Killing Us Noisily

By Raffique Shah
January 03, 2015

Raffique ShahEight o’clock Saturday morning and as I start writing this column, all is quiet on my block, suspiciously so. It’s cool and sunny, and I hear birds chirping, see them flying past my windows. Butterflies add a colourful touch to this gift of nature, a peaceful cul-de-sac located mere metres away from a busy, noisy, dusty main road.

While the idyllic picture I paint can be envisioned by the more romantic as being on par with its equivalent in the English countryside or villages in rural Europe, that comparison can be deceptive. Because at any moment, the hour of the day or night being irrelevant, pounding, jarring noise can erupt, a neighbour or someone living a mile away shattering the tranquillity with super-amplified sounds, not of music, but of a cacophony that has stamped itself as representing the culture of Trinidad and Tobago.

Now, I hasten to add that while I dismiss today’s oppressive soca and chutney fares as tripe, an assault on the auditory senses, I am a fanatic for melodious, enchanting music of yesteryear from bards such as Sparrow, Kitchener, Yankarran, Taran, Shorty, Maestro, Nelson, Blakie—to name a few of the masters who were proficient at combining clever lyrics with sweet melodies which they delivered with vocal chords nurtured in honey.

But let me not stray: this column is about noise, not music.

The evolution of amplification that has brought into being small to mid-sized sound systems that can fit in a car but pack the punch of big music trucks, has violently altered this country’s noise quotient and noise pollution levels. Nowadays, in any average community that was once peaceful, there are dozens or scores of residents who own such systems, and who believe that they are entitled to inflict punishing noise on their neighbours at any hour, night or day.

It matters not that the victims are newborn babies or the old and infirm, or just ordinary citizens who are entitled to enjoy peace and quiet, to get some sleep at nights. So callous are the offenders, they could not be bothered that their boorish behaviour affects students who are studying for important examinations or patients who need rest to recover from illnesses.

These inconsiderate people do not care about their own well-being, far less the lives of others. I cannot understand why they believe that their neighbours or persons living miles away from them are interested in their music, or what they call music.

I have focussed on this aspect of noise-trauma because it’s a year-round crime (oh yes, such behaviour is criminal!) that is national in scope, and because those who are empowered to take action against the offenders, the police and the Environmental Management Authority (EMA), bluntly refuse to act.

I know of victims who, traumatised by pounding noise at ungodly hours, in desperation call their neighbourhood police stations to plead for intervention, only to be abused, even threatened, by officers on duty. And you thought only who use a wheelchair are at risk from bullying cops?

This country has descended into a din of inequity that peaks during festivities-which are almost once a month. We have just emerged from Christmas and New Year celebrations during which the pounding music was boosted by millions of noisy fireworks and deafening firecrackers. I don’t know what the current laws are on the sale, possession and usage of pyrotechnics, but I know that many of the natives who must have these explosives use them indiscriminately and dangerously.

As they rang in the New Year in my neighbourhood, residents who could afford to blow $1,000-plus in an hour did just that-which I did not mind. Let the people enjoy themselves. However, there are a few miscreants who seem to have bought crates of explosives (scratch-bombs) that they have been setting off nightly, well before Christmas, and continuing.

Now, I know a thing or three about explosives, hence I know how dangerous these devices are. Each stick has a minuscule amount of explosive (probably plastic…C-4) that is triggered by a fuse and a detonator. If one were to explode in the user’s hand, it could cause serious injury. If some fool were to tape together, say, ten such “bombs” and detonate them, the explosion could be huge, destructive.

The police and authorities charged with overseeing national security must know these facts, hence the potential for mischief.

The devices are widely sold and easily available. Fireworks can be sold legally but scratch-bombs are illegal.

But not one person has been charged with its importation, distribution or possession-not this year or previously.

Are they waiting for some devious person to put ten and ten together and ignite a powerful bomb before they attempt to act? Besides the annoying noise, “scratch-bombs” are downright dangerous and should be banned from this country.

