Architects of our own demise

By Raffique Shah
June 15, 2014

Raffique ShahI am writing this column knowing that it will not be read by the target audience—young, black and ‘er…unschooled men.

Few if any in this group read anything, least of all newspapers. If they pick up an Express, it would be to watch a photograph of some dead “bredren”, felled by bullets from police or criminal, same difference, and to wonder if they, upon meeting a similar fate, would make a pretty corpse.

Now, you would think that I, knowing I can never access their brains or influence their minds, assuming they do have these human endowments, would know better than to waste time and valuable newsprint trying to reach the unreachable.

But I am old and stupid, and I hold out hope that a few among these wretched boys would understand what I have to say, and maybe seek to change the course of their all too brief lives, this cradle-to-corpse flight that leaves them not knowing, far less enjoying, the finer, and I dare add, sweeter, things in life.

I have watched with intriguing interest over the past two decades or so life expectancy among males in urban Trinidad and Tobago reversed from the biblical promise of three score and ten to a self-imposed one score or less. This fatality rate is worse than what obtained during barbaric slavery and indentureship when massa’s range of punishments and our forebears’ inhumane modes of existence made 40 or 50 a ripe old age.

Since the early 20th Century, governments and people worked hard towards enhancing life expectancy to the extent that today, there are more than a handful of centenarians and nonagenarians, and many ordinary people easily scale past 70, staying active and fairly healthy.

But these young, not-too-bright boys I refer to seem to have revised the life contract downward, making 20 an unattainable goal. When nine- year-olds are packing guns and being picked off by other guns, what, pray, is the future of mankind?

Armed with peashooters or sometimes heavier hardware that they know not how to use, they gun down each other in senseless turf wars, and are often stupid enough to engage the better-armed police and soldiers in what are inevitably one-way shootouts.

I should add that while the frequency of such incidents has increased significantly in recent years, the police have always killed men stupid enough to confront the law armed with knives, cutlasses, objects looking like firearms, occasionally museum pieces, but very rarely the real McCoy.

Always, they who battle the lawmen are such poor shots, they miss the intended targets completely, or at best (or worst) inflict minor injuries.

These reckless fools who dare to confront the lawmen are doomed before they can take aim or even grab their guns. Mostly, when the smoke clears, as our ace cops and star reporters say, the perforated corpses are found close to guns that were never fired, but weapons that justify the fusillades of gunfire that are music to the ears of our brave crime fighters.

Statistics show that once you are young and black and you carelessly display your hind-crack as if to rub it in people’s faces, someone will plug you with a bullet, lighting up the darker side of your anatomy. Yet the fools persist with this lifestyle of the damned, knowing well that they would end up dead, and their mothers (well, there are hardly fathers around) will have to beg around for money to meet funeral expenses.

Really, this degree of stupidity is unbelievable. And if stupidity is epidemic among these young men, it is pandemic among their prolific mothers. Every time a man-child or real child falls victim to police bullets or other misadventure, the mothers invariably have another 12-to-20 kids to “mind”, with yet unborn foetuses in the ovens…

What’s with these people? You and I know how tough it is to bring up one child in today’s world without pity, yet these unemployed, often homeless women, make babies like rabbits! And they expect “de govament” to feed, house, clothe and protect the products of their lust or irresponsibility. Unbelievable, I repeat.

In these circumstances, the police see themselves as a kind of pest control unit: between them and the criminals, they would prune the urban population by ensuring hundreds of “black hen chicken’ never attain the age of multiplication.

Look, reality is that for all the universally free education governments boast about, the numerous free-for-all social programmes, the computers in book bags and smart phones in pockets, GDP growth and billions in foreign investment, ours is a very sick society.

The disease is not restricted to the slums where little black boys kill each other or are killed by the police. The wealthy elite and the self-centred middle elements are as culpable as they are vulnerable, even if they do not admit it.

