Dear Editor: T&T’s culture trap; are shortcuts and lame ducks with us to stay?

“In Trinidad and Tobago, it is almost a cultural reflex to take the easiest and shortest route. It is the cultural reason why we fail, as a people, to make any progress.

“[…] Which is why the PSC made the glaring error that people external to themselves can see but not the members.”

The following Letter to the Editor, which really seeks to raise questions about the PSC’s recent recommendation for a new commissioner of police, was submitted to Wired868 by Mohan Ramcharan of Birmingham, England.

Photo: Revellers enjoy themselves on the road during Carnival 2015. By one definition (the most popular one?), this is what constitutes culture.
(Copyright Loop TT)

Culture is a complex matrix, no doubt about that. It is also easily misunderstood. When people talk of ‘culture’ they usually mean this: “The arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively.”

However, there is another definition which sees it as “The ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society.”

We can, therefore, talk about Caribbean culture, which would be common throughout the Caribbean but we can also talk about Trinidad and Tobago (Trinbagonian or ‘Trini’) culture, which is specific to the two islands. That is not to say that there will not be overlap, eh.

So why am I bringing up culture when I really want to talk about the Police Service Commission (PSC) and the major faux pas it made in recommending Deodath Dulalchan for the (allegedly unapplied for) post of Police Commissioner? Well, culture shapes us in myriad ways that we aren’t aware of; we all have biases and opinions based on our cultural exposure.

Culture is a Trini man ‘sooting’ a woman walking by. Culture is tiefing a wine for Carnival without permission.  Culture is going to work late. Culture is skipping work/school for a beach lime. Culture is doubles, roti, bake and shark and a red Solo. All ah dat is culture.

Photo: Acting deputy Police Commissioner Deodath Dulalchan.
(Copyright Trinidad Guardian)

We inherit it, mimic it, live it because we are immersed in it day in and day out and we adopt and adapt to fit into the society around us. Which is why the PSC made the glaring error that people external to themselves can see but not the members. It was not the first time it happened and it is not the first time it has happened. And it will happen again.

What was the error? Well, they made the cultural error of not following due process and procedure. Taking a ‘shortcut,’ if you will. It happened with several Integrity Commissions, with the President’s shortcuts in appointing members to different Service Commissions as well as with government appointments to important State boards.

Which leaves us with square pegs in round holes or, as one newspaper aptly described the phenomenon, ‘lame ducks.’ In Trinidad and Tobago, it is almost a cultural reflex to take the easiest and shortest route. It is the cultural reason why we fail, as a people, to make any progress. Ours is a culture of wining and dining, a cultural mentality of ‘After 12 is lunch,’ which leads to teenage pregnancies and the proliferation of STDs, and a culture where a call for girls to keep their legs closed brings a scathing backlash.

If you detect a trace of bitterness in this message, it’s because I realise that we need to change a whole culture.

And I realise that that might well be impossible.

About Mohan Ramcharan

Mohan Ramcharan is a Trinidadian living in England, an LLB (Hons) law graduate, systems thinking practitioner, and critical thinker. He is a product of two cultures and strives to be ethical and impartial in his thoughts and actions.

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  1. The process is flawed and must be revisited! These guys did not think that they had what it takes to do the job hence they did not apply and should not have been considered for that very reason. How can you give a man a job that he is not ready for? Someone erred here! In fact the interview panel needs to go.

  2. How come the PSC never acted before to make a recommendation for the Cop. Now that a process is almost complete the PSC now makes a recommendation. The UNC ‘s silence is deafening on this matter. It is passing g strange that it is an Indian whim is recommended by the PSC who was no where in the running.

  3. Meaning? That he is unsuitable because the PSC process was flawed?

  4. And culture is what drives the Minister of Education to say that it’s all right for male students to touch female teachers because they ‘dress provocatively’.

    Where the hell do these dinosaurs crawl out from???

  5. Not just shortcut country.
    Just yesterday it hit me and I am not sure I got a chance to write a post, we have no true competent here. No real qualified talented people. Even the s/hero’s, if there work interrogated will be found to have plagiarized their ideas and work from elsewhere, usually up north

    Our professionals and so called skilled people are “performing,” (posing, perpetrating, scheming, thieving) at their roles and positions. They really are not doing, effecting.

    It is why everything is a fiasco. Every single time.

    The kind of assessment folk hate you for.

