Keita: Trinidad’s crime problem isn’t down to bad seeds—it is bad soil

For five consecutive years, I taught a youth program where the underlying theme was to teach young people to bloom where they were planted. It was about teaching them to use the resources in their environment to be their best selves.

I stopped teaching that program when it became abundantly clear that for a seed to grow, we need to plant it in good soil. I needed to focus not on the seed but on the soil.

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley tends to his home garden in May 2020.
(via Dr Keith Rowley Facebook page)

We live in a world where many seeds are planted in barren soil and, despite its toxicity, a few blossom. We then celebrate these successful outliers and blame the rest for not flourishing.

The annual parade of the top SEA performers is an example of celebrating the outliers while making no plans to improve the conditions of the soil. For the farmer, when his plants do not grow he has no one to blame but himself.

He can blame the weather or external factors but when it is all said and done his focus is on building resilience—putting systems in place to increase the chances of having a good yield no matter the weather.

The Police Service was never designed to till the soil. Consequently, programmes hosted by the Police can only be above the ground. They were never provided with the knowledge, skills, tools, or expertise to dig beneath the soil.

Blaming the politicians and the corrupt 1% is easy—and has some merit—but the bigger challenge is to figure out how some seeds manage to thrive in this soil.

Photo: Trendsetter Hawks players celebrate after edging Pro Series to the RBYL U-11 title on penalties on 6 July 2019.
Hawks draw players primarily from the inner-Port of Spain and Morvant/Laventille communities.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)

Our country has an opportunity to become a collective of gardeners, cultivating the land for a new season. To do so, we have to ask difficult questions like:

Are we okay with police having the power to be judges and executioners? Are we okay with white-collar criminals? Are we okay with corrupt officials? Are we okay with schools that have unequal access to quality education?

The challenge is that working the land is hard work. Soft handed ‘click-tivists,’ conformists, and the comfortably conscious are not cut out for that work. We need teachers, social workers, youth workers, health care providers—all working together to improve the soil and the garden.

In our haste for quick fixes, we celebrate well-intentioned but misguided heroes like Gary Griffith. We point to UNC and PNM, blaming one or the other when neither party has been able to address crime. These people only promise to fertilise the soil in an effort to hold onto power.

We settle for these quick fixes, easy solutions, and false promises. What is needed is the backbreaking work of tilling the soil. We have to dig deep, cut down trees, pull weeds and add sand or gravel; because the soil we have doesn’t allow us to flourish.

Photo: A protest at Fanny Government Primary School.
(Copyright Trinidad Guardian)

Many seeds full of potential die on our barren soil while some leave and flourish on more fertile land. And we blame each other instead of picking up tools and following the guidance of those who have been gardening for years. Those whose feet are calloused and hands are hard.

We have solutions. We are ignoring the wise farmers among us. We are blaming those who cannot help us and focusing on mono-crop solutions. We have two options, continue to point fingers or till the soil.

On a farm, everyone contributes. If we are to be gardeners we need to put our fingers down, roll up our sleeves, and till the soil.

As impossible as this work may seem, we have to start from where we are. We have no other option.

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About Keita Demming

Keita Demming
Keita Demming holds a PhD from the University of Toronto. His podcast Disruptive Conversations is an effort to unpack how people who are working to disrupt a sector or system think. Dr Demming has worked internationally and in a variety of sectors within the field of social innovation. He also holds the license for TEDxPortofSpain.

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One comment

  1. “In our haste for quick fixes, we celebrate well-intentioned but misguided heroes like Gary Griffith.”

    I am inclined to agree with Dr. Keita Demming “that for a seed to grow, we need to plant it in good soil”.

    He has, however, raised another issue in citing that Gary Griffith is a misguided hero but without elaborating.

    I sit here thinking why the criticism of Gary Griffith only, when it requires multi pronged measures to create good soil. Why no criticism of the government which should be the main architect for creating good soil?

    Perhaps there is something I am missing because I was of the view that Gary Griffith was doing his part and he is not responsible for implementing the other parts. Is it that the TTPS is expected to fix all the ills of our society?

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