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MASTER’S VOICE: Deny, deflect, diss, dismiss; the Trini way to deal with crime

Well, after my Minister of National Security went and guff up he chest in Enterprise, ah was going to post my views on that… But Mr Live Wire come and say every single thing I was going to say.

So instead of suing him for tiefing my thoughts, lemme try a different tack and just add to what he said by putting one central question to those of my age group (47) and those of the Independence Generation especially.

Why allyuh bother to change flags in 1962? I’m really failing to see the point.

Photo: Two spectators take a selfie during Trinidad and Tobago's 2016 Independence Day Parade celebrations. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Two spectators take a selfie during Trinidad and Tobago’s 2016 Independence Day Parade celebrations.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

So allyuh find it have plenty anger in schools now? And girls fighting like “hyenas”? And “crime” supposedly “out of control”?

And yuh want police to lock down the “hots pots”, snuff out all them bad boys and dem and/or isolate them and just let them kill out one another?

Tell me something: we didn’t go down this road dozens of times before? Ent it didn’t work? So tell me again, why we bother to change flags in ’62?

Fellow Trinis, allyuh good in truth, yes. We still operate like we iz British—some of allyuh certainly insist on dressing like them as if outside cold but lemme leave that jep nest for now.

We sure as hell trying to curb “crime” the same way. And, yes, I put it in quotation marks because I fed up of how the word is used. Far as I concern, unless when you speak about crime in Enterprise, Morvant, Beetham and Diego Martin, you make connections to the “unseen hand” of the business elites plus the fall-out from a shrinking economy that has always alienated masses of labouring people, me eh really want to hear yuh.

Because if you noticed—assuming you watched the now infamous video—that was the road Wakeel was going down.

Photo: National Security Minister Edmund Dillon (right) trolls gang member Abdul "Krysis" Wakeel on his home turf in Crown Trace while Deputy Commissioner (Crime) Wayne Dick (background) looks on.
Photo: National Security Minister Edmund Dillon (right) trolls gang member Abdul “Krysis” Wakeel on his home turf in Crown Trace while Deputy Commissioner (Crime) Wayne Dick (background) looks on.

And he is by no means the first to do so.

But we, who pride ourselves on not living like “them so,” adopt and adopt quite well even the selective amnesia the British had. Why the hell are we treating with Enterprise and gang violence as if this is something new? As if this is some surprise?

And Broken Windows model? Really, Guardian, REALLY?! So this is what happens when allyuh Trinis steeped in self-contempt and self-doubt and so refuse to study allyuh own history? Trinidad was trying that since before Benjamin Bratton and that bigot Rudy Giuliani were even born.

In the context of depressed communities and culturally embedded social inequity, all it did was to entrench a fatalistic view by delinquent youths in those communities (listen carefully to this old stick fighting chant: “Moomah, Moomah, yuh son in the grave already…”) and solidify the “us vs them” mindset internalised by both the police and the criminalised elements. Go read David Trotman’s book, Gary Griffith, or listen to his podcast and make the connections.

Of course, some joker is sure to dismiss what I am saying as excusing mediocrity, encouraging criminality and, of course, using enslavement and colonialism as a crutch. Someone is bound to argue that people like Wakeel need to take personal responsibility and stop hiding behind circumstance. Hell, the Minister himself said so, not so?

Photo: Minister of National Security Edmund Dillon. (Copyright CNC3)
Photo: Minister of National Security Edmund Dillon.
(Copyright CNC3)

The circumstances created by the colonial power structure have no bearing on the present crime situation; Raymond Ramcharitar, who is a big academic, said so in his Guardian column.

But let all who are tempted to agree with the academic and the Minister note page 27 of Ramcharitar’s unpublished thesis, The Hidden History of Trinidad, where he has this to say:

[In the 20th century] not only was [the plantation’s] form of subjectivity kept alive, in patterns and practices of authority, not merely in the Crown Colony form of government, but in the business practices of former plantocracy and colonial institutions and companies. Also, crucially to what follows, the physical representation of the plantation—the barrack yard—has persisted throughout all of Trinidadian history, and been a site of underground activity and culture up to the present day. (Author’s emphasis).

So the Wakeels and the Robocops of the country did what others before them had done: create alternative, parallel spaces in response to being made invisible. When Ramcharitar and others claimed that crime began to spiral when Jamaicans, Guyanese and Vincentians began to come here, ask how come he only identifies the poor, African migrants in his columns?

In his thesis he informs us of “the emergence of a ruthless capitalist class” [in men like George F Huggins] who capitalised “on local prejudice and having no other qualification but colour.” Where was Huggins born? St Vincent. Leaves one to wonder what were the working and living conditions that led Vincentians like Elma Francois to come here.

Photo: A scene from acclaimed move "40 Years A Slave."
Photo: A scene from acclaimed move “40 Years A Slave.”

We argue that them gangsters today just plain lawless and they are fed by a culture of freeness and handouts. True. But where did it originate? Was it perhaps that the elite classes, according to Ramcharitar:

often bereft of moral education and common decency, were let loose on Trinidad. They had no concept of humanitarianism, moral obligation or fair play, no sense of civic obligation, though they were clearly adept at using these terms to acquire what they wanted…. A gardener got a dollar a week and if he forgot himself and his place so far as to demand 50 cents more as his just wages he could be chased from the estate.

Isn’t that what influenced the thinking of the infamous Boysie Singh, whose rise and demise have been recounted by Dr Sheila Rampersad on I95.5?

Over the last couple weeks, she told us that, from an early age, he understood that one can break laws with impunity and that even if one had money, what was the point of legally buying something if you could just take what you wanted? These notions of values existed long before Krysis… and, for that matter, Fresh, Kodjo, Dole Chadee, Aldwyn King, Teddy Mice.