  6. Looking forward to future contributions,a breath of fresh air

  7. Jessica Joseph,wish you could reach all the sycophants

  8. But I feel what is even worse than this is (the same qualities we see exemplified by people like Trump) Trinis are wrong and strong. Our shallowly rooted self-assuredness and fragile egos make us UNTEACHABLE when we are wrong. We get vex, aggressive and bullying as a defensive position to cover for that inner insecurity when someone tries to, even in the most civil, friendly and empathetic way, try to engage in a mutually learning and critically thinking conversation.

    I wonder who made us so insecure about being ignorant of something? Why do we fear correction? Nobody is perfect, not even the most genius of geniuses knows EVERYTHING. There is always something to learn or understand from another. So who made us so closed up and ready to fight when this is pointed out? Oh right, I remember what used to happen to us when we did not sufficiently prove to teachers or parents we understood something. We were BEATEN and HUMILIATED. Admission of being wrong is the same as admission of being worthless in our traumatized minds. We like the Irish, have a tough, tough, culture on the psyche and many of us are damaged, from it. We cover it up, much like the Irish, in picong, alcohol and taking the piss out of others, including never letting them forget it if we can one-up them or humiliate them to make ourselves feel better. We learned this from our elders and peers.

    That is why we stop learning anything even as adults. Go on grassroots Trini pages and you will see how many are shocked by cultural, scientific and civic information from around the world, being shared that they never knew about. Observe the shallow level of observation and commentary on it. People just surviving life not truly being mindful of it and eager to delve into it and lap it up and learn all they can. The harshness of life and the harshness of certain aspects of our culture are holding us back. People are so frustrated by the rat race, they just want entertainment to escape from it. Too much deep reflection is just more stress and pain awareness.

    Sad thing is, many will read this and think it means I am not patriotic. They don’t realize we are a perfectionist only about things we care about deeply. We nitpick at the ones we love the most. Apathy is the true sign of hate and disloyalty.

    • Heart emojis are insufficient to your contribution

      I been writing this stuff since 2008.
      Have a published article in an academic book in the US on theorizing illiteracy in Trinidad: its highest form is lack of critical thinking and problem solving skills.

    • It’s called ‘invincible ignorance’.

    • Maven Huggins I know you are a kindred spirit in this. I also spoke to very academically qualified and accomplished Trinis on the growing chasm between the “Degreed” and the Downtown Masses. We have to start simplifying and going viral at a grassroots level with reasoned debate. I don’t think it is that hard, we had the Woodford Square tradition. We love to ole talk. We just have to inject what is already there with some elevated rules of play and allow voices that are not being heard to be heard.

    • But it cannot be people who speak down to others or whose backgrounds are so far removed, that people do not connect with them. We have to teach with cognizance of the trauma and resistance inherent in our populace, in mind. Patience, gentleness, maintaining calm at all costs. We need people who aren’t easily triggered/goaded by insults and anger and who won’t take it personally but at the same time can stand up for themselves and the rules of fair-play in exchange of ideas.

    • Tell those so called degreed people to become down town masses first, then, I will ride with them on this mission.

      I know more academic frauds here, which is a pet peeve of mine, far less for them to give up their performances to be real in this society, then the haters.

      Life in Trinidad had me learn Life: i switch sides… I don’t even want to be called of the same camp as these charlatans . I am trying to convey something..

      The views we share are exceptionally rare and in a sea society of sheep who can’t distinguish the fakes and frauds vested in maintaining their foam tower pinnacles

  9. What you are seeing is the result of GENERATIONS of poor education in critical thinking skills. People have NO IDEA how to critique a situation based on evidence, rationality, and sound reasoning. They make decisions and make up their mind on things based PURELY on their emotions, political partisanship and prejudices. So their only way of supporting a stance they take is by assumptions, stereotyping and other fallacious arguments.

    If someone of their ethnicity or political party is in the wrong they have NO WAY of determining this in their own minds because of blind tribalism. They assume the conclusion before the evidence even presents itself. We have become a society of very, very intellectually lazy and infantile people with impulsive emotions, no self-control/awareness/evaluation abilities.

    It’s sad to see sometimes because we have so much potential for brilliance.

