Hurtling to self-destruction

By Raffique Shah
March 23, 2014

Raffique ShahIf we think that the top-to-bottom lawlessness and overpowering crime that besiege the country today are portents of hopelessness in tomorrow, think again. It will be much worse. Those who will live here for the next 50 or 80 years (I will be long gone, thankfully) should be afraid…very afraid.

This society is hurtling towards a collapse in just about every facet of life that defines civilisation. Oh, there will be more than enough wealth to satisfy the greed of the one per cent at the top, who will live in palatial prisons. Our diminishing hydrocarbon resources will even allow for the relatively good life among the top fifteen or twenty per cent of the population.

But the rest of people are destined to dwell in a hellhole that has been long in the making, that is maturing nicely, if I may so describe degeneration. The more recent manifestation of this malaise is the increasing incidents of thuggery among young girls. That, however, is but a whiff of a putrid mountain of manure into which we have all made generous deposits, generation after generation.

Let’s face it: the female ‘wajanks’ we see displaying canine characteristics on Youtube video clips are not aberrations. They are the products of dysfunctional families and communities that are commonplace in Trinidad and Tobago. Worse, for every such incident that is captured on camera, one can reasonably assume that one thousand go unrecorded and unreported.

In other words, our education system is a jungle in which only the fittest or ‘de baddest’ survive. I know many will argue that bullying and violence in schools are nothing new. True. When I attended primary school, shouts of, “Heave! Heave!” signalled a fight underway, usually a fistfight between two boys.

There were always bullies, too, big and strong boys who would intimidate or abuse the timid or the weak. Equally, though, there were those who would fend off the bullies, clout them before they took advantage of others. Also, groups of students hardly ganged up against the hapless, and girls rarely engaged in fights.

What we are witnessing today is different, bestial behaviour by boys and girls who, tomorrow, will be men and women, mothers and fathers. In fact, many of these youngsters already have children of their own.

Witness the 17-year-old who bared her breasts during Jouvert celebrations in San Fernando: she is reported to have two children, one born when she sat the SEA examination, which means at age 11 or 12. Of course there are adults in this sordid picture—parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts. No one intervened before or after the fact. Another black hen chicken consigned to nothingness.

Then there is the case of the 14 year-old pupil, supposedly bright, shot dead as she studied near a 15-year-old relative. In that home, the lad was playing with a gun, not a toy, and it ‘went off’. By the time the police intervened, the illegal firearm had disappeared.

In this country where there are no consequences to criminal acts in spite of the hollow pronouncements of those in authority, nothing will come out of this homicide. In an orderly society where people are held responsible for criminal negligence or worse, the whole family would be behind bars facing a string of serious charges.

I chose to focus today on very young not because I hold them culpable for the decay in the society, but because I shudder to think where they will take the country tomorrow.

Many argue that we are already there, that the young are merely following the leaders, known bandits who plunder the public purse. I do not subscribe to that notion, not because I think our leaders are exemplars. I dismiss it because these children do not know anything about our leaders.

The vast majority of our secondary school pupils might know who the Prime Minister is, but they will hardly know the names or portfolios of two or three other ministers. They do not read newspapers or follow news or sports on the electronic media. They are glued to cellphones and the social media, where they post and monitor everything, from breaking wind to breaking necks.

If anything, the leaders are following the pupils, a classical case of the blind leading the blind. Since I am not a Facebook fanatic or a Twitter twerp, I cannot say for sure. But I am told that most of our politicians promote their activities on these sites. That’s how, last week, people knew that the Prime Minister attended a Madrasi funeral in Florida, complete with pan music and female tassa drummers.

In the synthetic cyber-world of instant communication and instant gratification, values such as discipline, self-esteem, respect for others, humaneness and ethical behaviour are alien. Good grammar, spelling and language are forbidden.

Worse, in the one-size-fits- all education system where misfits are the common denominator, the minority who strive for success or excellence are the aberrations, victims of their ambition. As the bad and the ugly triumph over the good, the entire society collapses.