Yesterday and today, the killing fields are in the slums. Tomorrow, the synthetic world we have created will collapse and consume us all in a kind of damnation that has nothing to do with God or religion. In so many ways, we are architects of our own demise.

17 Responses to “Architects of our own demise”


  • The following is a quotation from Wikipedia:

    “Port of Spain and its immediate environs have a higher crime rate than any other part of Trinidad. Homicides countrywide rose from fewer than 50 in the 1980s, to 97 in 1998, then to 360 in 2006 (30 murders per 100,000 persons). It rose to approximately 529 in 2008 but decreased in the following years.

    A common explanation is that the outbreak in murders is due to drug and gang related issues, especially in the depressed communities of East Port of Spain. Some researchers, while acknowledging the connections between gangs and violence in the area, argue that the role of illegal drugs has been overstated”.

    We have very short, convenient memories. The crime and murder rate has been decreasing since the Manning years. It is still too high but PNM loudmouths who were silent during the Manning years are now very vocal spreading doom and gloom as part of their election machinery.
    I agree with the researchers who argue that the role of illegal drugs has been overstated. There exists a lifestyle related to fashion, attitude, entitlement, societal conditions, survival, absent fathers etc. which fosters this criminal behavior. It is a problem in Black communities, not only in Trinidad, but in places like Toronto and many parts of the United States. Governments can only do so much and in the words of Barak Obama, “Black communities must begin to take RESPONSIBILITY”

  • I think the biggest threat to Trinidad future is “radical Islam”. This became a reality in the 1990s when the nation lost its innocence in the Imam lead coup. Since that time criminality have flourished with gangs going at each other. Increasingly converts to Islam are finding the violent jihadist lifestyle to be attractive. The recruiters find vulnerable black males providing them with food, clothing and shelter in return they become a “foot soldier”. During the PNM years men in long white outfit would show up at businesses and demand protection money(jizra)or their family member would be capture found dead or used as a bargaining chip.

    Nations such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran always had the third factor present who infiltrated army, police and all security agencies. They worked inside and outside of government like a termite to destroy all semblance of democracy. The third factor cannot be ignored in political circles because they have been the ones to determine the outcome of elections. Democracy has been subverted for purpose of imposing sharia law.

    With Hindu nationalism back in power and the US out of Afghanistan, jihadist are moving in caravans towards Kashmir with the hope of entering India and conducting jihad. The flame of jihadism is burning brightly in Syria, Iraq, Iran, northern Nigeria, northern Sudan, Pakistan etc and is poised to engulf the world. Yes the third factor is gaining strength each day in Trinidad and when they are strong enough they will strike again…

  • “What’s with these people? You and I know how tough it is to bring up one child in today’s world without pity, yet these unemployed, often homeless women, make babies like rabbits! And they expect “de govament” to feed, house, clothe and protect the products of their lust or irresponsibility. Unbelievable, I repeat.”–Shah.
    That unfortunately is the problem young girls having multiple babies not knowing who the father is. It starts in their teenage years and by the time they reach 30 they have 5 to 9 children. These children become gang members because the gang is like a family unit, they look after each other. Mommy is too busy partying, changing boy friends to really be a strong nurturer or role models. Charles Mason grew up in such a home, his mother was changing boyfriends as clothing. Charles was molested and grew up with an incredible amount of hate towards women who reminded of his mother, he murdered 30 of them. These young men grow up hating themselves and being very angry, place a gun in their hand and bodies pile up. The girls grow up not understanding true love and would sleep with any man who could show them some attention. Repeating the mothers mistakes.
    I have seen it many times repeated, girls without a father by 17 popping out babies….. Raising the next generation of cold blooded killers..sadly.

  • The article has stong, valid points but, since you already believe a particular demographic will not be reading this article, then as a person of some influence it is your duty to perhaps figure out how to reach these young men. Perhaps in primary school. There has to be some motivations for these men to want more for themselves. What works? What are the answers?

