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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.