Understanding The Thing: Daly muses over T&T’s curious self-esteem

As mentioned in this column recently we are a society pock-marked by destructive shade preference practiced by citizens of all descents, even within ethnically kindred groups.

I had intended to return to the subject because in my view there is an inextricable link between the violent crime that is again “spiking” and degrading social conditions in which low self-esteem are a major part.

Photo: A thug shows off his weapon.
Photo: A thug shows off his weapon.

Before I could return to the subject, Emancipation Day 2016 came around and there were a number of inspiring columns reminding us of where we still have to go on the journey to true emancipation.

Much time is spent analysing why certain young persons are drawn to enlistment in ISIS and how they are “radicalised”. I wish we would spend more time on what draws our young persons into gangs and into a fatalistic view of their young lives, to the point where some reportedly pre-pay for their funerals.

Our Prime Minister’s wife, Sharon Clark-Rowley, as Patron of Laventille Nights, when productive community accomplishments are displayed—in remarks prominently reported in one newspaper—thoughtfully spoke of the fatal outcomes for many of our young men as making “wrong choices” and exhorted us not to condemn certain areas wholesale.

That accords with the outlook of this column.  As long ago as 2003 when violent crime was “spiking” I wrote a column against unqualified negative profiling entitled Targeting Laventille.

It argued that aggressive “clean up” of targeted areas was not all that was needed to attack violent crime and could be counter productive. It said in part: “Such tactics cannot possibly be employed in our name, dear readers.  We have not sanctioned anyone to turn beast, to ‘saddamize’ Laventille, Morvant John John or Beetham, as though they are full of some group that the rulers or the hidden powerful have decided are expendable”.

Photo: Late former Iraq president Saddam Hussein. (Copyright NBC)
Photo: Late former Iraq president Saddam Hussein.
(Copyright NBC)

(Saddam was then of recent memory and had blistered Kurdish groups with chemical weapons).

Should we, not be urgently pinpointing what inclines our young men in particular to making the “wrong choices” and implementing social development policies to deal with the negative conditions that beset them?

Mrs Rowley—in the interests of full disclosure, I confirm that she has been one of my business partners for 20 years; there are six of us currently crossing generations—described how her mother taught her to sew so that she would be productive at something.

That is precisely what pan and other performing arts and sport can do, as I often urge upon our rulers, including this lot. Let’s invest heavily, but in an objective, policy driven manner in having communities offer some better choices and provide the surrogate emotional support that comes from being part of a team such as a musical or sporting family.

It is nearly seventy years since Marcus Garvey made the speech in which he said: “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.”

Many years later Bob Marley made Garvey’s advice universally known though his haunting ‘Redemption Song’.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (left) and his wife Sharon Rowley during 2015 Emancipation Day celebrations.
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (left) and his wife Sharon Rowley during 2015 Emancipation Day celebrations.

Writing in the Jamaica Gleaner, on Jamaica’s 50th Independence anniversary in 2010, Glenford Smith described Garvey “as the philosophical fountainhead for Marley” and expressed his view that many persons remained enslaved to states such as low self-esteem and self doubt.

I believe in taking a vacation and I am concluding one now.  For my vacation reading I was immersed in Toni Morrison’s ‘The Bluest Eye’.  It tells the extremely painful story of the mentally slavish desire of Pecola to have the bluest eyes and blond hair.

Pecola’s self esteem is destroyed by the arrival of a new girl in school named Maureen: “a high-yellow dream child, who instantly became the popular child.”

Morrison, a Nobel Prize winning author helps us to understand this thing as now set out below.

“Black boys didn’t trip her in the halls; white boys didn’t stone her, white girls didn’t suck their teeth when she was assigned to be their work partners.”

“Jealousy we understood and thought natural—a desire to have what somebody else had; but envy was a strange new feeling for us.”

“And all the time we knew that Maureen Peale was not the Enemy and not worthy of such intense hatred. The Thing to fear was the Thing that made her beautiful, and not us.”

Photo: Cover image for Toni Morrison's novel, "The Bluest Eye".
Photo: Cover image for Toni Morrison’s novel, “The Bluest Eye”.

The pieces quoted above are an awesome example of the output of mental slavery.

An insecure society like ours survives by putting aside the Thing on the surface in order to conduct relationships that cannot be avoided. But, secretly, the Thing influences how we treat each other in many ways not necessary for the basic functioning of the society.

The Thing lies at the heart of inequality of opportunity and the marginalisation of many of those who make wrong choices. We need to understand it and deal with it along with prevalent forms of abuse visited upon young men and women.

Photo: Image inspired by Toni Morrison's novel 'The Bluest Eye'.
Photo: Image inspired by Toni Morrison’s novel ‘The Bluest Eye’.
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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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  1. Warning: Undefined variable $userid in /www/wired868_759/public/wp-content/plugins/user-photo/user-photo.php on line 114

    How does he suggest that we deal with Sat and his followers who skuttled the pan in school project, closed the youth camps and destroyed the sports program at UTT?

    We are a bunch of jokers, dancing around the problems, and focusing on the symptoms.

  2. We have a very bad self esteem problem among the black youths . In tackling the problem the lure of the gangs has to be made unattractive , while at the same time providing an avenue for the youths to make use of their natural talents . Their are some very intelligent people in gangs that’s why they stay ahead of the security forces . Within a gang we may have the best inventor the world may have ever seen , the discovery of the cure for cancer or aids .

  3. A mamaguy society will never make any earnest attempt to address root causes or have difficult dialogues.

  4. Yes, Lasana Liburd – is not just The Thing, but the Meaning of The Thing…yuh see?

  5. It is really powerful and maybe even my favourite from Martin so far. You can see as far as your vision allows you to here. Or miss the point altogether.
    It is all down to the reader.

  6. This article Lord. I wanted to cry.

  7. I wonder, with the prevalence of street gangs and now the growing threat of homegrown Islamic radicals, has the Ministry of National Security or the Ministry of Social Development or any ministry for that matter ever embarked on a campaign to pinpoint the leading factors contributing to the criminalization and radicalization of Trinidad and Tobago’s youth with the purpose of intervening and thereby curbing these trends?
    For those of you taking me seriously that was a rhetorical question. In Trinidad we aren’t a proactive culture, we prefer temporary cures as opposed to permanent solutions, placebos as opposed to effective treatments, to do “something” as opposed to doing what’s necessary, to live vicariously though foreign lives, problems and the quest for their solutions rather than our own. I give Martin Daly and other social commentators credit for their efforts in trying to enlighten us on the true nature of our predicament, but I am fearful that these efforts fall on mostly tone deaf ears.

  8. The experience of our young female footballer’s youth football development plan in Longdenville comes to mind….

  9. Beverly Jardine, you are so right. The parents need to do more for these kids. This is parents across the whole spectrum of society. We like to believe that our problems are only with one segment but it is from top to bottom. There is only so much that a society can do especially since the village elders trying to have the village raise the children, as in the past, are being verbally and physically abused by the same parents. The parents in society have to take most of the responsibility for raising their children and allowing them to experience high self esteem.

  10. Just as lost are the teenagers of another cross section of society who frequent the malls everyday in the holidays. They dress up and just roam around aimlessly. My children were either involved in learning and or doing something useful.
    I look at all the bad hair dye jobs and think they could all be in classes learning to ‘do’ hair and other beauty applications. We need to do more by all these kids.

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