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Rumors of War
Posted: Wednesday, August 20, 2008

By Michael De Gale
August 20, 2008

Immigration in the new global economy is a fact of life as wars, restlessness, employment and investment opportunities make it necessary for people to move. Attracted mainly by its new found wealth, T&T has become a particularly attractive destination for immigrants from across the globe. Evidence suggests that most of these immigrants are doing exceptionally well, establishing businesses and accessing supports from government and financial institutions that traditionally deny similar services to locals. As an immigrant myself, it is nice to feel welcome in your adopted home and be able to take advantage of the opportunities provided. What troubles me however, is that native born Trinbagonians on the lowest rung of the socio/economic ladder, continue to scrape the bottom of the barrel for opportunities while living in festering ghettos, not far removed from the days of slavery and indentureship.

To quote Malcolm X, "...Sitting at the table doesn't make you a diner, unless you eat some of what's on that plate. Being here in America doesn't make you an American. Being born here in America doesn't make you an American." This poignant statement is clearly applicable to Trinbagonians living on the fringes of the society, witnessing recent immigrants enjoying a standard of living locals can only dream about and from all indications would never attain. In essence, they are second-class citizens in the land of their birth. Needless to say, this scenario breeds contempt and leave the door open for those who would use ethnic and anti-immigrant scapegoating rhetoric, to sow seeds of discontent and stroke the fires of racial hatred.

Scapegoating is a historically divisive tactic, used over the years to stir nationalist sentiment, create discord, divert attention and make victims of the innocent often through violent means. History is replete with examples including the near extermination of Jews in Hitlerís Germany and the genocide in Rwanda. From Sarajevo to Sri Lanka, Jerusalem to Djakarta, it seems that much of the world is engaged in a war pitting one group against another. A recent New York Times article claims that there are 47 countries involved in violent ethnic conflict, including 8 in Europe, 10 in the Middle East, 15 in sub-Saharan Africa, 11 in Asia, and 4 in Latin America. Considering the widening gap between rich and poor, the scurge of violence in the society, the influx of new immigrants, race baiting by the politically ambitious and a host of other trigger factors, it is only a matter of time before T&T takes its place as a nation in conflict.

In this smouldering couldron of race, class and immigration, it is morally reprehensable and politically irresponsible to allow a growing underclass to stew in poverty. The violence that is claiming the lives of young people in T&T on a daily basis is evidence of a restlessness; symptoms of much deeper social problems. Punative responses to crime without addressing the root of the problem while providing incentives to newcomers in disproportion to locals, adds insult to injury. CEPEP and URP programs may provide short term relief to satisfy immediate needs, but they fail to provide long-term support to launch careers, instill dignity and support families. Skill training programs, self-employment initiatives, investing in communities and access to education are integral components in the struggle to liberate people from their wretchedness. It is not charity but investing in people and communities that will stave off the kind of conflict that is plaguing nations around the world. Embarking on a reactive approach to issues that promises to be potentially explosive is a fatal mistake for any administration. If the authorities are unable to control the violence that is currently taking place, it would be impossible for them to successfully put out the fires of ethnic and racial violence that seems inevitable. As the saying goes take in front. If the authorities refuse to yield to reason before long they will yield to force.

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