That is where we are heading, hurtling to self-destruction. One day soon, we will wake up to find animals ruling us—if that’s not already the case.

11 Responses to “Hurtling to self-destruction”


  • The manner in which we treat ourselves is akin to the way we treat Mother Earth.

  • As regards the young, this is not a time to pontificate by those who feel that they are in a better position to criticize and argue how much better our (older) generation was. I read where Deviant Maharaj boasts that his schools (Hindu) do not have that problem and that Dr. Rowley should visit them to see how their students behave. There is a saying that goes like this, “those with glass windows should not throw stone”, another goes like this “when your neighbor house is on fire pour water on yours”. My problem with those who now occupy power in this little island do not think in terms of oneness. One country, one people, one nation, one goal, one education system, one health care system, one government, one remedy, one view of development or one defense of our ideals. ‘One’ for them means one class of people or one religion or one belief of our one class. When will we ever get together to fight the evils that lie in our midst? Again, we are a small place and what might afflict me today, might not afflict you today, but it might surely afflict you tomorrow. There are lots of ills in this little place called Trinidad and whilst some might take solace in priding themselves of not being afflicted by the ills, it is foolish to think that they are escaping those evils.

  • Excellent commentary , as usual ,Cuz Kian. We are all in this together , and so no race , class, ethnic tribe, school, or social enclave, is beyond criminality, or positive , wholesome , win/win behavior.
    Far from me to describe, the over the top , class centrist , and often not quite subtle , neo tribal reactions, to juvenile delinquents ,as myopic , but what else can it be folks?
    Like you Kian , I too ain’t only worked up over “Black hen chickens consigned to nothingness,”but also their Brown counterparts, whether their Grandfather is a Pennysavers millionaire , who lost his daughter, and son, in law, in a murder /suicide situation,the initial result of ,imported , guns, after a life of male battering/domestic violence.
    Would that bright 14 year old , shot by a 15year old relative , that Uncle Shah is lamenting about in his piece ,be alive if T&T, not Brazil was the recipient of those already purchased ,Coast Guard Vessels ordered by the previous regime , but denounced by the present power brokers? Maybe so, since the majority of the guns, used in violent acts across T&T, a M d drugs , that fuel the friction, came through our porous borders.
    We are now on to our what ,5th Tethron derived ,,military elite, and a corner cutting Businessman, as National Security Minister , along with our 3rd Commissioner of Police , one of which was a white Canadian , and yet despite, the typical daily rhetoric ,our crime situation is getting more precarious, even as we speak.Yet some cry,don’t blame our leaders, blame the youth culture instead, since that is the bigger influence.
    Oh yes, kids take bribes ,to leave business containers laden with chicken , guns and drugs unchecked. They also pose as respectable manufacturing company, but would shy away once accusing fingers are pointed , as law enforcement officials try to figure out , why only your products are repeatedly involved in drug related issues-one of which , caused the death of an innocent victim.Last time I remember, that was the job of custom officials.
    Let’s simply cut through the chase , and say once and for all- ‘leadership matters,’be it in the home or public life.
    Therefore ,I too would venture to be an uncaring animal, by planassing a fellow human on the streets of T&T, because he had the temerity to tell me to turn off my polluting car engine, since it was affecting eating patrons. Why would I do this ? I’ll tell you.The subliminal messages that were handed down to me , via misguided , culturally debase father , who would then I am certain ,intervene, to save my cowardly hide from prison, by probably shipping me off to the Canadian wasteland .
    Oh yes, the same one, who callously accused fellow citizens of ethnic cleansing , while in the political wilderness, amongst other ills. Let’s continue to keep them honest kian-the power brokers that is-& for the record, we the morally sound , pro humanist , social progressives ,ain’t care , if they are in ,our out of power, or belong to the lofty realms of business/corporate, religious, military, political, or academic elites.
    Long live the Republic of T&T!

