We are all in this Together

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
July 30, 2019

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeWith things getting hotter and deadlier, one recognizes how far our society has gone out of joint. With criminals finding more ingenious ways to avenge their grievances—like taking a boat from Sea Lots to catch their targets unaware in Las Cuevas—one wonders if the government and/or civic organizations are as ingenious as the criminals in getting the society back on an even keel.

The government may have to use greater force to bring things back under control, although one wonders if more hardware in the hands of our police and the army is the best way to tackle the problem of wonton killing. One also wonders how well we are using soft power to shape the minds of our younger population.

We know that deviant behavior—manifested in wanton criminality—begins in one’s mind and a feeling of un-belonging within the larger social community. Gangs give young men and women feelings of acceptance and belonging. If these propositions are true, every effort should be made to get into the minds of our children and younger people before their attitudes about life and its possibilities congeal into permanent distrust and alienation.

The government ought to place greater emphasis on educational, social, and cultural programs for our young people. While they might not solve the immediate problems of criminality and social dispossession, they possess enormous possibilities for solving the deep strain of criminality within certain segments of the black community. We must redouble our efforts to combat tendencies of criminality and social deviance within our black communities.

Several years ago while the PNM was in power I submitted a memo to Prime Minister Patrick Manning urging his government to include an educational component into the CEPEP program. Everyone who is employed in CEPEP should be mandated to attend classes a few times a week.

Such a program was not meant to transform these workers into scholars but to impact the mindsets of their children. Since children learn by imitation they are likely to do what their parents do. Seeing their parents open a book (the internet was not in vogue then) would likely encourage their children to do the same. The PNM still regrets (or should regret) that it did not implement this idea.

As the leader of the National Association for the Empowerment of African People, we ran a summer program (more appropriately an August program) for young people. Students were exposed to well-known international and national educators who offered lectures on various subjects of interest. We even ran a basketball camp with a coach from the USA. Students were provided with free meals and received a stipend.

Similar programs should be dotted throughout our landscape during the August vacation. They should include people who are accomplished in their fields—sporting, educational, cultural, and social—who could serve as models for these young people. Such programs not only provide information they also provide discipline and a belief in oneself. Exposure to successful individuals can show our youngsters how to use their time productively.

Sometimes I wonder if it wouldn’t be better to scrap the Toco-Manzanilla highway and pump that money ($2-5 billion dollars) into social, educational, sporting, and academic programs for our young people and our children. Might it not be better to favor young minds (spiritual/intellectual) over roads (material/infrastructural) at this point of our social development?

A few nights ago I saw a BBC program, “Generation Porn,” which argued that young people get most of their information about sex and sexuality via the internet. None of them felt they could speak with their parents about their sexuality or, worse yet, pornography. I don’t think I ever spoke with my children about these topics. Speaking with and listening to our children might be one way to conquer the pornography of the mind we are now experiencing.

We live in the age of the internet where information is transmitted instantly to our children minus the intervention of parents’ supervision. Any program that seeks to understand how young people cognize their reality must utilize this source of information transferral. It must be used as an educational tool within well-defined parameters.

What are the causes of the rising criminality? The breakdown of the immediate family and the weakening of our social communities seem to affect black youngsters disproportionately. There is nothing in their genes that makes them behave in destructive ways. What we place in their minds and how we construct their social environment are significant factors in their development. Government programs should work more closely with families and the larger social community to get into the minds of youths.

The input of youths is also important in constructing their development. They should also tell us the mistakes we have made and how we went wrong.

Each ethnic group has much at stake in solving this problem. Each group, in its own way, should partner with black people to increase our social and cultural capital in the community. It makes sense. All of us are feeling the impact of this deviant behavior.

Boris Johnson, UK’s prime minister, promises that if the British people left Brexit without a deal with the EU, by 2050 their “children will be living longer, happier, wealthier lives.” Theirs would be a society of “electric aircraft, blight-resistant crops and revived seaside towns, with Union Jack flagged satellites orbiting above a contented kingdom” (Financial Times, July 26.)

He might be peddling myths, but can any political group in our country offer a comparative myth that suggests our lives will be changed anytime soon? After all, myths tend to brighten and lighten the national mood.

4 thoughts on “We are all in this Together”

  1. “Sometimes I wonder if it wouldn’t be better to scrap the Toco-Manzanilla highway and pump that money ($2-5 billion dollars) into social, educational, sporting, and academic programs for our young people and our children. Might it not be better to favor young minds (spiritual/intellectual) over roads (material/infrastructural) at this point of our social development?“

    This government has close to $10 billion in loans owing to communist China. And a number of loans from the inter american bank and other leading institutions. The borrowing and debt load has increased considerably under this regime. Not forgetting the loan to repay the loan that Petrotrin created when they went to the European market to fund 3 dead projects for $12 billion.

    However with all the money in the nation, economic activities have slowed and no major projects have been undertaken. Needless to say even projects that were near completion have been abandon. The Point Fortin highway should have been completed. But instead they decided to have Ventor and team do a probe. Of which nothing will come out of it.

    And so it goes on!

  2. “Since children learn by imitation they are likely to do what their parents do.”

    This is probably the most significant statement in the article, since research has shown that children acquire more than two thirds of their “education” outside of school.
    The educational component to CEPEP, not necessarily academic, would have certainly impacted the lives of children in a positive way.
    Most groups in society received some sort of “headstart” except the emancipated slaves. Most people of African descent in T&T have progressed successfully. Unfortunately, the minority unlawful elements in certain areas are forcing a negative stereotype on the entire group.

  3. Professor it seems that you do not know what the CEPEP program has descended into a program for politicians to augment their earnings by getting their cronies to get CEPEP contracts. There are allegations that chosen party hacks in concert with ministers are the ones getting the contracts with a share going to the Minister. According to the late Patrick Manning the program was designed to train locals to be small contractors. The term should have been 3 years but there are contractors who a over 6 years in the program. When the last government went out of office the entire IT system crashed so that no data on payments etc was available. There is no accountability by the managers of the company. We have spent billions on the program without any returns or permanent meaningful jobs created. It is a drain on the limited resources of the government. If this money was lent out to entreprenures to create sustainable business and thereby employing thousands of people then it would be money well spent. This is true diversification of the economy.

  4. CEPEP has rescued many from abject poverty. Yet it is the whipping child for all and sundry. Original intent of CEPEP was to create a battery of entrepreneurs. Owners were suppose to create spin-off jobs for the unemployed. Those who are employed in low paying jobs are usually the drivers of the economy.

    On Emancipation day Dr. Rowley said “Africans are underperforming “. I beg to differ by saying some neglected by parents are underperforming but the majority are doing very very well. When the PNM took charge of the nation the treasury was open wide for Africans. From Jamaica to Grenada thousands came and were gainfully employed in the oil industry. The civil service is the primary employer of Africans stacked up at one time to 85%. It was hard to find an indian policeman, army man, or nurse. In addition to all of this thousands of houses were lotteried off with the bold statement “indians need not apply”. With over 40 years out of 56 years the PNM and its Afro support base savoured the fat of the land. As soon as the Rowley Government took charge they began a process of “restructuring”. Anyone who look like UNC was pink slipped. It was blatant racial discrimination. In addition to all of this the 1% has control over all large State contracts.

    CEPEP when it started was ran out of Dr. Rowley office. During his last year as Opposition Leader 15 trips was made to Dubai. I guess he was securing his holdings!

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