Dumbing down debate: Daly reflects on his 13-year column and new book

This coming week my book entitled The Daly Commentaries will be launched. It is a collection of 200 of my approximately 600-plus columns, published since 2002.

There is a Facebook page of the same name, which provides details of the availability of the book.

Photo: Martin Daly SC is a prominent columnist and former Independent Senator. (Courtesy UWI.sta.edu)
Photo: Martin Daly SC is a prominent columnist and former Independent Senator.
(Courtesy UWI.sta.edu)


I thank again my readers for whatever success this column has enjoyed. I enjoy the many conversations that I have with persons who approach me in public spaces and wherever I am liming. At least half of my columns have been directly inspired by those conversations.

I have used the privilege of having access to a newspaper column to write what goes through citizens’ minds.

At the highest level of seriousness citizens are appalled by the inability of the police to apprehend perpetrators of murder and other violent crime.   Some other things are “normal normal” like completely unmanaged road traffic and the equal yet contrasting frustration of being arbitrarily wrecked.

By reference to the words of the professional writer and editor who selected the columns and wrote a foreword to the book, essentially what these columns have tried to do is: “to speak on behalf of other, ordinary people, the ones who don’t have their own column in a newspaper, to call for justice, or to demand that our rulers deal with an urgent issue.”

The murder of Akiel Chambers will never rest and I have tried to show that despite regular changes of Government—from Bim to Bam and back—there is a lack of political will to deal with the fundamental problems besetting our society.

Photo: Then Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (left) shakes hands with her successor, Dr Keith Rowley, en route to Nelson Mandela's funeral in South Africa. (Courtesy News.Gov.TT)
Photo: Then Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (left) shakes hands with her successor, Dr Keith Rowley, en route to Nelson Mandela’s funeral in South Africa.
(Courtesy News.Gov.TT)

These columns have consistently highlighted how the interlocking relationships of a small, insecure nation undermine the political will to resist waste and corruption and to tackle serious crime and why those relationships guarantee that cases like those of Akiel are ignored.

On many occasions these columns have tackled in simple language, seemingly complicated events like the 18/18 tie or, more recently, Section 34 and the rumblings of the extradition process.

Last and by no means least, what I label as my liming includes sustained support for our performing arts and regular descriptions of their considerable but under-appreciated value. There is a section of the book reserved exclusively for columns on pan and culture.

Some items of what I myself read find their way into these columns because it is so important to keep fresh perspectives before an increasingly befuddled and battered citizenry, who live on a diet of same old, same old.

As the very disappointing 2015 Budget debate droned on laced with personal invective, an interviewer asked me whether I was not experiencing a sense of déjà vu, despite a change of Government.

Photo: Ah gone...
Photo: Ah gone…

The 2015 Budget debate and the let-down feeling of the public that followed it caused me to reach to my bookshelf for a work entitled Political Fictions by Joan Didion, cited in one of her many awards as “an incisive observer of America politics and culture for more than forty five years.”

Didion is an author and novelist and pioneer of literary journalism, described as having an ability to see with “X-ray clarity what is happening on the street” and “to make her readers see it.”

The thrust of Political Fictions based on the United States political experience is that, obsessed only with winning, major political parties dumb down the political narrative in order to avoid having to show their hand or to say something sensible and perhaps realistic on major issues.

There is a consensus among campaign managers, Didion, asserts, that winning an election requires a way of presenting the party free of unprofitable issues for which it might conceivably need to fight.

The following opinion is instructive regarding campaigns and debates of limited content:

Photo: United States president Barack Obama. (Courtesy UK Telegraph)
Photo: United States president Barack Obama.
(Courtesy UK Telegraph)

“In this determined consensus on all but a few carefully chosen and often symbolic issues, American elections are necessarily debated on ‘character’ or ‘values’, a debate deliberately trivialised to obscure the disinclination of either party to mention the difficulties inherent in trying to resolve even those few problems that might lend themselves to a programmatic approach.

“A two-party system in which both parties are committed to calibrating a precise level of incremental tinkering required to get elected is not likely to be a meaningful system, nor is an election likely to be meaningful when it is specifically crafted as an exercise in personalismo in ‘appearing presidential’ to the diminishing percentage of the population that still pays attention.”

