“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.
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.
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.