    • ‘No man is an island’ the saying goes. Societies are constructed by those who consider themselves ‘wise’, prudent and objective. In our democracies we vote for those we consider would be acting in the best interest of the people and would operate without fear or favor to protect the ‘will of the people’. The ‘will of the people’ is that when we hire a government and that government in turn appoint people to run segments to function in a way that gives each and every one of us an ‘equal’ chance to pursue what matters most to us. In this manner, we put our faith in government so that they can protect us from external aggressions, the rogues around us, the unprincipled, the liars, the cheats, the uncaring, the transgressors, the thieves, those who would use unlawful means to enrich themselves and hurt us in the process. We expect government to maintain a generally healthy atmosphere so we can maintain healthy bodies and breathe fresh and unpoluted air. We expect government to abide by the laws by which we are all governed. We expect government to be true to the letter and spirit of the law. We expect government to protect our ownership of lands, assets and titles. In order to do all those things competently, we expect those appointed to fulfill these posts to be of the highest calibre, they must be qualified, experienced, competent and committed. In order for the ship of government to be run smoothly, each and everyone of us must abide by the rules and laws that govern the framework of our constitution with respect for all its participants. Things go afoul when governments fail to be arbiter in a just and caring way. When we educate our children, we do so taking into account everything they hear, learn and experience and expect them to be better citizens for it. It is not by mistake that there are bright and educated students in China, Japan and India. It is so because the culture demands it. People in Saudi Arabia are least likely to go against the law because they know running afoul would be reason to get their head,foot or hands cut off.

      Governments do have a hand in influencing culture for the betterment of all, when its machinations favor some and at the same time dis-enfranchising others it creates disharmony and chaos. When a government is flavored to make room to serve ethnic instincts, it is providing an atmosphere for malcontents and therefore opens itself to encouraging the worst instincts in us. So, when a government willingly and openly appoints a ‘Reshmi’ it is like pointing the middle finger to the rest of the population. When a stubborn appointment is made like that of Jack Warner being an active Vice President of FIFA and being a minister of government, most right thinking people know that it lays ground for conflict of interest. When the minister of education favors some denominational schools to that of others, some children feel better than others. When professionals in government are encouraged to ‘retire’ to make room for others with less experience and qualifications, it makes room for a workforce that is not committed to its mission.
      In summary, it is fair to say that depending on the type of government we have, it can easily be concluded that building nationhood will only be a fantasy without any real chance of attaining such a goal. IN our society today, there is no national goals, aspirations or fixtures. The aim is to ‘get rich’ quick in many cases by any means necessary. Such attitudes play themselves out in cases such as the FCB chief
      doing all he can to enrich himself, his family and his companies regardless of the outcome. It is selfishness to the core and worse there are those like his bosses and fellow board members that condone this behavior. There must be stated laws against that kind of behavior. Because the does not specifically say something is wrong does not mean that it is right. As human beings we are guided by a sense of morality, understanding and fairness realizing that our sense of ethics should not inconvenience the innocents amongst us. The quality of our political discourse is poor to failing which can only lead to calamities in the future if there is no relief from the doom most of us envision.

      • This is a brilliant piece, Kian. Change some of the names mentioned and it could have been written in 2009 to describe the PNM government at that time.
        The problem is that nothing has changed except the actors on the stage.

  • “Black hen chickens consigned to nothingness,” What about the “Common yard fowl with their straight hair?” Take a look at some of the bars around UWI….common yard fowl with bottles of Johhny Walker Red label….or bottles of puncheon (do not know if I spelt that correctly)…see what they do in the car park when they consume their JW and P….the future of our Nation? get real

