Port of Spain suffers from personality disorder, for a long time now, and so does many of its environs.
This disorder, sometimes described as split or multiple personality disorder, is defined by Psychology Today as “a condition wherein a person’s identity is fragmented into two or more distinct personalities.”
Each of these personalities produces different forms of behaviour. The different personalities are disassociated from each other and alternately control a person’s behaviour.
Two Wednesdays ago, the peaceful, loving personality of Port of Spain was once again at its most evident. This was the annual occasion of the visit of the Panorama judges to the seven northern region large band panyards stretching from Phase II in the West to Trinidad All Stars in the East.
I previously described this annual occasion in a column in 2012 entitled Magnificent Monday. I made particular mention of the variegated composition of the crowds pouring into areas normally stigmatised.
I wrote: “To use the language of political jargon, Westmoorings met and mingled with Eastmoorings, and did so without a shove or unkind word, in a harmony of respectful self- policing crowd control.” (See The Daly Commentaries page 617).
This year, the event took place at a time when there were more murders in the month of January than days in the month.
The other personality of Port-of-Spain and its environs, the murderous, bloody one, was contemporaneously acting up and providing a backdrop at odds with the peace and harmony prevailing on music judges’ night close to areas that are now in a mini state of emergency.
Given this disturbing start to 2016, a partisan political debate has centred on whether there has been a “spike” in murders and which of the two political parties is responsible for the “spike.”
The debate is sterile. There have been several previous occasions on which there have been clusters of murders.
In 2008 for example, we had 15 murders in one week and there was much talk then about stamping down on gangland.
Long before 2008, I had been emphasising the “dire situation of the disadvantaged under-class and the need for sociological research and the formulation of an informed social development policy to take the nation as a whole forward, in a manner which included the under-class” and stating that “meanwhile the education system continues to fail.” That emphasis was set down in 2003.
By 2008, complaining again in this column about the lack of a social development plan to meaningfully to fill the socio-economic void that gangs fill, I declared: “It is hard to dispute that we are in a state of the breakdown of ordered legal control in the face of banditry.” (See The Daly Commentaries Pages 256-257).
Recent news that gunmen had dragged two Laventille schoolboys out of a taxi and executed them has triggered the “spike” discussions, thunderous editorials and flatulent statements from business organisations limited to supporting joint police and army patrols but offering nothing else.
Sadly, this is only a temporary stirring of conscience. After all, the blatant unprosecuted, buggery murder of the young Akiel Chambers, who was taken from a poor neighbourhood to an upscale setting, never bothered polite society enough to support my outcry for justice.
I support the position of my fellow columnist, Raffique Shah, captured in his riveting statement that “rotating crime clampdowns face mission impossible.” I welcome his assertion that we all have a responsibility to deliver the wider society from the evil that we may have helped to create.
I emphasise again that collective responsibility requires urgent sustained attention to the underlying socio-economic conditions in which the savagery breeds, including the presence of the drug trade and the influence of its financiers.
I answer ‘yes’ to the question posed by my headline. Our decades of indifference to those living on the margin and our oblivion to the critical role of social development policies have made murder a lifestyle choice as an alternative route to power, wealth and rank.
It is a choice of doom for those who set aside funds for their funeral T-shirts. But it is a choice that also dooms many others on the lusher side of life who naively believe that walls, patrols and unaccounted for campaign finance will protect them forever.
Perhaps those whose vision is limited to supporting the law enforcement patrols would enquire into the work, for example, of the Birdsong Academy—perennially scrunting for funds—and support such endeavours with a vigour equal to that with which they support “the rotating clampdowns.”
Perhaps they would visit the communities in which the panyards provide upliftment other than once a year in a maxi taxi—taking in the sweetness of the music communities but, unlike the enlightened sponsors of some of those music communities, giving little back.
All hail Methanol Holdings Trinidad, Hadco and First Citizens Bank for joining the enlightened band of frontline sponsors of steel orchestras in time for the current music season.