    • A Horse can be led to the water but none can make it drink. The criminals are between the animal and human species. I totally agree with the use of Law Enforcement as Pest Controllers. If one has Cancer and does nothing to prevent its spread or stop it, then it KILLS! Maybe the writer can devise an alternaive to help HUMANKIND eradicate this scouge that is like Cancer in the body of MOTHER NATURE.

      • Interesting piece as the article is written by a former military man. In the army they teach you to kill rather than be killed. This brings me to a former senator who was expelled from the senate as he proposed tubular litigation for some women who breeds without care or concern for the lives they are bringing into the world.

  • It is interesting that the comments posted so far appear to denigrate the unfortunate descendants of parents who never planned a life for their children in the first place. First of all, life has become very complicated just to survive in what might be termed “normalcy”. Simple acts such as accomplishing one’s identity can be tedious and cumbersome. For example, due to no fault of my own, I have had my birth paper changed at least four times and it is still not correct. To get a passport is like begging to be “accepted”, imagine at this point in time when a passport should be your right, one still has to get a barrister, lawyer, doctor, policeman, teacher etc etc to approve before your application can be “accepted”. To get an identity card which is the common form of identity one has to go through tenuous and arbitrary waiting and visiting before approvals. My birth certificate was first established at a time when society’s norm frowned upon certain characterizations of people based upon one’s designation, even though my parents were married before I was born, my birth certificate designated me “illegitimate”. I cannot changed that because all those who might truly be able to notarize the facts are all dead. I chose to open my post this way, because there is a stigma put on the subject’s lives that all those reading and commenting look down upon them with sordid discernment. The truth is most of the young people described here have no control of their lives than I have on getting a birth certificate showing me as “legitimate”. For many of us, life is an entrapment, where, depending on geography and surroundings we are forced to accept lifestyles that are anathema to our own good and prosperity. When we are caught in such environments, it takes the proper type of interference to get us out of there. Some are recipients of such interferences and some are not. Those who are not, become the very dreaded menace to society that are discerned by the names posted above.
    They do not come cheap either, murders, rapes, invasions, promiscuity and other habits become the reality of their lives. But that does not stop there, those habits are brought into the neighborhoods of those of us who consider ourselves, ‘middle-class’ or affluent or well-to-do. Governments spend hundreds of millions and possibly billions fighting the evil of that lifestyle to no avail. Those neighborhoods did not get that way overnight, the downward process is gradual and if there is no intervention by the proper authorities, then the spiral will continue in the downward direction until wham! – we have a ‘Laventille’. As strange as it might sound, there are great men that came from such neighborhoods, men such as Malcolm X, world-renowned famous neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson just to name a few, were early resident of such environments. To stand on one side of the fence and cast aspersions at these unfortunate people is a fool’s way of saying that they are better because they can can afford better means of livelihood. The dilemna that we are in, is that must exist with them. Pasted and wasted in ALL government’s budgets are funds available to deal with these people. There are ways and means to correct and amend the lives of thousands of them also but there must first be the WILL to confront, arrest and re-direct the lives that we are so quick to condemn. It is by no means only the responsibility of governments to fix this malady, NGOs with emphasis on churches ought to play a more prominent role in such rehabilitative efforts. Most grown people can count on people other than parents in their lives who have contributed to their own good in their upbringing, so this is not rocket science, it is real and doable. When there is a government of goodwill, NGOs of goodwill, communities of goodwill and people of goodwill, the efforts to clean up and eradicate the evil that befall our communities can lead to a change for the better of our children’s lives, a lessening of crime and the making of better citizens amongst our impoverished communities.

    • Kian’s comment on this topic is probably the most reasoned and sober to appear here. His ideas of understanding, tolerance and goodwill could go a long way in improving the lives of the unfortunate.
      His reminder of the historical perspective is also significant.

