In the mid-60s, Paul Simon wrote: “And in the naked light I saw/ten thousand people maybe more/ people talking without speaking/people hearing without listening/ people writing songs that voices never share/and no one dared disturb the sound of silence..”
These lines are about us, our crime situation and the impertinent woman, called Colleen Holder, who disturbs us into facing unpleasant realities. Minister Stuart Young affirmed that a ‘hit’—foreshadowed on Facebook—has been called on her. We all anticipated this, yet collectively shrugged.
We, who loudly condemned the Laventille residents for their silence, now remain silent. They live with the gunman who threatens them and the community directly. We, even from a distance, do not rise in support of the Oropune residents. ‘Snitches’ end up in ‘ditches’ is the code in Laventille, but what is our excuse?
Our past blaming of the victims of gang violence and their neighbourhoods, now morph into averted gazes. Terror is a powerful silencer. The bloody history lessons of our state witnesses is writ large.
We, in our comfortable homes, mutter about Colleen’s bravery but we keep our heads down. Talking without speaking. Why does Colleen want to live ‘there’? The ‘news’ lady should do better.
At other times, we quoted Fredric Niemoller, the Lutheran pastor, “First they came for the Jews. I was silent. I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Communists. I was silent. I was not a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists. I was silent. I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me. There was no one left to speak for me.”
Now we remain silent and allow criminals to bully us into submission. We run home and stay indoors. As soon as possible we move. We do stand up and sing loudly the song of pain. We prefer to be helpless without a voice. We wish Colleen would go away. Remember Dana!
Proverbs 18: 21 says, “death and life are in the power of the tongue”. Colleen’s tongue has brought her a death threat, yet her speech has been liberating. Silencing speaks to power in relationships; the powerful possess the capacity to silence us all, not just Colleen. Through intimidating violence, they heighten the consequences of us speaking up. Both the very rich among us and now the hardware dealer threaten the media and those who dare speak out with lawsuits.
Yielding to this enforcement of silence makes crime more prevalent. Criminals want to be anonymous and free from prosecution. They want to eliminate all who would disseminate information about their actions. They cloak their actions by using others to speak for them. Women are used to protest police action against criminal activity.
The actions (and lack thereof) of the HDC has brought us to this place. They refuse to acknowledge the existence of a Residents Association, thereby making this all about a single campaigner. In spite of there being a head table with others present, the focus is on one person, a woman who dared to persist.
The HDC officials have not met with the Association, seven days after the press conference. Utter disrespect and a deep lack of courage. This refusal encourages the silencing of their tenants all over this country. Listening without hearing.
The whispers, alleging collaboration with the criminals, makes one wonder. These officials live well with security in gated communities while their tenants watch the value of their investment dissipate through their inaction.
The silent policemen, who got houses in these developments have undermined the rationale for their houses. They spread the net of silence by ignoring what is happening under their noses.
I guess we ought to be grateful that they did not ask for a permit to hold the press conference. But I am thankful that they took away the excuses that the HDC made about things being a police matter. Bravo for them!
No crime can be done without somebody knowing or seeing something. Yet, some residents place the convenience of shopping over the long-term well being of the community, encouraging the silent destruction of quality of life for their children. They do not wish to disturb the silence. They will prefer to pull their curtains, lock their doors and wait for the day that they can live elsewhere.
Is that what good decent citizens should do?
On Facebook, we saw residents criticising the actions and describing Colleen Holder as someone who believes she is ‘the mayor of Oropune’ and hinting at ‘them ready to out she light’. Doubling down and being proud when quoted in the daily newspaper. What a song is being written.
The justice system, which stumbles over the difference between a ‘dock’ and a ‘duck’ and does not reliably facilitate justice, silences us. If when you tell nobody listens, why continue?
We, by virtue of the whimsical dispensation of justice that is badgered by those who have money, retreat into silence. We all become poorer when criminals, of every stripe, from captain to cook, dispense their own brand of justice. We will cry out, but nobody will hear.
We need to keep talking. This is the only way to have the good life we desire. ‘Don’t wait until night come to light candle.’
Editor’s Note: Click HERE to read a statement submitted in defence of Colleen Holder by Oropune residents on 14 July 2019.