.

I will await their report. I also hope they act as professionals. Whatever their conclusion, unlike Mephistopheles in Goethe’s Dr. Faust, I hope they do not sell their souls to the devil and thereby cynically betray black people for a few pieces of silver. Therein lies the real corruption and the tendency to be intellectually deceptive.

10 Responses to “Corrupting Our Morals”


  • This classic response from Cudjoe is typically Trinidadian in its very bombastic nature. Cudjoe immediately presents his biased assumptions regarding Ryan’s Crime committee by casting aspersions on its members. He accuses the Committee of being anti- African and continues to suggest that they are all unqualified for this task, and implies, if not directly states, that they are corrupt, and in it for monetary compensation.
    He does not stop there. He goes on to predict the failure of this committee and suggests that the outcome would be unfavorable and possibly ineffective.
    He leaps into his distorted analysis of the SOE, refusing to accept the reality of the crime hot spots in Trinidad. He once again drags “race” into the debate by failing to recognize that the Police can only arrest those committing the crimes. He fails to recognize the temporary effectiveness of the SOE. The statistics clearly indicate that crime was substantially reduced during this period, in spite of some serious errors made by the Police.
    Although he is correct to point out that unemployment among young Black males might be responsible for their deviance, he is quick to make excuses on their behalf without recognizing their responsibility in seriously pursuing education, training, parenting and responsible living.

  • Davy de Verteuil

    In light of the above one can say the same with regard to the 1990 COI which is dominated by hind-sight and anti Manning bashing, as if at all-he had any involvement.If at all July90is avoided then indeed denial alludes to its “committee” corruption. Unresolved historical wrongs have always been the foremost element of corruption=Denials aka omissions

  • “He once again drags “race” into the debate by failing to recognize that the Police can only arrest those committing the crimes. He fails to recognize the temporary effectiveness of the SOE. The statistics clearly indicate that crime was substantially reduced during this period, in spite of some serious errors made by the Police.” ……..TMan
    Let us take this one at a time : 1. The professor brings race into the debate 2. The police can only arrest those comitting crimes 3. He fails to recognize the temporary effectiveness of the SOE 4. The statistics clearly indicate that crime was substantially reduced during this period.
    There is something wrong with all of these statements. The fact that the professor brings out “race” is because this is the first government in the history of our country to be so openly discriminating in it’s view of people depending on their racial background. It is governed by men and women who have long history of racial biases and ideologies. To suggest that the police can only arrest people for the crimes they commit is a fallacy in practice by this government. There were thousands of young black men arrested (powers given by the SOE) and charged with crimes that evidence could not have been sustained during that period. People were arrested for plotting the demise of the PM and her ministers, charges that were so inherently false that they had to be dropped. In the age of the PP the Police service had become a political arm of governing that trust and service were less trusting than in prior years. Black men were targeted for every imagined crime that there were no evidence to sustain. To suggest that the SOE was “effective” is like saying “the percentage of crime is less in the prisons”, it did not in itself lend the population’s behaviour to be less criminal. This regime believes that “good” politics is the same as “good” governance, hence policies are not grounded in studied practices, therefore work have to be done in a vie-ki-vie way and we have to rely more and more on “who we know” rather than “what we know”. While having the government you prefer “in power” offer it’s supporters a feeling of accomplishments, it may NOT necessarily translate to better transparency, oversight, delivery of services, security, health, food production, transportation and a host of essential services to the benefit of the population at large. People like TMan fans the drum of hate with a seemingly rational cocktail of “we time now” but add up what he is saying is a recipe for disaster and dysfunctionality.

  • Here is what should happen. People should be good parents to their children. They should feed them, clothe them, nurture them, dicipline them, and encourage them. They should make them in the image of themselves when they send them in public. Parents should teach their children right from wrong and hold them accountable. Parent should teach their children to respect other people and the possesions of others. Please add on if I forgot to mention something.
    What has happened, is that a dispropotionate amount of one type of Trinidadian has come into contact with the law more than others. Why? Lets start with what I stated should happen when it comes to how parents should teach their children.
    If anyone can say that the majority of the young men detained where detained while trying to improve themselves or their communities and where not causing harm to anyone or anything, then there is a definate problem with racial profiling and race.

  • Sociallized with you last Saturday nite, PSA 0/0. Great Story, where was I when they were giving away those delinquent loans.

  • Linda Edwards, class of '67

    The police canot arrest those committing crimes, especially sex crimes and spouse murder, when the perp kills himself. Does this figure into the equation of those who assign the crimes to the Laventille set? How many of those small fry have been arrested since Ish and Steve, Bas and Carlos and their cohorts were first indicted of crime? How many since JAck was first accused of expropriating the funds for the Soca Warriors? The small fry are made examples of. They need to try to reach higher, like Harrinarine and Co.I suppose giving yourself a seven million dollar loan of someone else’s life savings does not constitute a crime, but snatching a handbag on Frederick street is?

  • Linda Edwards, class of '67

    In the midst of the roiling gutter of filth, called current politics in TnT,comes David Abdullah’s announcement which is tantamount to a boycott of all celebrations of the PP’s second anniversary.
    Princiles show. He has drawn a line in the sand. I salute this son of an Anglican Clergyman. The principles inculcated in him, are there to stay.
    Go well, David, my son.Goliath can only survive fr a little while.

    • If he was such a principled man he would resign his senatorial position,but I suspect he loves the salary.

      • Linda Edwards, class of '67

        Do Senators get a salary? I do believe in staying where he is, so that he can have a voice. As a long-time manager of various entities, I know that its easier to reform from the inside, than from the outside.
        Prakash RAmadar seems to be taking the same position on behalf of the COP.

        • A senators salary is some where in the vicinity of $20,000.00 per month, according to the info.supplied to me.

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