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Looking for a hero
T&T is sputtering in an epoch of unprecedented political scrutiny, national disillusionment and unparalleled abdication of personal responsibility. So pitted are we against each other that the search for a President was revved up to a deafening clamour, each tribe with fevered bristling either demanding additional territory or bemoaning the ceding of further ground.
The nomination of former judge Anthony Carmona seemed to have the effect of temporarily halting the advance of a raging bush fire, offering fleeting respite from an atmosphere of toxic enmity and smothering hopelessness. With the wind picking up and the bush fire having caught its breath again, attention was briefly diverted to thoughts of salvation or, at the very least, some salve in these days of blistering disappointment.
In his speech President Carmona hinted at the heavy air of expectation, a sense that in him the nation would find the change which was promised but misplaced. Far less cerebral and cryptic than presidential circumlocutions of the past, President Carmona, while not pandering to the messiah-seeking masses, was very clear in what he hopes people will see in him. “Powers you think I have, I do not. Powers you think I don’t have, I do.”
We are so easily wowed that this quote was circulated like an after-school fight video online. The question is, did we really listen and understand what this man was saying? One political analyst characterised the speech as “too political.” This is precisely what it wasn’t; at any rate there are few political scientists in this country who are in any danger of still being taken seriously.
Certainly, his reference to Section 81 of the Constitution mandating the Prime Minister to keep him abreast of governance issues was a well-placed shot over the bow of the Government; his will not be a rubber stamp on cocktail-napkin tenure. Just how far he is prepared to test the boundaries of his appointment remains to be seen.
Given the alarming frequency of our serious challenges, he may find himself called upon to act sooner than later in avoidance of the “dissipation of goodwill” to which he alluded. In that illuminated stadium where President Carmona was inaugurated, how many were really illuminated by the kernel of the message?
Of particular importance was President Carmona’s rededication of the nation’s watchwords—discipline, production and tolerance. What we have now is own-way, “just enough to get me to 4 pm” and “iz dem getting all de fundin’ now!” It is a recurring theme: how can we expect adherence to the highest principles of morality and integrity in public life when we are not prepared to exhibit the same behaviours?
We continue to satisfy ourselves with the justification that “Is dem whot runnin’ de corntree so dem is de one who hah to see-bout crime and dee-conimie!” The statistics are available so there is no need to rehash; productivity in this country is abysmal. The normal workday must take into account early departure to collect the children, to avoid the traffic, or because it is Friday (perhaps Thursday).
All of the forgotten communities burning tyres in their undergarments demand jobs with pay which must be commensurate with lifestyles they have already established. Drop out of school because your parents, scarcely out of their teens when they conceived, aren’t equipped to offer a modicum of guidance. For boys with their pants dropped low, crime is the only option “becor nobody out hyar eh kear-bout we!”
At the other end of the spectrum, companies raking in massive profits dole out coins (if anything at all) to orphanages or mentorship programmes while heaping obscene wealth in their marketing juggernauts upon pseudo-celebrities scarcely in need of the support. Given his exposure to the burgeoning criminal element, President Carmona alluded to the Bail Boys Project.
This project incorporates relatives of young offenders in the enforcement of curfew restrictions, anger management sessions, re-education and literacy training. It reads like a practical approach to preventing stray youth from evolving into violent adults programmed with rape-kill-then-rob software.
It would be a great idea for the media houses to spotlight this project. Now there is an idea for a reality television series! One of you corporate fat cats can provide sponsorship to a media house to produce a series which follows the progress of a few individuals selected by the Bail Boys Project.
This could show all the other “badman” out there a completely different trajectory, one which leads to a fulfilling life as a law-abiding citizen. This is only one example of how President Carmona envisions the exercise of personal responsibility. We can bad-talk the Government at home or bad talk the country from abroad, but there are myriad strategies to initiate change without the interminable waiting in queue and on a cue from a government.
We are looking for a leader, a hero to drag us gasping from this scum-choked pond. What President Carmona appears to be saying is that, in large part—and this is cornier than coo-coo—we must be that hero.
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