    • It sounds ridiculous:”Adult Education”….however,in a recent post my suggestion to introduce “basic education” for adults;will encourage those youngsters who refuse to obtain an education.”Your best weapon against your enemy is education” (Nelson Mandela)

      “The world is an oyster but you don’t break it open on a mattress” (F.Scott FitzGerald “Death of a Salesman”)Encourage and offer incentives to those adults who “want de govament” to elevate their social status “gradually”

      • Ooops! my sincerest apologies:”the world is an oyster but you don’t break it open on a mattress” (Arthur Miller…Death of a Salesman)

    • You are right Kian things did not get this bad overnight. The single most important factor that you fail to address is the break down of the family within these cultures.

      Government alone cannot solve these problems but NGOs with people who are willing to brave bullets can make the difference. The best way forward is to start with the children in the schools. If they can rise then there is hope.

  • A Horse can be led to the water but none can make it drink. The criminals are between the animal and human species. I totally agree with the use of Law Enforcement as Pest Controllers. If one has Cancer and does nothing to prevent its spread or stop it, then it KILLS! Maybe the writer can devise an alternaive to help HUMANKIND eradicate this scouge that is like Cancer in the body of MOTHER NATURE

    Aint nothing more cancerous to the human society of T&T, than the undeveloped racist mindsets that was introduced into population, and continue who to perpetuate their racist ignorance in our nation and world. Our world was much more peaceful and attuned to nature and its wonders before the influx of mutations coming in out of cold, with deranged and primitive personalities, polluting the natural landscape of humanity with their odious creeds. It is these cancers that need to be rooted out of T&T, and in time they will. They should be on an island far removed from the rest of humanity, the humanity that existed before their descent from the cold caves where the evil gestated and grew, and eventually made its way around the world. We know them, the Nazis, the Klu Klux Klanners, the Aryan Supremacist of all colors and stripes. There they will be able to jostle between themselves for the crown of racial superiority, a struggle that would be very entertaining if it could be caught on tape.

  • A very nice sweet response. I think I got it, it’s not their fault for being in the circumstances that they have chosen. The 2 outstanding persons mentioned in the article demostrates the fact that “where there is a will there’s a way.” There are countless other examples of persons worldwide that were in similar circumstances who applied themselves by studying with the light of lamps, candles or other means and were able to become responsible contributing citizens for the betterment of all. When one plants beautiful flowers, roses, etc., and weeds start growing overcoming the desired flowers; the weeds are removed to make way for the beauty that was the goal of having a garden. The misfits of all societies worldwide are weeds and have to be removed for the more beautiful to flourish or else its all for nothing. Fleas and ticks are good examples of parasites that we control, the criminals, i.e., entities between animals and humans have to be dealt with in the same ways.

    • Alim, you make very interesting points with statements that can be considered good and bad, the quote in question here is “When one plants beautiful flowers, roses, etc., and weeds start growing overcoming the desired flowers; the weeds are removed to make way for the beauty that was the goal of having a garden. The misfits of all societies worldwide are weeds and have to be removed for the more beautiful to flourish or else its all for nothing.” From an individual perspective there is absolutely nothing wrong with that statement, because that garden that you plant is framed in your image and likeness. The resulting image is what you desire as the beauty of your labour and creation of your imagination. With this in mind, it means that the weeds and shrubs that you get rid of were not meant to be a part of that landscape because if left there it would destroy the beauty of your “garden”. Besides in so doing you hurt no one with the destruction of the “unwanted and alien” growth that takes place in your creation. Apply that same principle to the formation or running of a country and that principle will NOT work. If it works at all, it would be for a very short time and the consequences would be dire and catastrophic, why?, because in an open society, there has to be room for everyone. It so happens, that very often in societies breeding grounds are developed that produces the worst of what might be “bad eggs”. It is in these breeding grounds that are most notorious for the most gruesome and heinous crimes that society frowns upon. In these crises right thinking people in the population have a right to seek remedial applications to change the culture that brought us that scourge, with the hope that society at large would be relieved of them or better yet get rid of the ‘habits’. Every once in a while, leaders emerge with simple ideas that grown into phenomenons which change the lives of millions of people. Mahama Ghandi left South Africa and went to India and his presence there opened the eyes of hundreds of millions of people and in the process, created change. Using your analogy again, Hitler, another famous leader had the same ideas of creating a beautiful “garden”, only thing about his “garden” is that the fruits born should be those with blonde hair and blue eyes. Anything that did not look like that was considered “weeds and bushes” and therefore expendable. So, with his ideas of creating beauty, he created a garden of death and destruction with millions of souls that might have been considered good in the sight of God was now thrash in the eyes of Hitler. In life there are always consequences. So, when we want to plant that garden for ALL to love, we must be certain that the ingredients will withstand the consequences of time and honor. It is not good enough to say “kill the criminals” or get rid of the criminals in our society. We need to look at the breeding grounds of crime with an analytical mind and eye and remember that ‘people are not born bad’. We are the products of our environment and when people of goodwill make honest and purposeful efforts to change those environments we are very likely to see betterment. To ignore those environments and bad talk them till ‘thy kingdom come’ serves no useful purpose, other than to say “we are better than them”, in such a case nothing will ever change. We must opt for betterment for ALL, not some and not just US – ALL!