Perhaps it is because of similar tinkering that the 2015 Budget debate ducked serious input on the hard issues like the fuel subsidy, falling energy prices, the colossally wasteful state enterprise sector, the lack of sustainable jobs when a student emerges from a Government Assisted Tertiary Education (GATE) funded education, the continued unqualified criminalization of marijuana and LGBT issues even as the latter were up in Parliament’s face.

Will we stagnate until we enter a terminal decline?

Photo: Princes Town MP Barry Padarath. (Courtesy TTonline.org)
Photo: Princes Town MP Barry Padarath.
(Courtesy TTonline.org)

Editor’s Note: Martin Daly SC has written on legal issues, parliamentary practice, morality, transparency, public-procurement procedures, justice, music, pan and the performing arts since 2002. 

A collection of the best of his columns, The Daly Commentaries, goes on sale from November 6 at Paper Based Bookshop, Hotel Normandie, Port of Spain (625-3197), and Blue Edition, 32 St Vincent St, Tunapuna (223- 6921). 

Visit The Daly Commentaries on Facebook for information.

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About Martin Daly

Martin Daly
Martin G Daly SC is a prominent attorney-at-law. He is a former Independent Senator and past president of the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago. He is chairman of the Pat Bishop Foundation and a steelpan music enthusiast.

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  2. He is one of my favourite columnists. I do miss Dana Seetahal’s legal columns as well. RIP Dana…

  3. Thank you Mr Liburd for using your website to post items like this. Having decided not to buy the Express or the Guardian or their web version because I do not want to contribute to the massive solid waste problem of our nation, I have missed reading the Daly and Sunity Maharaj and the mutineer/ex-parliamentarian’s column.
    A ” small, insecure nation” indeed we are, but it is remarkable how a large insecure nation like the USA has some of the same unwillingness to tackle the larger issues of the world like climate change and gun control/violence.
    To me, our smallness and insecurity seems to be influencing our young people even more, especially the so-called educated ones. Recently Keith Nurse a UWI lecturer is quoted as saying that 70% of our graduates are leaving the country. This is not a new statistic and the plus 50% of graduates leaving has been a feature of our country for over 50 years. Do we have any discussion about why we have decided to be an education factory for the Americans, Canadian and British, training the people that they need at our expense and even now subsidising it through systems like GATE? Do we seek, with our centres for criminology at the University , to understand that crime and our unwillingness to seriously tackle it causes brain draining ?
    Do we understand that when multiple young people are killed at an alarming rate and an elderly couple is hacked to death and the head of a man is sawed off his head all within the space of three weeks and the police service is clearly totally out of its depth, that this place is maybe perhaps to be considered out of control? Many thanks to Mr Daly .

    • Lasana Liburd

      Well, many thanks to the columnists who have kindly allowed Wired868 to re-use their pieces for the sake of the reading public.
      You raised some excellent points on the brain drain for sure. Do you think crime is the main reason?

      • Mr Liburd. In general we human beings strive to survive. We want to live. We want our children to live good lives. If you have to choose between a place in which you feel secure versus one in which you don’t feel secure I suspect that you will choose the place where you feel secure. Have you ever wondered why Sparrow lives in New York or Rudder in Canada? Now take these people and multiply them by thousands. In all socio economic groups people move for better lives. Crime that is rampant and seemingly unsolvable makes people look for alternatives. People with more education have more options. It’s difficult to move, but it is probably preferred to living in fear. I have recently met a young professional couple who tried to move back to Trinidad from Canada after completing their studies. They both got excellent jobs. They gave up again on staying because they felt that the closed, security obsessed lifestyle was not for them and they moved back to Canada so their children could have a life that is not as stressful and cramped. Many thanks.

  4. Martin, If one took your third-last paragraph and changed “presidential” to “prime ministerial” and offered it as original commentary on the 2015 General Elections in Trinidad and Tobago, it would pass probably unnoticed and almost certainly unchallenged as gospel. What insight! “

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