Winston Churchill, the glowing imperialist, at the time when he was seeking to have Europe fortified against Nazi Germany, referred to Italy as the soft underbelly of Europe.
What Churchill meant was this: However successfully Europe was fortified, it would be vulnerable to the attack through the soft underbelly of Italy.
These opening words may seem a long way from my description last Sunday of the pappyshow that Carnival has become because it is a show with a rapidly declining number of spectators but the relevance will become apparent.
My attention was drawn to the comments of one thoughtful person, Nicole, who responded to the pappyshow discussion with useful observations.
One was: “Who wants to waste time and money simply watching other people party? Or sermonise in the case of Dimanche Gras? At least with pan there is still a level of artistry over which to marvel. ISM—International Soca Monarch, I presume—may be the next to fall this way.”
The Carnival events—like the rest of our entire “official” society—has a soft underbelly through, which special interest groups have penetrated and reside in for the purpose of securing gain for themselves with little or no regard for the public interest.
Do not take my word for it. Read and absorb the incisive analysis of the affairs of calypso by Eric St Bernard, earlier this month. The constraint of space did not allow me before this to identify with the wisdom of Mr St Bernard.
St Bernard had the fortitude to describe the conflicts of interest in the calypso world arising out of a situation in which competitors and promoters are also the operators and gate keepers of calypso events. Similar conflicts exist in the running of Panorama.
The conflicts of interests in calypso, mas and pan are merely a reflection of similar conflicts that pervert governance and almost every form of public procurement and State-based provision of services, social safety nets and infrastructure.
That is why we cannot make any progress in the fight against violent crime, particularly murder. The interlocking connections between institutions that are supposed to work for the public good and persons or organisations that pervert the course of the public good are too well known to explain again at any length.
That is why in a recent report by the United States authorities on Trinidad and Tobago’s war against the drug trade, there was reference to the distrust between different law enforcement agencies. One never knows who is going to use confidential information and for what purpose other than the detection and prosecution of criminals.
I am sorry to take another lag behind the hapless Acting Commissioner of Police, Mr Stephen Williams, but I must.
Some time just before Carnival, he made a statement about the volume of high-powered firearms in the country and talked about law enforcement securing the borders. I would have been curious to hear him respond to reports that, in certain seaside areas, persons there are obstructing efforts by the electric public utility to have those areas better lighted.
The fact is that the oligarchy comprising special interests of crime, dirty money and undue influence reside in the soft underbelly of law enforcement and politics in the form of alliances, freeness and debts owed to those special interests.
This is the context in which changes of Governments and Cabinet reshuffles must be seen. Changes and reshuffles are pointless, where in circumstances in which even if the new office holders are competent or brave enough to make new policy the formulation of such policy will be discouraged—or, if made, be shelved or thwarted in its implementation at the behest of special interests.
No improvements will come in a society in which there in no credible demarcation line between public institutions and special interests. When that demarcation line is missing, whether in Carnival, in crime prevention or anything else, all fall down.
While commenting on Carnival, Nicole said something else very perceptive, which I firmly believe is of general application:
“Somewhere along the line, someone sold us another story about ourselves that we don’t want to think and we don’t want to be engaged beyond the most basic sensations. So instead of encouraging people to express themselves as part of a show—to say something—we encourage them to experience the ‘luxuries’ of life.”
We most certainly have been encouraged to chase down bling and status and to equate bling and status with worthiness. Pardner-driven disbursement of State funds has made it easy to go down those roads.
The soft underbelly has swelled to accommodate more and more residents within it, drawn by easy money away from productive paths into lahay and mediocrity.
Reshuffling and tinkering will not bring down the bloated belly. Meanwhile law enforcement will continue to underperform, murder with be carried out with impunity and many citizens, particularly females, will remain constantly under siege.