National Security Minister Gary Griffith promotes the “broken windows” method of policing. Well, Minister, we do not have many broken windows in this country. But noise pollution and disturbance of the peace are rampant, the offenders legion.

Maybe if you focus in this direction you can curb the lawlessness that is killing law-abiding citizens not softly, but very noisily.

8 Responses to “Killing Us Noisily”

  • Comrade, this will go down as one of the best articles you write in 2015, if not in all your writing.What you said here is 100% accurate. I cannot disagree with anything you said.But sad to say this is the age we’re living in, we cannot turn back the clock on these untrained, uncivilized and unparented{if there’s a word as such}fools of today.Society has a very very small number of parents{2} who are trying hard to raise children the proper way. May God help us!

  • Up to November this year I boasted to my wife of 42 years that back home if we wanted too see fireworks we had to drive down to de savannah to see an official display. Well at least that’s how I remembered it. Yes there was always the odd bang from carbide but nothing incessant. As far as loud music is concerned, Trinidad quick in the past to mimic developed nations should introduce noise abatement laws to limit the dB levels and the timing of any such indulgence to end by 10 p.m. in the evening. Anyone found to be flaunting these laws will not only have their equipment confiscated and destroyed but also fined 10,000 US dollar equivalent. Special permission may be obtained for Carnival celebrations only.
    Now that’s how it should be.

  • The law should simply state no noise between 10:00 p.m. To 7:00 a.m. That is the law on most North American jurisdiction enforced by the police. A neighbour does not have the right to be blasting music late into the night everyday. Of course there are exceptions, New Years etc.

    Then of course there is the loud music in the cars, this is dangerous to the ears and can cause deafness. To some extent you cannot stop people who chose to place those noise generating gadgets in their cars to their own future detriment. Knowledge however can change that behavior. Worst is the type of bump and grind morally corrupting music that turn children into “hyenas” on the school playground. Such things can be passed as culture but really listening to some of these morally repugnant artist is producing a generation of lost children. Sadly.

  • Yeah ,Uncle Shah,we get it ,noise is a serious menace, and might just be the reason why so many of these Trinis are dying.

    This astute observation ,is right up there with recent PP -Eat-ah -Fooder ,in UWI Professor Emeritus,Dr. Selwyn Ryan’s assertion/ummmmm findings,which erroneously claimed -and I paraphrase – ,that ‘Soca music ,is the cause for most of the criminality, within young , Afro Trini communities.
    Incidentally ,that was quickly taken up by our socially concerned, PP,governmental leaders,as fact.

    Well,…what we know for a fact is,that death did not occur to these 10 ,unfortunate blokes ,via noise pollution,for in their cases,guns seem to be the culprit,in the hands of criminal rogues ,and vagabonds,your Tin pan soldier, turned glorified National Security big wig, in cuz Griffy, along with his PP micromanaged- Hollywoodian -acting Commissioner of Police Williams ,appear- on de surface ie-unable to reign in/curb.
    Sadly,in our T&T,aka Baby America, few are willing to address this social problem,since we too ,are concern about desecrating our sacred 2nd Amendment,given to us by Founding Fathers ,who came over from England ,on de Mayflower.
    Lo Siento,that’s an American problem,where pro terrorist NRA ,neo KKK Militia blokes rule,and not T&T.
    Now seriously,we know for a fact ,that T&T does not possess , any gun manufacturing establishments,so that high proliferation of small arms /guns ,could not have emanated from within.
    However ,I just wish we did not have so many corrupt Customs officials working in our sea/land ports of entries.
    Congrats Brazil ,for being smarter than these T&T political idiots ,who renege on a deal ,that would have given us two Coast Guards ships ,to patrol our still porous water borders….and we know the real reasons why,si?