How was it dealt with then? Not by using the same denial we exercising now?

Those who argue that people like Wakeel need to take personal responsibility for their choices and actions have a point. But personal responsibility goes both ways. The various elites who have been shaping this society since it was a colony had personal responsibilities too. Their actions and legal “exemptions” were well noted by the labouring classes.

Photo: A depiction of slaves serving their masters in Trinidad. (Courtesy Netssa.com)
Photo: A depiction of slaves serving their masters in Trinidad.
(Courtesy Netssa.com)

Further, as Earl Lovelace once said in a panel discussion, the story of Laventille is the story of broken and betrayed promises.

Generation after generation after generation of independent attempts to alleviate depressed situations railroaded because some politician promised to assist with a building or piece of land that Laventillians themselves identified that they wanted to develop to bring about stability… and then nothing… over and over and over again. All the while select groups were used to gather votes and pitted against other groups for what little crumb is given.

This can be applied to all the depressed communities in the country, including Enterprise. Most of them were once productive and self-sufficient. Did the “better” classes approve? Nope.

So to deal with “crime” we need to deal with certain self-perpetuating cycles that incorporate invisibilising, manipulation, double-standards in dispensing justice, poverty, materialism, impunity and entitlement. We also need to deal with a culture of unresponsibility—and if you only now seeing that term, you might be part of the problem; Lloyd Best coined it years ago—and economic models that were never meant to benefit the masses of people.

Anything less and we’ll continue to have anarchist anthems like “Full Extreme.”

And more than just the anthems.

Photo: A post on Abdul Wakeel's Facebook page.
Photo: A post on Abdul Wakeel’s Facebook page.

AboutCorey Gilkes

Corey Gilkes is a self-taught history reader whose big mouth forever gets his little tail in trouble. He lives in La Romaine and is working on four book projects. He has a blog on https://coreygilkes.wordpress.com/blog/ and http://www.trinicenter.com/Gilkes/. Vitriol can be emailed to him at coreygks@gmail.com.

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16 comments

  1. Khalil Saif some of these people on this post like dey living in la la land. By the way Lasana Liburd thanks! Masterpiece.

  2. Uphill battle when the “unseen hands” denying education to depressed people, no social programmes for depressed people, no funding of social programmes and the schools for depressed people….Only the children of the elites get access to education…we really gone clear..

  3. Can’t understand how the “unseen hand” of the elite (corrupt elite) in other countries operate and there is so much less murder and violent crime….oh….right there is no corrupt elite in Japan, China, the UK, Italy, France etc….

  4. Agreed,,one thousand percent,,but,,poor people need to take responsibility for the future of their children. And that means don’t have sex without protection..No money = no children

    • You want poor people to stop having children?

    • Who will do the grunt work to make sure rich people’s children don’t have to work then?

    • Yes,, I say yes, yes.. Stupid people have unprotected sex..I was born in 1958 and I am a pnm child who grew up hearing ,Dr Eric Williams speak to me,,and I listened to the mighty sparrow, children go to school and learn well…And Lasana Liburd just check out the rich people,they are having children in their 30ss ,one,,maybe 2 after they have a degree and they marry foe money not love..my
      MATCH YOUR MONEY,,NOT MATRIMONY.

    • Trying to get the drift of how poor people and their desire to have kids flowed from that article.

    • Christopher… I have no idea how your commentary contributes effectively or logically to the article in question. As far as I am concerned, the minister of national security’s response displays blatantly his arrogance, his ignorance to the critical subject matter that concerns the general public, and his stupidity. What we are seeing before us is the result of an incompetent National Security Minister. Cronyism awarded him that post and corruption have him refusing to take the critical steps to arrest those responsible for arming Trinidadians, allowing drugs & human trafficking to flow through the country, and money laundering. Crime fighting in T&T is a flop as long people like him and others are allowed to carry on.

    • Christopher Jackson-smith I was born the same year with you, my father Joseph Abbot Simon was a PNM till ah dead type, I was privy to hearing most of the speeches by the Hon Dr Eric Williams, never interpreted them like you did. Thank God I have eight children and everyone has given me the proudest moments of my life. Five are professionals , three still at university and the last one in high school. My views are diametrically opposed to your, as some how you make absolutely no sense. That is the power of democracy, so I respect your statement, to each his own.

    • This is an interesting conversation as it ‘may’ suggest how different people of different backgrounds interpret information. I am an avid admirer of Dr Williams as an academic – may not have liked his politics as much. I’ve read many of his speeches. Selwyn Cudjoe complied and analyses many of his speeches in a very good book which I’ve read. I’ve never gotten Christopher’s interpretation from his works . Interesting!

  5. The “million dollar question”- Why did we bother to “change” flags in1962

  6. Powerful stuff, well written must connect ” the invisible hand” to win the war on crime.

  7. Corey, this is an honest, candid account. I have always commented on the hypocrisy surrounding the crime discussion. We fail to even define crime broadly because it begins to fall into other people’s backyard. I respect all the commentators who call for the CoP and Minister to be fired but as a society we’ve been lulled into this view that crime is only defined as murder, rape and burglary. We ignore that the lawlessness rampant in our society started at the top and many years ago. “A fish rots from the head”. We are simply reaping the historical seeds! I’m not removing the responsibility from the perpetrators of these violent crimes – they should be prosecuted and punished. The drug trade and the guns acquired to protect the profitable turfs, require a certain type of blindness, supported by corruption on high. Today’s crime is the result of many years of lawlessness and “do as i say but not as I do” behavior.