I was ambivalent when I began receiving emails from a blog created by a Richard Hosein called the United Voice. I was interested, repelled and unfailingly fascinated by the spelling and grammar employed by some of its users. Then one day it came to an end with this email.
Dear Friends of the United Voice,
It saddens me to announce that the UNITED VOICE will be shutting down its blog effective October 31, 2010. As moderator, I have attempted to provide a forum for free expression ranging from political, and community news to articles, media releases, and speeches. It has been a very challenging journey for me. The dedication and commitment required to successfully continue moderating this blog isn't there anymore. Very few persons ever took the time to express their appreciation for this selfless service that was provided to thousands daily, for FREE. However, it was the norm to criticize and complain.?Soon that will be a thing of the past. I want to thank all my bloggers who participated over the years. Special thanks?to my critics. You are entitled to your views and I will always respect that. Stay blessed.
I shot back a note elaborated in this column.
I want to add my voice to those who have expressed regret at your decision to stop this group and thanks for starting and maintaining it as it appeared to be a lifeline to many who wanted to engage in our country. However, I can intuit your relief at having made the decision to shut it down. A lot of the comments were not useful as they were harsh, grating, accusatory and slanderous. I have always maintained that media is a mirror of our people. What this vital tool of democracy revealed in the mirror was that we are an angry lot. The violence in our society is not just expressed in the senseless shootings by 18-year-old illiterate boys who are empowered by guns, a 17-year-old girl murdering a 15-year-old in school with a knife, or a 12-year-old girl being raped by six boys over a month.
It's in us all.
Perhaps this has to do with the fact that politicians over the years have literally ravaged this country. They have left more than 40 per cent of us functionally illiterate, and some 20 per cent of us living in various stages of poverty. We wait for hours at the corrupt licensing office. We spend three hours, often more, in traffic jams. Policemen are scary. They drive like crazy, breaking all the rules. They curse and shout at citizens at traffic lights. They point their guns outward when travelling at citizens. There is no accountability anywhere, which is why people in power are incredibly powerful. ?We are chameleons, the human rights lawyer of yesterday is the hangman today. The accused of yesterday is at best forgotten (an enraged guest at a cocktail party cornered me and practically screamed. What happened to Calder Hart?
Have you forgotten what he did?" at worst, lauded, garlanded. As a journalist, I hear the same story everywhere. "We know that heart disease is responsible for half the deaths in this country but we have no data; we know our cocktail of pesticides used by farmers can be lethal, but we have no data; we know the unregulated industry in Point Lisas may be responsible for entire streets of people getting cancer but we have no data; we know that rural areas are neglected, some children there have never seen a toothbrush, but we have no data; we know that prostitution is rife near the Beetham dump, children are unregistered so they don't actually exist as citizens but we have no data.
It's sickening. No professional bodies are accountable. They are the worst. We have never heard the Law Association, or Medical Board of Trinidad and Tobago or the Medical Association speaking up for a patient, client or their rights. In this Clico imbroglio not once did we hear the Institute of Chartered Accountants of T&T calling for accountability from firms such as PricewaterhouseCoopers. We are forced to live in a country where dumps that should have been shut down, polluting our earth, and air, are still in operation. We are forced to watch more money being wasted on ridiculous projects as our country's drainage system rusts and rots, making severe flooding an everyday occurrence which can't be fixed. Mops, mattresses and shelters are an ineffectual bandage over this daily haemorrhaging of people's lives. ?
The rule of law is non-existent. People rarely expect justice in any area of their lives, be it when they apply for housing, got a "bad drive" if they are robbed or relatives are killed. Recently, a brilliant 13-year-old girl, (who was in the top hundred in SEA a few years ago) and of a single mother from Paramin, was practically maimed on her way to school due to the reckless driving of a maxi taxi driver. If it weren't for a kind doctor who did her surgery for free she would not be able to walk today. Every time it rains that child sits in the convent with the steel in her knee and suffers. She passes that maxi taxi driver on her street all the time knowing he got away with it. For this story there are thousands of others.
Right now the anger has turned us into rage-filled people.
The violence is in the way we look at one another while driving, the way we answer the phone, the way we serve customers, on our protesting streets, in our schoolchildren and at our increasingly vitriolic language in the way we express our politics. For these and many reasons we are angry Richard. I saw hundreds of enraged posts. I deleted some of them after one sentence. You had to absorb each one and re-post it. It must have been traumatic for you. I was one of the people who never said thank you. I want to thank you now. You have unflinchingly held up a mirror to us, and what we saw, was a fog of violence. I wish you the best. You are a true patriot.