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A Deadly Virus Called Poverty
Posted: Wednesday, May 24, 2006

By Michael De Gale

The escalation of violent crimes in T&T has politicians, business people, the police and concerned citizens not knowing which way to turn. In this climate of criminality, the Government has squandered millions in state of the art technology, promised action plans which failed to materialize and most recently have invited foreign police officers to arrest the problem. At the time of this writing, the homicide rate in T&T stood at 150; 13 more murders than the number of days in the year so far. If that does not constitute a social crisis, at the very lease it should provoke moral outrage. With notable exceptions, I believe that the average Trinibagonian families are "normal" people who will be content with a roof over their heads, food on the table, ample opportunities for education, employment and social interactions. In the absence of these basic necessities, people will choose to live lives of quiet desperation or resort to any means necessary to ensure their own survival. Unfortunately, these things that other affluent societies take for granted are not readily available to the average citizen. As a consequence, this dog eat dog society becomes a fertile breeding ground for pedophiles, perverts, predators, psychopaths and thieves. This is not a prophecy as the escalation in crime indicates clearly that that time is already upon us.

In desperation, people are calling on God to put a hand and stop this insanity. To gain access to the almighty they summon Benny Hinn complete with smoke, mirrors and money bags. But neither Benny Hinn, Billy Graham nor Benedict, could stem the manifestation of what is essentially a tide of social discontent, as the society continues to spiral into moral and social decay. Like Dante's Inferno, we are stuck in this living hell, a hell that is created by a Government who seems incapable of responding effectively to the anguished cries of pain and suffering. Obsessed with power and saturated with pride, they are preoccupied with fighting personal battles while squandering the opportunities to create a model nation. Sadly, there is no viable opposition or emerging political party that can be expected to perform better. We are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Unlike Dante it seems that we may never emerge from this living hell. In the meantime, the most vulnerable among us must pay the price of a Government's failure to order a just society for the greater good. It is the weak, the poor, and the innocent that must bear the burden of our failures. It is Akiel Chamber, Dane Andrews, baby Emily and Shawn Luke who like Jesus; would have died unnecessarily and in vain because we failed as a society to make adequate provisions for vulnerable children.

It is shortsighted, narrow minded and cold, to believe that economic growth alone is the full measure of a prosperous society. The measure of any successful society cannot be predicated simply in terms of dollars and cents. It must by necessity factor into the equation quality of life and access to goods and services. Whether the economy doubles or triples within the next few years, if the benefits of that growth cannot be enjoyed by the lease among us, we would have essentially created a failed society. If bread and milk cannot find its way to my table at a cost that is affordable, then economic prosperity means nothing to me. If access to education, justice and social programs are not accessible to all, again economic prosperity will mean nothing to me. If in this land of plenty, the spoils accumulate only to a few, then I have to make some decisions. In the absence of opportunities and programs that will allow me to escape this hell, I may refuse to suffer in silence, for poverty is not a natural condition. In this scenario, my hunger, anger and frustration could conceivably place me on the other side of the law. It is easy to connect the dots and conclude that as the gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen as the economy grows, so too will the problems of violent crime, injustice, social and moral erosion.

There are many things of which the people of T&T should be proud but poverty, crime and discrimination overshadow these accomplishments and leave a nasty scar that stains the nation's fabric. As economically prosperous as the country is, the reality of life for the poor and working class makes T&T look like a backwater republic. The absence of a dependable social safety net makes it difficult for the average Trinbagonian to survive economically and to feel a prolonged sense of pride. On the one hand, beggars roam the streets in nakedness, street children are everywhere and citizens live in daily fear of being murdered. On the other hand, the wealthy live in grand style, flaunting their affluence for all to see, blatantly practicing racial discrimination and robbing the country blind. The sad reality is that it does not have to be that way. Like the Government, people are becoming cold and uncaring as they battle for daily survival. Focused as they are on finding their daily bread, they fail to make the Government accountable for its actions or rather inactions. By the same token, the Government appears to have cultivated a culture of entitlement and feels itself unaccountable for mismanaging the nation's resources. Until we put in place sustainable programs to allow the lease among us to enjoy a modicum of civility and access to opportunities, T&T will never be the paradise that it is capable of becoming. Prolonged poverty is a deadly virus that stews in the cesspools of the nation and like all deadly viruses, poverty kills.

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