    Speaking of deaths,I am happy to see that Pundit Maharaj, is speaking up,and cautioning our out of control drivers, to get their acts together ,when it comes to compliance ,with basic rules ,and regulations, as they relate to our roads,highways ,and byways-which too,have become killing fields.
    Sorry PP,but hiring 5000,simi literate,closet criminal SRPs,or flooding our streets with hundreds of inept, traffic wardens,won’t make our roads ,any safer.
    Hey Griffy,instead of stupid war tanks ,to allegedly fight crimes ,how about bringing back the Chagurnas Highway patrol branch,training a few more motor cyclists,and dispersing them, to stations across the country, thus ,placing a greater police presence ,on our roads ,so as to discourage speeding,and reckless driving-24 hours.
    However ,I digress.
    Now Pundit Maharaj,that warning must also be leveled at the travelling public.How many people ,were traveling in this car again?
    Not certain,if 5 people can sit in a 4 door passenger sedan car,along with a 3 year old ,using a kids restraining car seat.
    Oooops,our T&T,ain’t have no laws demanding ,that kids of a certain age, be placed in a car seat,for their protection, in the event of an RTA,or do they?
    If not,then get to work AG Rammy! Time to bring our resource laden ,twin island Republic, up to the 21 Century,hmmmm?
    On that note ,let me add,that I empathize with the now traumatize family of this unfortunate 3 year old …along with the 151 or more victims ,that likewise ‘went to de great beyond ,’in 2014,due to road carnage.
    I luv dis land, Y tu?

    • “Hey Griffy,instead of stupid war tanks ,to allegedly fight crimes ,how about bringing back the Chagurnas Highway patrol branch,training a few more motor cyclists,and dispersing them, to stations across the country, thus ,placing a greater police presence ,on our roads ,so as to discourage speeding,and reckless driving-24 hours.” ……Neal
      I think this advice from Neal sums up what our present administration should be doing in order to combat the many ills we suffer on a daily basis in our beloved country. We may have many ideas and support many different solutions but we only have one government operating at any onetime. In this regards, it is of utmost importance that there should always be responsible government and not people using the offices the official government to facilitate personal ambitions. Until this government came into office, we were satisfied with establishing culture but with the advent of using government to nurturing ‘multiculture’ we are in fact using the meaning of culture to nurture self aggrandizing behavior to satisfy our need to ‘fete’. Culture should mean that each and everyone of us have the discipline to know and respect boundaries. While one may very well have the urge to operate, listen and stomach loud music and loud noises, there should equally be the sense of fairness to respect that there are many among us who want peace, quiet and moderation in our behavior. This is where responsible government comes in to moderate and police these two different urges. You do that by having institutional moderators (police) see to it that there are rules under which all can live with peacefully, respecting one’s right to pursue ‘culture’ with the rule of law being exercised as the agent of legality. Those charged with the responsibility to overseer and nurture ‘culture’ or as in this administration’s emphasis of the word ‘multiculture’ owe it to the population to make sure that it is not used to impose noise, music or behavior to the impediment of others.
      In the Woodbrook area, each and every week, the residents (most of them seniors) are inundated with youthful behavior that neither promote respect nor adhere to the rule of law, with loud music pounding in the ears of these elders night after night with city administration showing a blind ear to the illegality of that kind of behavior from 6 pm to 6 am.
      This does not mean that we should fear or discourage youthful expressions of culture. What it means is that with the expression of culture, there must be rules that do not allow anyone to infringe on the rights or peaceful coexistence of another. The merchants are just as insensitive to other people’s comfort as their young customers. They pollute the streets with empty bottles, paper, garbage and food waste, not to mention traffic congestion and foul behavior of the young revelers. Some of these problems can easily be fixed by requiring merchants to deal a a heavy consumption of food to rent or acquire large garbage bins to store waste. There a huge rats running up and down the streets that pose a health and infestation problem, but who cares?, city officials are too corrupt to require merchants to do the correct things and help with the health and well-being of the community. It is a selfish thing to impose noise and sound pollution on the peace and quiet of the elderly and one would think that as a civil people, the rights of the elderly would be taken into consideration. This multiculturalism thing is ill-defined and encourages “everybody to do their own thing”. In the process there is no respect for law, the elderly or for a community free from pollution. Instead of spending large sums of money in acquiring and training men and women to use the AFC in urban combat, the money would be better spent if it was used to acquire vehicles to do mobile community policing. In this case the police presence would be more effectively spent to monitor people’s behavior and to apprehend those who flaunt the law. Unfortunately we have a “Ramesh wannabe” AG who thinks that passing gang law deters crime and a “warrior wannabe” MNS who wants to play soldiering on the streets and back alleys of Laventille and Morvant. We need serious thinkers and planners on how to arrest the scourge of youth delinquency and belligerence. We need people who understand urban living and how to deal with the challengers that such communities impose. We are not any closer to re-assurance when a boastful MNS displays the power of an AFC or an AG who boasts the enactment of anti-gang warfare. Those are not solutions but mere gimmickry to the serious challenges of fear and destruction that youthful crime wave has brought on the nation.