  • Ummmmm, what do you know , an outraged Brother Ray, is on to something here.I just could not have articulate it so well.
    Watch out Uncle Shah, for you too are under the microscope, for loose condescending language , chiefly directed, at low end members of ‘Kinky head Nation.’
    A bit of history , is in order folks.
    800,000 Rwandans were massacred , in the space of one month, as Hutu tribal folks , heeded the war cries of unscrupulous leaders ,on the local radio,”to kill the cockroaches!”
    Translation – words matters , ennnt?
    I am almost certain ,millions more were murdered in similar fashion , in the Balkans, Isreali/Palestine conflicts ,Sri Lanka , India /Pakistan Kashmir struggles , and early historical Hindu/Muslims conflicts ,and the list goes on.
    Yeah I know, …this is peaceful T&T,aka Rainbow Country.
    Here, we all love each other , from Signal Hill, to Point Cumana, Westmoorings , ro Chagurnas , Lavantille to Erin,Los Bajos , to Toco, Aranguez to St James/Woodbrook.
    Here , we eat Indo Trini- doubles, Middleastern/Greek gyro, Afro Trini -bake and shark, and English muffins, Chinese Peaking duck,and American pumpkin pies , with the same relish.
    We will continue to ‘denigrate the other,’ while elevating only the noble virtues of our own tribe , then when the backlash, inevitably occur, run to the hills, or the UN, Human Rights bodies for solace, and protection.
    Be forewarned T&T , for not only is nation building challenging , but it ain’t for the weak hearts.
    I luv this land.Thanks Ray, for reminding us , of the need to continually examine the horns of alleged progressives -who according to my extremely wise, Tobago Granny , occasionally “show their true colors,” ennt T&T?

  • False papers, white-collar crime, drunkenness, drug smuggling and domestic violence VS gang violence, armed robbery, drug pushing,school violence: do we really have to “take a side” and claim that one group is the source of all problems while making excuses for the other? Either way round?

  • What is often overlooked Kian ,is the fact that although very important, voting , is only one facet of government, in Democracies. In America , and most of industrial Europe , they are often called lobbyists.In early political science academic circles , pressure groups.
    Today-often led by social media -we refer to them as ,Social Activist, and advocates-often , manifested under the platform of Civil Society/NGOs.
    These are the folks ,who would ensure economic Transparency, good governance, and a culture where leaders can be held accountable-before , during , and after the fact.
    We know all the problems Kian , but that’s the easy part.
    Now for the challenge! Forming new vibrant Organizations , and working in solidarity with concerned others-both domestic , and international, to promote ,common interests, of benefit to us all.
    To this end ,I por ejemplo ,won’t give a hoot about Trini Royal , and his claims for neglected Caroni workers, if he has contempt for my neglected brothers ,and sisters in Tobago.
    Try as you might Kian, you won’t feel much empathy for the family of brutally murdered, rich ,kidnapped victim , if the Mamboos, or TMan , and Royal Trinis of the world,have nothing but contempt ,for alleged criminals from Beetham, Lavantille,Upper Gonzales, or Never Dirty , Morvant , who die violently, either via extra judicial killings ,from law enforcement officials , or rival gang banging terrorist authorities choose to ignore.
    If new aged popular , environmentalist Dr Wayne Kablalsingh, is only perturbed over the plight of one time Point Fortin Squatters, but gives the symbolic middle finger ,to Maraval , Diego Martin , and Aranguez residents , when they experience their yearly bouts of flooding, o you think they’ll give a Crap ,if he dies in a fast, while protesting the construction of a highway, geared to alleviating ,T&T Road Traffic congestion?
    If 89% of all business contracts ,that were handed out ,since the ascension of the Kamla led , UNC dominant PP regime, are only given to friends , and or tribal supporters, while community activists, in other communities ,are denounced, and or , rebuffed, as mere gang leaders,used to being cuddled by others in the past, can you envision some consequential fall out, mi amigo?
    If ,much to the joy of some , the only immigrants who are singled out for negative discriminatory treatments , are primarily ‘Kinky Head Folks,’who hails from Nigeria, Jamaica , Grenada , and St Vincent, then does that not give the green light ,to controversial THA Representative Tobago Sandy, as he too push back on prospective Calcutta ships docking on his already neglected island, allegedly with directives to build a 23 stories Hindu Temple, in Signal Hill?
    The point of my long winded, seemingly, overrhe top examples, is simply the show the following Kian:-We are all hurting, are all in this nation building extravaganza together , and most importantly-SOLIDARITY Matters!
    Make it happen, my fellow patriots !!
    Long live the Republic of T&T,ummmmm?

