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AV ROOM: Last year’s Beetham events and our new year’s crime-fighting resolution

It is a new year but what does that mean? Well, my resolution for the new year is 1366 x 768, for which I would like to thank Nigel, the IT tech who has repaired my laptop.

In trying to answer the meaning of the new year question in a more reflective way, I went back to the last piece I wrote in response to blocking of the highway by Beetham residents. I had another look at some of the responses to the piece.

There were some who agreed with my position and others who didn’t.  I have decided to respond to a few of the issues raised so as to further clarify my position.

Photo: A fiery protest at Beetham Gardens in 2012.
(Courtesy Anonymous Motorist)

I do believe that if I attempt to communicate something and it is not understood, then it is my responsibility to reorganise my message so it can be better understood. I am not saying that understanding the message means agreement with it but some of the responses indicate clearly that some persons did not understand.

As we have come to expect from our governments (remember the unleashing of the dogs of war?), the response, in true Clint Eastwood style, was one of stern condemnation of the actions of some Beetham residents. There was the usual ritual “This will not be tolerated” and “No one will hold this country to ransom” posturing.

Nine days passed. Has authority addressed the problem?

Well, even though the PM was very explicit when he said “Don’t do that!” Beetham was soon followed by Point Fortin and Maloney. I mean, why are we so lawless that, if the PM says doh do someting, we doh listen? This is mainly where my response to the incident deviates from many others.

The State has to respond to such incidents and the full effect of the law must be brought to bear; however, there must also be a process which seeks to prevent recurrences, inclusive of addressing the core problems which led to particular kinds of protests in the first place.

The first comment that requires a response was that I seemed to be offering an excuse for the action of the residents. If one is to understand behaviour, then one has to make a genuine attempt to do just that–understand. The fact that I sought to explain what I thought had happened did not in any way imply condonation of what had happened.

Photo: National Security Minister Edmund Dillon (right) and Deputy Commissioner (Crime) Wayne Dick (centre, background) venture into the lions’ den in Crown Trace in 2016 to put their fingers in the crime wound.

Both private and public comment urged me to try to explain my position to those who were involved in the traumatic events because my armchair pronouncements bespoke a lack of empathy. Well, just about ten years have now passed since that evening when I was made to lie face down in an unlit savannah with a gun to the back of my head while three young men went through my pockets.

If that trauma does not qualify me to have empathy with the Beetham victims, I don’t know what does.

But I want to add that I am also well aware that if there are communities where there are more gangs than sport and recreation clubs for young people to join, then something is fundamentally wrong.

And how could we avoid raising the race bogey? Let me be clear, people: when I am talking race, you will know that I am talking race; I guarantee it. This was not such an occasion. If I referred to the response of 19th Century Africans within the country to African enslavement, that was simply to illustrate that systems of exploitation allow some members of a group to benefit and others to be enslaved and life will go on.

Slavery was invoked not to apologise for anything but to make the point that, if we could go about our business while there are enslaved people who make up the society, then ‘lesser’ transgressions against sections of the society can also be ignored and, worse, rationalised.

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

The fact is many of us ignore many things because the systems work for us. We rationalise our own benefit from the plantation by saying that ‘dem niggers don’t want to work!’

Of course, if Sat Maharaj said that, well, crapaud smoke he pipe!

While we are on this, how do you feel about Trump agreeing with you that Haiti and several African countries are “shitholes”? I mean, that was your position before he said it, n’est-ce  pas? The things people say to you are not merely a reflection of the person speaking, they also reflect the person spoken to. But I digress; we’ll talk shitholes another time.

My fundamental point is about us. It is neither about the politician nor about colour of skin nor texture of hair; it is about the character and quality of the individual we are calling Trinbagonian. Individualism, selfishness and greed are not traits exclusive to our poster boys for crime. For many of us, unless there is transgression into our immediate space, we doh business.

Crime is no longer an anomaly; it is so engrained in us now that many of us are numb. We are numb because we adapt so easily and so efficiently. I grew up in a house with louvres. There were five children in that house so louvres were broken from time to time. If one broke on Saturday evening, you couldn’t replace it till Monday morning because Sunday was not a working day.

Photo: Motorcycle policemen perform during 2017 Independence Day celebrations.
(Copyright Office of the Prime Minister)

In 2018, I cannot imagine living with louvres without burglar proofing, much less leaving a window ‘open’ for two nights and a day. We have always adapted to our circumstances; in fact, we do it so fluidly, it almost seems like part of the plan. The reality is, however, that increased security in our homes is not a solution to crime; we are simply compensating and adapting. As a population, we are inflicting wounds on ourselves; the more we adapt, the less we recognise progressive resistance.

Do not be surprised if pretty soon, we find ourselves petitioning the government in unison to trade our freedom for peace.