  • Alim you do not get it. You will never get it, because people like you are unable to examine anything objectively, and will always use every situation to vent your crass prejudices. Your cancer removal analogy is quite obvious to me at least. And I maintain that the most dangerous and lethal cancer T&T and the Caribbean faces comes from an influx of mindsets and thinking that would have been appropriate for Germany circa 1936-1945.

  • I have noted with the utmost interest the many suggestions in an effort to resolve the encroaching demise of the Trinidad & Tobago landscape. Raffiqque’s comments which seem targeted at the Blacks of our society points to the main cause of a self imposed lack of interest in upward mobility, a reckless birth rate, lack of education etc.

    As an individual with a background of military discipline tell us why you did not succumb to the conditions which you so eloquently described on your analysis. I would like you to also further advise whether at the time of the 1970 revolt if you had envisage the place we have found ourselves today and whether the government at the then time was responsible for the e advocating. When in a society where you elect a government to do things for the whole society which they can not do form themselves and you observe that these tyrants in the PP administration are bleeding the country, filling their pockets compiling a list of corruptions without any effort to solve these crimes in high places what else do you expect from those whom you have disregarded at the bottom but to emulate, do not for one minute believe that the hands of these politicians in high place are not stain by the blood of many we have sent to the the “Happy hunting ground” ask Dana

  • Well folks. It was definitely a pleasure reading this article and the replies it rightfully deserved. As a fellow who grew up in these so called slums, a fellow who practically lived on the block, fortunately due to strong parenting I was able to finish primary school, finish college while skipping school 2-3 days a week to earn money to help the household of 10, while as a young man I was planning to never work for people but to own my own empire. Currently operating my own company and pursuing my my MBA in M.I.S to this day. I say and I believe there is an a spiritual attack on the nuclear family, I believe it attacks the head (MAN) thus no father figure means a weak unit, then it attacks the (Woman) so man in her life has her trying to make ends meet with results of kids popping out like a never before, Then it attacks the youths via(TV, Radio,Phones,Computers). No father around no mother around and the every device/technology is pumping their brains with filth. With the advent of cable TV and 24hour programming (somebody please give me the statistics) I am sure we had an increase of crime and violent crimes never seen or heard of before late 80’s to be more accurate. Sadly maybe 90% of my childhood acquaintances are deceased because of crime. I can honestly say good things can come out of Laventille cause out of all 6 of my siblings none of us turned to crime for a living even though we live 2 houses from a block. While this neighborhood is highly feared and often deemed unsafe for strangers. I will move back there and will try to salvage it. There are more good people living in these areas than there are bad. So I leave you all with a favorite quote and maybe we will try to reach out to our unconscious Trinbagonian brothers and help them….. “If you are not a part of the solution, you are a part of the problem.”
    ― Eldridge Cleaver (Black Panter leader)

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