    • Neal, you have raised the level of this conversation to the point where we must not only only complain but actually devise means by which actions can be taken to alleviate the situations and grievances which only seem to multiply when governments act. It is one thing to award contractual favors to those we like and another to deny a deserving competitor the same opportunity simply because he does not belong to one tribal grouping or share in the political beliefs of the giver of contracts. We have the Beethams, Laventilles, Morvants, Gonzales, Never Dirties and Carenages because of neglect by governments or series of administrations. I have always maintained that any government serious about reforms and lifestyles must as a matter of procedure employ the use of accomplished social scientists. I remember that during Dr. Eric Williams early years there was this guy by the name of Simeon Alexander, who in my memory helped Williams in his planning. Neal, part of our problems lie in the way we perceive things. Whenever we develop a new residential neighborhood too much emphasis is placed on only what type of houses we build to live in. There is little or no emphasis placed on recreation, commerce, health, education, community life and quality of life issues when the planners of these neighborhoods put together their blue print. The reason is because ‘profit’ is the most issue prior to the development. When life is in progress only then do we pay attention to the quality of life issues. Communities like the Maloneys should never have been allowed to deteriorate if only the planners had made room for all of the other issues to be addressed at the time of development. You see Neal, we need effective NGOs that look at all aspects of national life and not only come out and speak when incidents like the Glenn Ramadharsingh’s and Sharma’s occur but must be never end crusaders of their particular cause throughout their existence. When we start building these type of organizations into our everyday life and inform our our population of what we are doing, then and only then we can say we are getting a handle on righting the ills of our society. The Republic can never be great when only SIS, Gopauls and Rahamats get the big contracts. There are literally thousands of little sis and gopauls yearning for the chance to do better the those who are actually favored for those opportunities.

  • We are in agreement Kian,and so, it’s time to step things up a notch.Everything , however ,is all about timing.
    As I’ve said , we know the problems, now the challenge is build on this.
    Oftentimes we, the well intention ,give ourselves , unwarranted grey hair ,when all we need to do is firstly , piggy back the success of others, emulate /follow the blueprint, with some tweaks , where necessary.
    Secondly, find useful allies, who share our dreams, and passion-be they young idealistic college students, or more experienced influential person -domestic , and international
    The engine however is the person that looks back in the mirror, each day .I am talking about You, and I.
    We should not sleep on Social media Kian, as it can be a key to building bridges across the global divide.
    23 years prior ,we were lucky to get a letter of complaint, printed in one of the mainstream dailies.Pat Chokolingo, Keith Shepherd, and Uncle Shah , played a positive role, via the Bomb , Blast,&T&T mirror, for certain segments of the society.
    We had 2 radio stations and one TV station.Today we have what 50 of both, and our people are less informed, then they were in 90, when fake religious, thugs , invaded our Parliament, and desecrated our democracy.
    A lot, of whining, negativity, pessimism exist, and though understandable, is of little benefit to any.
    As we can see via our cyber jousting, the blame game finger pointing, can also have us going around in circles like dogs , attempting to catch their tails.
    Civil Society/NGOs,are great,but can be fools gold in the hands of the vision less, corrupt officials.
    They need to be properly managed , s well as policed , to ensure goals/ vision statement , are not v only clearly defined , but adhered to.
    Only last week we had a murder /suicide situation , involving a billion dollar Rev, and his church.Failed NGO.
    There must also be a fine line between hard core politics, and Civil Society. Leaders in these fields must be prudent,morally solid, and not allow themselves to be used by politicians, as they in turn can loose credibility.
    I remain very optimistic about my T&T, even with all it’s prevailing problems, and sees it nicely poised to be a regional leader, with some nudging. The thing is Kian , even our leaders need guidance-even if most won’t admit that.
    Educating the masses , is critical .
    Remember, prudent activism, and win/win solidarity, where mutually beneficial interest pursuits, are a major factor ,is another pillar.
    Let’s make it happen. I will find a way to touch base.
    Stay tuned.

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