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Friday, April 25, 2014
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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21st century bellyaching Pt 3
My columns over the past two weeks focused on the introduction of initiatives to effect change in the way policing is conducted in this country. More specifically, they addressed the strong, and at times nonsensical, objection to almost all of the measures proposed by embattled Police Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs.
Trinidadians are experts on what must be done to remedy every problem under the sun; when it comes to doing something concrete it is always, “Who me? Nut me and dem nah!” For the most part, our approach to crime has been to circle the wagons. The well-heeled in our midst sequester themselves in fortresses. The rest of us on the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder rely on drapes, which apparently, when closed rapidly at the first sign of a suspicious person on the street, develop Kevlar-like qualities.
Then, of course, there is canine protection. If we are honest with ourselves we must confess to entertaining perverse thoughts of: “I want to put a pit bull in my yard so monstrous that when he finally hole dat zaboca tief in de night, all yuh go fine de nex’ morning is de wretch gold teeth in de dog turd.”
Bandit-eatin’ pit bulls, unfortunately, does not constitute a long-term strategy to achieve true crime suppression. We hold the failure of the Police Service directly responsible for the uncontrolled brush fire of violence in society but there is certainly enough blame to go around.
The Police Service, to a certain extent, is envisioned as something akin to the Water and Sewerage Authority—what you do after we flush is your business. We were all shocked to hear of the killing of baby Aaliyah, a toddler whose life was snuffed out like a cigarette in an ashtray.
An outraged citizenry offers the standard vituperations of hellfire and eternal torment of that condemned soul in Jesus’ name. Comments spun into fodder for the talk formats beg the question: do we vent over violent crime because of enduring frustration or because it is all that we are really prepared to do?
At the funeral for baby Aaliyah, Fr Martin Sirju lamented the curse of the poor. Obviously alluding to the tragic circumstances surrounding this perplexing killing, he suggested that the poor are not interested in education and, as such, have few options when clawing their way into society.
This dearth of options, he postulates, fires the ever-bubbling cauldron of frustration among the disenfranchised; a sustained threat to all society. Of course it is easy to dismiss Fr Sirju. I’ve often heard people say “they all had access to free education so I don’t understand why I have to suffer for their slackness.” It is a weak argument at best and also quite pointless.
When that bandit is jumping your fence at night with a gun in his hand and malice in his mind, you will scarcely find the time to debate the historical trajectory of your impending murder. If there were no cracks people would not be falling through them and, while I am not peddling some “I am my brother’s keeper” ethos, ignoring the “at risk” among us as boring clichés has the alarming irony of eventually placing the rest of us at risk.
Not many of you may be aware that there is an international mentorship programme in T&T called Big Brother Big Sister. As the name suggests, it pairs adult men and women with boys and girls in need of guidance; children who are at the mercy of either dysfunction in the home or from single-parent environments where nurturing is a scarce commodity.
Unfortunately, one of the challenges these mentorship programmes often have is getting people to sign up. Folks are too busy with their own lives to take just one hour out of their week to spend time with a little boy or girl in need of positive influences. They are happy to give money. But more than money, these discarded children need one very simple thing: they want to know that someone cares.
Just as important is showing these children that there is a huge world that exists outside of the circle of poverty and violence that is their daily reality. They need to know that they don’t have to become the next bandit or teen mother on the block; that they too can become a CEO, pilot, engineer or journalist, just like any other child.
It is not easy work; I have seen firsthand the struggles that the unsung heroes in our midst confront trying to mend children shattered by emotional terrorism and physical abuse. Every child saved, though, is one less misguided youth easily seduced by the unconditional love of the street.
We can bellyache about the failure of the police to deal with bandits until the cows don’t come home because they have been hacked up in the pasture by cattle rustlers. But unless we take some responsibility for a society that turns out more bandits than we can arrest or kill there will never be an appreciable decline in violent crime.
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