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Imitating Icons and Role - Models
Posted: Saturday, September 21, 2002

By Stephen Kangal, MOM

Trinbagonians ought not to be surprised but certainly outraged by the hordes of criminals who are laying siege to paradisic T&T. Such an onslaught on the forces that should maintain law and order may have had its origins, derived its inspiration and gained momentum from the perception of the criminally-prone dispossessed of our society that icons, role models and leaders having raped and/or presided over the pillaging of the national coffers can now boast on public platforms that no one has been arrested or charged i.e. telegraphing that crime was committed with impunity. Or worse, those charged can circumnavigate the full brunt of the law via their ill gotten- largesse dispensed abundantly to skilful advocates. Having committed the crime they do not have to do the time. Doing the time is the preserve of the disadvantaged amongst us.

The demonstration effects of infractions of the law committed at the highest levels have been succinctly immortalised in the lyrics of the calypso laureate: "If the priest could play who is we?"

We are treating with the symptoms of crime (by concentrating at the crime detection level) and circumventing the root causes of the cancer of crime ( by ignoring the crime prevention/incubation level).

Therefore the alleged perpetrators declare themselves innocent. They unleash witch-hunt accusations in the face of hard evidence being been bravely published by the responsible and investigative media relating to substantial "foreign-used" and domestic accounts credited with and debited by millions of dollars of dubious transactions. The sordid revelations made at Commissions of Inquiry have induced within the political partisan a certain degree of indifference and immunity to incidences of improper conduct in public office/law-breaking leading to widespread complacency/condonation towards criminal acts.

On the other hand these icons/role models do not and are encouraged to feel that they do not have an obligation to explain the sources of their obscene deposits/incomes to the discriminating electorate. But the ordinary, law-abiding citizen has to declare in writing to and be grilled on his/her legitimate sources of hard- earned income by Republic Bank, RBTT etc.

Accordingly the $52m paver- man renowned for his sartorial innocence/ elegance saunters gingerly, untainted into marginal Tunapuna ushered in by the rhythmic strains of pulsating Pasea tassas heralding his most recent avatar to undertake a demolition derby with home-grown, Tunapuna born and bred Eddie - the heart of an Eastern lion.

One cannot telegraph the contradictory message: Do as I say but not as I do!

Unfortunately the predilection for a life based on crime to fulfil basic needs is a function not only of existing objective social disparities/inequities but also of imitative/ copy- cat behaviours that underpin the referent theory.

Sweet T&T has aggregated GNP per capita income equivalent to that of a First World country thanks to enormous wealth derived from the hydrocarbon sector. But on the other hand, T&T is also mother to 25% of its children living under the poverty line the effects also of the invisible hand of globalization in which 20% of Trinbagonians commandeer 80% of national wealth.

How can the affluent "haves" eat, drink and be merry (khawo, peewo aur mauj karo) when the "have-nots’, the disadvantaged and the dispossessed starve? Where is the social and economic justice when quasi- State CEO’s (notably of TIDCO) are taking home seven (7) times the monthly salary of His Excellency The President and paying themselves enormous, vulgar performance bonuses for pure, unadulterated non-performance?

How can T&T achieve equity, balanced development, social, economic and distributive justice when those of us who profess to and parade a higher moral and ethical code, subscribe passionately to the Hindu fundamentals of the Karma-Dharma concept, establish mandirs in every village, wear "janaiwaes" indicative of both morality and a higher sense of spirituality, attend pujas, wear "thickas", host ramayans yaags, "charhaway jaals", conduct hawans, recite the Gayatri Mantra/ Hanuman Chalisa by heart, shout "Bajurang Ki Bali!", be the chief celebrant at Puja 2002, plant "jhandis", consecrate Shiva Lingams derived from Coosal’s Quarry and then proceed to justify and condone thievery on the grounds that PNM also stole?

What moral/ethical-based legacy are we bequeathing to posterity to guarantee the survival and future viability of Trinbago? Are we to be satisfied with nurturing and perpetuating a culture based on immorality/dishonesty in a small-island developing- state that is studded with a greater density of churches/mandirs/ masjids/schools per square mile than any other country in the Western Hemisphere if not globally?

It is as if the moral/ethical fabric of our society woven by our fore-parents from the fibres extracted from cane, rice, hydrocarbons and cocoa has been shredded into "buss up shut" roti to feed a free- for- all bhandara (Hindu feast). One cannot in all honesty, de-link mushrooming crime from a strong perception of rampant corruption at the highest levels. If the priest could thief….?

Who are the patriots internalizing and practicing Dr.Bhoe Tewarie’s cocktail prescription for leadership spiked with integrity, principles, strength of character and self-discipline? They constitute an endangered species in Trinbago.

Not only is this society in general morally bankrupt (only 4% admits in the UWI/ ANSA Poll that corruption is an election issue) but it suffers from the most virulent strain of the bankruptcy of political leadership. The results are huge pockets of voter apathy, hopelessness and a moratorium on further investments from the business elite. How can we be so poor politically in the face of being so rich in resources, wealth and entrepreneurship? How can we amass an unprecedented fistful of dollars but show no sense of direction and dedication for navigating our progress into the safe haven of participatory nationhood?

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