Crime And The People
Posted: Monday, March 28, 2005
By Linda Edwards
"It is part of the pride of this family of simple providers, good providers, that our relatives all die in our beds. In some cases, hospital beds, but in the three generations that I am aware of, no one has lost a life as a result of crime or road accident. God be Praised."
I quote myself above, from the eulogy I delivered at the funeral of my brother Edmund Edwards, a 27 year employee of T&TEC, who died on August 2, 2004, and was buried in that 'bandan of a cemetery operated by the Tunapuna Regional Co-operation on the Eastern Main Road in Arima. The name Edwards means good provider, and my brother was that.
After twenty-seven years with the same company, he did not own a palace of a house, just a simple one, debt free. He did not own two or three fancy cars, nor a vacation home, nor did he get to go further on a vacation than Tobago. My brother was a simple man, who stayed married to the same woman for thirty-five years, and left her provided for from his pension.
What a contrast to so many other people's lives!
There are people who rise in prosperity almost overnight, build monster houses, drive the latest cars and displayed wealth is not commensurate with stated earnings, education or normal expectations of people at that level in the society. One can well ask then, "wey dey money coming from?" And the answers to that question may explain much about the current crime scene that is Trinidad and Tobago.
Aranguez used to be described as the garden, the salad bowl, of the east-west corridor. Is this description still true? If it has become the new crime capital, or a rival for that honor with the perennial crime in Laventille and other places, what has changed? I would challenge all daily papers, not only to interview the Anils who run barber shops in the villages, but to send some undercover person to acquire some illegal substance, some car part at bargain prices, something under the table, off the radar screen of legal, taxed imports and legitimate business. Do this in any part of the island where crime has crept in. What you would find is that one or two people began dabbling in illegal activities, and prospering there from, then others get into the act, then predators get into the act. Predators are sharks, they smell the blood of loot and profit from a long way away.
The thing about predators is that they prey on the innocent and the guilty. Their widespread hunting ground catches the tuna, and the sprats on which the tuna feeds. Then we castigate a village or town as crime ridden, forgetting that many of those residents get up every day and go to work for meager wages and will never own the monster houses, the three or four luxury cars and the other trappings of ostentatious wealth.
The women of Aranguez whom I saw in 1985, coughing out their lungs in a ward of the Port-of-Spain General Hospital (I had written a piece on this in the Express at that time called Please Don't Spray My House!) were the generation of hard working people who got up at dawn to make a living. Whom have they birthed? Idle young men who hang on the corner liming, at the bar until closing, and in other places where nation-building work is not taking place, but who want to live like the lords of industry? Can their sons find work if they wanted to? At a wage they could live on above the level of the boys who dodge cars on the highway selling bodi and ochroes?
We have become a high-speed society where the type and make of car is mentioned in every crime report, in a way that makes it sound exciting. If we were big into computer crime we would probably mention the speed of the access s(he) has, the type of computer and everything else in our voracious appetite for the vicious, the titillating.
While many people in Trinidad and Tobago fear crime, there may well be a greater despair that is hardly mentioned in the papers. It is the despair of going to work every day, working hard for many years and always being in debt, everything costing more than you can reasonably pay.
The medicines are too costly, transportation is a hassle, people on the job are aggravated without reason, and life is a grind. It is when people come to that point, that the idea of the marijuana field in the government owned forests of Eclesville and Moruga, and the hills above Tunapuna begin to look interesting. It is then that the sons of the garden women who grew bodi turn to growing other things, and take up fishing. It is then that the delta of the Caroni river becomes not a nature tour to watch the scarlet ibis come home at dusk, but an unsupervised entry and exit into the Gulf, and to the criminal coasts of South America. The son of the growers of bodi and melongene becomes a drug dealer. Other predators follow. Peter pays for Paul, and Paul, the nation, pays and pays and pays.
In our oil and gas rich nation, every citizen, technically, is wealthy if you divide the wealth of the national resources by 1.5 million people. People will die, however, in their eightieth year, without ever having had the security of a steady job, without ever having had the security of buying a month's groceries and paying for all of it at once, without ever having a rainy day fund of a few dollars put aside. These are some of the simple things that define humanity. Is humanity so defined in TnT?
We are still a colony of exploitation. The new plantation owners are the oil conglomerates and their Trini counterparts in industry and government. The people at the bottom of the pyramid are the marginalized, living much less well than did the poor of previous times, and pretty much like the slaves in the Caribbean, the Americas and India did. We were the first to abolish modern slavery, but did we do it in name only? Has any government sat down and thought out what is the basic level of decency at which our citizens must live to be considered a civilized society? And has any government thought of putting in place a plan to achieve this basic level of decent living?
People who visit from abroad, are not traumatized by the crime in TnT. It really is not that bad when compared to other places. What is bad, and which hardly makes the papers, is the total, unremitting poverty of so many of the population. The abject absence and neglect of facilities that serve the wage-earner. The prettiness of Carnival does not cover it. The beautiful old and new structures do not cover it. The lovely multi-culturalism of our rainbow people does not cover it. The poor are dirt poor, and that, in a very prosperous economy leads to crime. It always has. The victims of crime will be twofold. The perceived prosperous will get robbed, and the poor will vent its helpless rage on its own families in child murders, wife murders, child rapes within families and stabbings and shootings in neighborhood bars. And some will turn to alcoholism in an attempt to drown out the futility of it all. Some will find passion and expiation in religious revivals, which is just another way of wrenching the widow's mite out of her purse, and all of this will culminate in more mindless violence and the police will arrive too late to do anything about these. They always have. And from this, newspapers create headlines in an endless round of futility and condemnation.
And under cover of all this, people seeking quick riches will erect unauthorized chemical companies, and dumping grounds where explosions will release toxins that will kill the poor of those regions, like the chemical spill at Bopal in India(Dow Chemicals) did. That too, has always happened, and if the full story was told, someone got rich quick by being paid to turn a blind eye to what was going on in Erin and other southern places. The unremitting love of money in the midst of poverty, is the crime that engulfs us all.
It always has.
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