  10. We living in Shortcut Country,
    Trinidad is a shortcut society … Ah lie?

  11. I knew I wasn’t the only one. Enjoyed reading this.

  12. ..I don’t understand why the fuss that he didn’t apply for the COP position but “only for” that of DCOP. His application for DCOP lands and is reviewed. Its assessors think, for good reason or bad, that he would suit the COP position just fine. They ask him if he is interested (I presume) and he says “yes” (I presume). It takes some really bureaucratic thinking to object to that.

    Now that said, the OTHER arguments against the man’s appointment make far more sense – his alleged manipulation of political connections, etc. THOSE are serious points to consider. But c’mon. He didn’t initially apply? Really?..

    • He applied for DCOP and was offered the COP position by the very panel interviewing him despite receiving correspondence about possible misbehaviour in public office. It is not their prerogative to offer no one any position, especially in this case. It speaks of bias, “grease hand” “curry favour” or similar actions. The PSC has erred badly not only with the selection of the COP but the DCOP as well.

    • ..We agree. The allegations against him prejudice any decision to recommend for EITHER the DCOP or COP position. Certainly. The procedural argument is a non-issue..

    • Any HR Professional who is grounded in theory and practice in recruitment and selection would appreciate that you can only select persons that applied for an advertised position providing they met your stipulated deadline….that’s the first phase recruitment, thereafter candidates would be shortlisted…so you cannot short list someone who did not apply for a job…moreso you cannot interview someone who did not apply for an advertised position … if in the event you could not find a suitable candidate you can re-advertise the position and the person could apply… that’s just the basics in Recruitment & Selection…but as someone who’s not in the profession you may see it as a none issue when infact it is a serious breach of HR Practice which can be challenged .. the Chairperson of the PSC said everyone was asked if they wish to apply for both positions..however Watchman said on the news last night that he applied only for the position of COP but he was never asked if he wants to be considered for the position of DCOP…I am not sure what guided the PSC thought process but it was flawed and just a waste of taxpayers money and open for lawsuits

    • Seales applied and arguably is publicly proven to have engaged in political anti govt activity when he led the illegal shut down of the nation’s highways during the last admin.

    • Yes Mr. Look Loy but he was never screened or interviewed for the post , so how can he just fly past the candidates that were screened and interviewed and were given points each step of the way

    • Keith Look Loy did you stop to wonder, if only for a second, why he did not apply for the position of CoP? Think about that!!

    • ..That is a different point – and absolutely incorrect procedure, I agree. My point is that the decision to offer anyone a kob they did not apply for but (in the view of the decison makers) is qualified for is no big deal. My field os football. If I apply for an assistant coaching job but the club bypasses the applicants for the head coaching job and offer the top post to me, what’s wrong with that? Now, whether I am indeed qualified is always open to question and in this case, given the allegations against the candidate in question, there is cause for concern – on the allegations and personal record, not the procedure. Just my no account view anyway..

    • ..LOL. People, I have no horse in this race. Just giving an opinion. I agree the candidate in question is, errr, problematic. Me eh he lawyer..

    • I understand what you saying Mr look loy but their job was simply to interview the candidates that applied for the specific positions and make recommendations on who they think is best, but when you encourage someone midway through the interview to change their mind and apply for a different post and then say that they’re the best candidate what you are really doing is circumventing the application process.

    • ..Cool. I am not buying his fight..

    • What are the allegations that discount him from the position?

    • That appointment is madness. If I had applied for the COP post and someone who did not applied for it got the post I would have taken legal action. The PSC would have had to justify their selection of him in front of me and give reasons why they breached the selection process. All the applicants just waiting to see what decision Parliament will make before they file an application. Taxpayers money jumping up again.

  13. We need to choose our parliamentarians wisely. There are those who don’t have a clue what is going on; those who create laws and cut our as..s with it; those who just can’t be trusted….and the list goes on. When will we get it right?

  14. On a related note, ever noticed how culture allows high officials to mouth hot gobar at regular intervals, usually when:

    1) something unusually bad happens
    2) when they haven’t been in the spotlight for some time

    Take Dillon today… page 7 of the Express says he is looking at ‘stronger laws for those who kill law enforcement officials’.

    Boy, I laugh till I nearly pee mehself.

    look at the gobar:

    1) The penalty for murder is death… what the gov’t could bring stronger than that??

    2) The detection rate for murder is 6%… including catching domestic killers.

    3) The conviction rate is 1% of that 6% detection rate.

    Tell me, Dillon, how you catching these killers and convicting them to apply said stronger penalty? If I was a man who cuss, I woulda be cussing yuh till de day I dead.

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