About Akins Vidale

Akins Vidale
Akins Vidale lectures at the Cipriani College of Labour and Cooperative Studies and is a UWI graduate with a B.A. in History. He has served as the president of the Trinidad Youth Council and is the General Secretary of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions and NGOs (FITUN). Read his blog: http://akinsvidale.wordpress.com/

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42 comments

  1. Their community leaders are criminals& bandits they steal from hard working people and share it to these lazy people who only do not work but want the best of everything by thiefing & killing to get what they want so you think they want police to lock up their so called community leaders.All those youths want to be community leaders that is why it have so much crime in those pnm areas.That is the reality.

  2. The people are not stupid, they seeing is nothing for them, while ministers changing cars like that wearing the best suits an telling the country they have no money, while at the same time, the 45 dollars ah barrel of oil was the price they pegged the budget at, Guess What Oil Gone Up. They lying an ducking money an not telling us the true picture. So the killings an robberies an protests will get worst.

    • A country ran for five years without any one paying tax while oil was one hundred dollars a barrel where is the money, how much over head expenditures to pay, why did the pass regime did not pay the international suppliers of medical, and other supplies to the country, down to even local contractors they didn’t pay, now who is there have to pay and still run a country , not taking sides here,but it seems as though you people want magic the oil price just started to look little good you idiots start talking about they thieving money and fooling we, because you all want it now it must happen now.

    • You can’t blame the last administration for the full 5 years it have a time you have to Stop blaming and lead, fed up of the excuses, and yes it must happen now, what d hell.

  3. Great article! People can only take so much pressure before they rise up and try to redistribute the resources. And extralegal state sanctioned violence is not going to solve the problem. We need creative, earth honoring, decolonizing solutions and transformative community leaders who put the best interests of all the people at the centre of their work.

    • If only the leaders and business people realise that there actually is benefit to putting the interests of others at heart.
      It means a more stable society which lends to more productive and a higher quality of life for everyone.
      This is not charity. It is us helping us.

    • But you guys know how our politicians and businessmen think. Such a move is seen as hand outs to the people and then we point fingers at us calling us lazy!!!

    • Kelisha that’s the small minded thinking that affects us from top to bottom. Just like the man on the street who can’t see how the millions wasted in dodgy state contracts affects his health care, roads, etc.
      Too many just don’t see big picture.

  4. These areas are PNM strongholds why would the government want to alienate their supporters?

  5. Firstly, the protestors are in breach of the law.

    Secondly, its seems that protesting is the only way people can demand the attention of their representatives.

    YES, DEMAND.

    These people ask us for the privilege to ” work for us “.

    They then sit on their rear ends, do nothing for us and enjoy the perks of the office which they get through our votes. Ent

  6. who the ass is rowely to give advice to people when this shameless man dont respect our women

  7. The Beetham is , was, and will remain a political nuke, that is used from time to time. A quite unpleasant weapon but functional for political survival. There are no strangers living there. All empires and emperors there are known to all. It is quite deliberate that they survive and ever so often, choose to come out of the shadows to remind us that they are there and that they are legitimate children of the state.

  8. Atkins Akins Olatunji Vidale . We have been educated and are now qualified & certified in greed. Greed by any means. Promotion by any means !Get a house by any means! Get in d party by any means ! ” Success” by any means. Some use guns, some use the technicalities of law, for some, it is thier inheritance. Some will cause chaos by disturbances and protests. Others will make millions of dollars disappear, to be investigated…….! It almost all cases, i believe these things are not only locally manufactured – made in Trinidad- but also thrive due to our ‘ local investors even if imported.

  9. Akins solidarity with you. But I stopped reading, because there are those who don’t want to understand US as a people. All of us meaning the collective of lives from Beetham to Westmoorings, from Speyside to Buccoo have been affected by crime. I dont have to say I was held up in arima by Bhagan’s Drugs 8 years ago, for anyone to understand my empathy with a situation. I’m also not making excuses for people. We have to understand ourselves and there is nuff work to go on for us to do that. We’ve contorted ourselves so out of shape that not much is recognisable anymore. A lot to do with what our middle class believe they’re entitled to when we expect this at the expense of those at the fringes.

  10. In our mickey mouse country, no one wants to address the source of our multitude of problems because that will require us to go against our nature of toeing the political no go line.What we are experiencing now is just fall out of the system we allowed to rut starting many years ago because we did not want to rock the political boat ride. Now is time to get off and face reality because de party done.

  11. How else do people get the authority to respond? Are you living here? Area representatives are not seen until there’s an election, you place calls to the various ministries concerned and you end up speaking to a cold electronic recording. Rowley and others can afford to say anything, they get service by just mentioning their name, it’s the grassroots that must beg and bribe lazy and incompetent PUBLIC SERVANTS and most time they are ignored. So please watch the coin both sides before saying we are lawless. Without taking those type of actions we will get nothing done. The politicians love it that way.

  12. Just sad…..or is it just stupid… dont know what they really expect to get out of this behaviour….