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Demming: Lawless leaders set the standard for indiscipline in T&T

‘Discipline guarantees success’ has been a tried-and-true maxim, but no matter how disciplined you are, if your operating context is chaotic, you are unlikely to succeed.

At all levels, Trinidad and Tobago exhibits a lack of discipline, which is facilitated by the absence of enforcement of the rules. From captain to cook, there is a woeful lack of discipline and an inclination to look for the ‘work-around’ or ‘link’.

The reality is that there is no ‘work-around’ when it comes to curbing crime. While the daily headlines reflect our reality of a high murder rate and unrestrained borderline activities and robberies, law enforcement is absent for small crimes particularly traffic violations (other than speeding).

Photo: Police car lights.

Some citizens feel helpless on the roads where traffic violations are rampant and it is a case of survival of the bold and daring. This is intensified by the ‘PH’ drivers and maxi-taxis who hustle on the shoulders, break traffic lights and speed limits and stop without warning as they see a potential dollar standing at the side of the road.

The six speed guns have had little impact on the chaotic driving because much of the chaos occurs under the speed limit. Law and order has broken down in general with the roads being a clear indicator. Other jurisdictions have demonstrated that strict enforcement of traffic rules results in the discovery of criminals both big and small, so this absence of vigilance escapes my logic.

There is a strong argument that the responsibility for discipline is in the homes, which is supported by several studies that conclude the lack of parental discipline is responsible for aggressive and anti-social behaviour in children. Even when parental intervention is absent, it does not remove the responsibility from the state for creating a context that encourages compliance rather than rule-breaking or the ‘link-up’.

The state is ultimately responsible for creating efficient structures and systems that facilitate daily living.  For example, in 2010 it took three days to renew a passport; today it is more like three to six months. So there is now a higher temptation to ask: “Who do I know that can help?”

Another example of the state presiding over chaos and confusion is being played out before our eyes in the changeover of our ‘blue notes’—the $100 note.  If the state cannot get basic things right, how can you expect the average citizen to do better?

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Most citizens intuitively understand their responsibility, but people do what is done and not what is said. Every time John and Sumintra Public observe incompetence or mismanagement by our leaders, it re-enforces in their minds that this is the standard. There is no incentive to hold ourselves to a higher standard, particularly since there are not many examples of leaders operating at a higher standard.

The daily lack of graciousness exhibited by our leaders in parliament, the apparent largess exhibited by favoured contractors, the blatant use of cell phones by police officers while driving, the obvious preferential treatment received by the friends and families of those in power, the abuse of special bus route passes… The list can go on and on and are all examples of some citizens being favoured.

These all send messages to the population that we do not have to hold ourselves to a higher ideal, we just have to know ‘the right people’ and everything will be fine.

Our society cannot thrive in this context. All criminal and antisocial behaviours must be managed either explicitly by consequence management or implicitly by peer pressure and/or moral suasion.

Nobel Laureate and former secretary of state in the Richard Nixon administration, Henry Kissinger, said: “The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.”

Our next leader must be up to this task!

About Dennise Demming

Dennise Demming
Dennise Demming grew up in East Dry River, Port of Spain and has more than 30 years experience as a Communication Strategist, Political Commentator and Event Planner. She has 15 years experience lecturing Business Communications at UWI and is the co-licensee for TEDxPortofSpain. Dennise holds an MBA, a B.Sc. in Political Science & Public Administration and a certificate Mass Communications from UWI.

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  1. The writer is on point and this article should be the basis of a national conversation starting from the top.

  2. A truer reflection of life in TNT could not be painted. Strong, to the point and without rancour, an enlightened piece that we should all read.