  • Very well said Sir. What a joy to read this article. It is a disrespect our young generation has develop. our elderly folks cannot speak to them without fear or being attacked these days.
    Crime today is a lack of disrespect we have for one another in every facet. You seeing it on a Political, Social and Economic level globally.


    Sad but true,as each time ‘mismanaged -crime den-big brother Trinidad,’ get’s a head cold,my historically neglected Tobago ,will inevitably suffer another pneumonia, si? Just wish that old ,political stooge London ,would get his head out of his rear end ,and make Tobago his prioty,as opposed to his two overpriced houses in my hometown Signall Hill.
    The man’s wife worked for 30 years ,in a school,50 feet from the Scarborough Police HQ,but only when a little girl ,almost got raped ,and she Mama London ,was on de verge of retirement, these administrative clowns ,realized that security was abysmal. Go figure!PNM gone ,PNM dey,maybe.

    Yeah Soca Jam ,but your sobriquet speaks volumes, in and of itself, as we like to say on de streets, so why not tell us something, that we ain’t know already?
    I’ll tell you one:-Your PM ,her clueless PP goons,plus country leeching, business bandits -benefactors, won’t know what diversification means,even if such were to rise up,and hit dem in the face,agreed?
    Listen to her,as she speaks out of her element,and worst yet ,almost on the verge of publicly sobbing, while finally acknowledging, that she and Howai,her First Citizen, one time robber,have to recalculate /tweak their neo populist, electioneering adventurist gimmicks.

    Now if the good lady was fortunate ,like yours truly,to have grown up with the benefit of the wisest woman that ever lived, in my late, extremely wise, Tobago Granny, she too would have benefited from two wise councils ,and here they are Soca Jam:-1. ‘Never hang your hat ,where you have to take stick to reach it.’ OVP boats,no law suite from Euro ship manufacturer, less guns ,drugs ,and illegals in T&T, =less crimes ,and no need for expensive military ACP toys ,by Tin pan soldier ,turned glorified National Security big wig, Griffy, to fight runaway ,White color ,pro PP banditry..ooops …,blue color crimes,as frequently committed, by simi literate ,socially hopeless Trinis.
    Bail out Jamaican airline ,when yours is in a pathetic state,and failing .
    Embark on ostentatious, feel good,neo tribal projects ,at de expense of still exasperated ,members of Afro Kinky Head Nation ,that future generations ,will be stuck with-all de while ,parroting an opaque ‘change mantra.’
    2.’Never cut your nose to spoil your face ,’madame PM. Discard La brea Smelter plant ,and hand over T&T ,to Guyana undemocratic Ramautar.
    Inability to deal with,much less curb illegal immigrants, since it would disturb your well known election, numbers game plans . Translation. .If your government continue to have a neo racist hard on for Africans ,from the continent, and those of similar persuasions from ejemplo Jamaica ,and Guyana-then, not only would you have to explain how Indian companies ,can have 5 year expos ,in T&T,but why legals/illegals from all across East,and South Asia ,are allowed to thrive-marry,make babies,develop business enterprises,and influence socio economic, com political realities – in overburdened La Trinity.

