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A Monkey Wrench in the Machinery

Is Trinidad and Tobago ripe for terrorism?

It is fair to say that Trinidad and Tobago do possess some of the social conditions that will make it an easy target for terrorism. I am a bit hesitant to throw labels such as terrorist and genocide around too loosely, because as we know the emotional effect they can produce. Not only that, base on the source there can also be political and even economic consequences if prudence is not exercise. For one, we live in a very multi ethnic and racially sensitive society, where it is quite evident that the two largest racial groups are unfortunately pitted against each other at times by very prominent elements. I use the words unfortunately because of the severe consequences that can often accrue from such calculated misbehaviors by others who should know better. A quick glimpse through the media and history books across the globe, and we can see in vivid details the end results of such incitements and actions. Secondly, any negative perception of a small country like ours can also impact negatively the economy as other well meaning businesses might be hesitant to see our country as a useful partner due to the social climate. More importantly, would be the reluctance of citizens abroad with useful skills that will tend to also be hesitant to take that plunge and return home in attempts aimed at helping to build our twin Republic to the stature and high levels that it deserves.

Now let’s make one thing clear, terrorism is not a new phenomenon, but has existed for quite some time. Its definition has undergone some changes according to the whims of more powerful actors. Let’s take one common definition that is vogue in one of the major metropolis that seems to be the standard bearer today. It is “the calculated use of violence or threat of violence to attain goals that are political, religious, or ideological in nature …. through intimidation, coercion, or instilling fear.” Our real focus must also be on the role played by different “actors” in the equations. By this we are referring to the distinction between state governmental non governmental and inter governmental. State verses on non-state actors. It is this factor that has posed the most confusion for most experts.

So let us now try to examine the escalating levels of shootings, murders, rapes, abuses and other increasing levels of crimes that appear of late to be making Columbia and Jamaica better holiday destinations than our beautiful country. For the last two weeks for examples, we have had major shootings of people in our streets. One involved a Soldier, another Prison Officer and a regular civilian individual. The fact that these individuals were all shot in the street does not constitute terrorism in and of itself most would agree. Who were the prime targets? Are there threats, or use of force, for ideological, religious, political, or other purposes, and what is it aimed at influencing, government or particular group or a collective body ? What about the draconian methods that are being used against the civilians in this case, for the acquisition of the soldier’s killer? Let us not neglect to highlight the very massive levels of kidnappings that seem to be occurring primarily against our East Indian community members. Can anything be deduced by the patterns, or are they random? Do constituent leaders have a valid argument if they claim that members of one community are being singled out as against another? How do we explain the interracial dynamics? Are we as passionate when someone that does not look like us is involved and what message is sent by these actions?

It is why a comprehensive approach must be used to get to the heart of the problem. I have heard several calls for increase technology, and that’s a noble request. However spending billions alone on crime is only part of the solution. Everyday a new security firm is being created, some more trained and well equipped than others. That of course will ensure that competent security will only be afforded by those with the means. A few concerned Politicians in despair have even indicated a common desire of some scared citizens- to pack and run abroad. We know that such a move is easier said than done. A few weeks ago we can recall, a drunken woman crash through a house in Georgia and kill of all people a kid from Trinidad. The ugly specter of terrorism and other crimes such as this can pounce upon us anywhere in the globe we disappear to. This includes Iraq, World Trade center , an Embassy in Pakistan, or Safari in Kenya.

It is imperative that in addition to taking the various stringent measures that are suggested by various military, paramilitary, and technical experts, we also find a way to get to the underlying social problems that are generating such callous behaviors. My admonition is that we not be too quick to side step the advice of some of our social scientist and thinkers that suggest a reevaluation of policies and priorities, as well as encouragement of honest dialogues. While we are it, let’s look at a few other buzz words that we are all familiar with. These are alienation, humiliation, demographics, history, territory, and resources. Terrorism can well be a reality should any of our policy makers continue to ignored the social realities I just listed. It matters not who is in power, nor how much PhD’s are held by respective political advisors. No one is immune.
I will end by paraphrasing the poignant words of a popular writer on the subject of evil. She said as follows: Any creative encounter with evil requires that we not distance ourselves from it by simply demonizing those who commit evil acts. We should therefore try to comprehend evil from the inside out, and not necessarily sympathize with the perpetrators. To be informed is not an attempt to explain away evil. Ignorance is our worst enemy if our chief goal is to cope with evil.

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A Monkey Wrench in the Machinery
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