    Now I for one, don’t give a hoot, about Sipara Queen Kamla’s ,and her UNC dominant PP’s political woes,per se ,Soca Jam ,but the bigger question for me is dis:-
    Who is prepared to capitalize, and or ,take up the slack,so as to steer the ship of start ,on to a more wholesome, sustainable development partway-just before de gerrycurl hair ,Mayaro ex tempo king/culture vulture Minister Winston Peters, aka Gypsey, sing another nationalistic Kaiso? Is it de Mason Hall kid,and his ravenous PNM blokes ,foaming at the mouth,to retain power? No se!
    Winning elections is the easy part,Dr Keith,but what are your authentic socio economic plans ,for advancing the interest of all T&T citizens ,mi piasano? Not even sure ,if you gave such much thoughts,fixated as you are, with your lawyer daughter graduation,your well known ,golf tours to Dubai,and fighting off that arch nemesis Patrick Manning.,205287.html

    What I do know is that Civil Society has a role to place in effecting positive changes.
    What I do know is tourism can play a significant part,as long as we are prepared to move beyond the 12 century ,escapist discussion of Tobago James ,who naively think that just providing airline routes,and building guest houses ,plus more hotel rooms ,are the end all solution.
    Get a grip James! Santo Domingo ,had 4 million plus tourist of all races ,creed,economic class,and color ,visit their shores in every year ,over the past 4 years ,your PP government, was in power.
    Over 70 % of the folks ,who visited Brazil, during their much touted Soccer World cup, had absolutely no concern about football….but ,yep,you guess it -sex tourism.
    Let me put it in plain language ,so that you phony religious, neo British ,hypocritical bums ,can fully understand. SEX SELLS!!Ask St Marten,what was their game plans ,as your idiot law enforcement bodies ,led by corrupt immigration officials ,continue to terrorize ,enterprising Latina Chicas, who wish to service, sex starved T&T hombres,across our nation.
    Have you Mr Howai heard about offshore banking ,and tax haven? Well ,the Swiss,and ‘me think,’ a few well known Caribbean neighbors ,made such ,into an art form.
    What I personally would like to see,is an opportunity to create new media forces ,and voices ,and to this end.
    If the Arabs can institute Al Jazerra, to counteract Western propaganda ,just think of the possibilities for the richest island in the English soeaking Caribbean.
    ‘Where you at T&T,’ with respect to technology? If we wish to get closer to India ,why can’t we also ask for the blue print ,to produce IT,and software giants?
    If we claim to be so close ,and adored by emerging powers ,Brazil,and China ,then why can’t these relationships, not move beyond resource grab,that brings nada for T&T?
    In addition to un -acknowledge slave labor,Immigrants are responsible for building America, and most of Europe,so is there a plan in place ,to encourage the right immigrants to T&T,who can help stimulate socio economic progress,while simultaneously, showing some form o f empathy to desperate others,willing to do the low skilled work ,local citizens shy away from?
    Hopefully Prime Minister Kamla handlers ,are taking copious notes ,re the France debacle,and better yet,the recent election results, in Sri Lanka, where political fractions, along tribal lines ,are a reality.
    Let me reiterate what the self serving ,politically correct ,media freaks ,across,domestic ,and global main stream media,are unprepared to admit-
    No society can thrive ,or government survive ,that is fixated on embracing tribalism/panders to narrow elements.
    White Christian /immigrant derived Islamist Europe, Sinhalese /Tamil Sri Lanka,or T&T,where ‘Papa Baz ,this is our time politics ,’is on steroids,ummmmm,…grown to mammoth proportion, during the past 4 years.

    Maybe we too ,can get a defection here,by some progressive leader in our T&T, huh ? If Muslims /Tamils can work together ,to get rid of a popular,yet uncaring dominant majority leader,just think of the possibilities- especially since ,we ain’t sure ,who represents the T&T majority.

    As for neo racist Europe? Hopeless!Por que ,tu pregunta? Can’t have a headache, and your stupid doctor, only choose to examine your big toe,si?
    Here is my thought for the day,as we continue to look at global realities, vis – a -vis T&T:-Beware of about man /woman ,with nothing to lose!
    Your call!
    I love this land,y tu?

  • Well stated. People possess an inherent right to peace and quiet.

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