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Noble: Who really cares? How shallow protests ignore chance for real change

Poor children are victims of circumstance/ In life they never really get a chance/Or have opportunities as privileged children do/ The road from the poor suburb to prison leads them/ From broken homes they are condemned to fail/ Their abusive and drug-addicted parents serving time in jail/ Their parents too homeless in their teen years/ On no hope street no laughter only tears.’ — Francis Duggan (2008).

Photo: Poverty is a severe strain on family life.

In a period racked with national pain, it has been instructive to read both Professor Theodore Lewis (24 January) and Dr Lennox Bernard (11 February) in the Express newspaper. To understand and repair our national situation, we need to appreciate what they wrote. Should we read the columns, we would engage with the societal problems differently.    

Professor Lewis identified the schools’ failures in what Dr Bernard called the ‘urban fringe and rural areas’. The named schools in East Port of Spain form a border around where most murders and robberies occur.

Could we imagine the trauma that infuses the daily lives of the school children? 

Lewis laid the blame for the poor educational performance on the RC Church, but all the silently complicit churches in the area should share the responsibility. Remember those who were agitating last year to have their church doors opened? What are those pastors doing for the poor in their communities?

Lewis named two Jamaican schools as exemplars, but they are an ‘uptown’ and a boarding school—both with distinguished and supportive alumnae. 

Large businesses visibly support the ‘uptown’ school. That formula exists in some fortunate local schools albeit with less money. His is not a fair comparison for the schools in the distressed areas. 

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

But Professor Lewis is right about the history. The ‘Christian Education’ provided for in the Emancipation Act of 1833—the religious and moral education of the Negro population—had a narrow view, which was social control and not the liberation of proud citizens. 

The rationale underpinning the educational thrust in the elementary schools was to enable the (Negro) population ‘to take kindly to labour, to persevere in it and be proud of it… and to make themselves better labourers’. This mindset still influences our thinking about the schools in East Port of Spain and wherever poor children are.  

Dr Bernard’s contribution exposed the hypocrisy of the protests and the shutdown of this week. He pointed to an aborted plan to help the named primary schools in East Port of Spain. 

A distinguished committee of educators prepared the project, but Dr Terrence Farrell, the chairperson, could not win financial support for its execution. There was ‘little evidence of propagation of the faith’ among the Catholic benefactors, philanthropists, and Archdiocese by Dr Bernard’s account. 

The price tag of the pilot? TT$23 million over five years. To contextualise this sum, check the annual profit made by our listed companies. 

Image: A satirical take on the one percent.

Honourable men set aside the transformative power and spirit of love expressed through Christian charity. The potential benefactors refused to give ‘the preferential respect’ due to the poor—a position espoused by popes since the 1980s. 

The most fortunate among us declined to place their good generously at the service of others. Christian philosophy affirms the pursuit of the dignity of the Human Being and seeks the Common Good. It says, ‘all are responsible for all’. 

But we balked. We have given enough, I suppose.

In Denmark, a place with low social inequality, a study showed that children from the bottom 20% were thirteen times more likely to commit crime than those from the top. 

What children go through does have a powerful effect on the outcomes of their lives. The longer a child lived in more impoverished circumstances, the higher their subsequent risks for self-harm and violent criminality, and vice versa for time spent living in affluent conditions. 

Photo: A young man shows off his firearm.
(Copyright We-heart)

Associations were stronger for violent crime than for self-harm. (Mok et al, 2018). How applicable is this to our unequal society?

The lost five years of the proposed pilot programme in East Port of Spain have complicated our national future. It sets us up to have a never-ending chain of prayer vigils and wringing of hands; or worse yet, capital flight born out of despair.

Instead of supporting a deeply researched programme created by some of our best educational professionals, we opt to finance and encourage the police to brutalise those same children when they strike out in chaotic rage.  Law and order!

Do we genuinely want to shut down the crime factory? Who cares? Why are we closing businesses to protest violence when we keep laying off workers, thereby destroying families?

Is Andrea Bharatt—the essence of our dreams for the young—merely a convenient political tool? Why goad the police? How consistent are today’s actions with those of less than a year ago?

Photo: Starlite managing director Gerald Aboud (centre) is arrested by lawmen during protests over the death of Andrea Bharatt on 12 February 2021.
(via CNC3)

We are not stupid, forgetful people.

Amos 4: 1 – 5 speaks of pretentious religious folk callously insatiable in their greed. The pretension is not new, but the end is assured. 

Micah 2: 1 – 5, which warns about those who plot evil and covet what the poor has, is appropriate in discussing the redevelopment of East Port of Spain and the Central Business District. 

We should stop the pretence. We have a nation to save and get ready for the new generation.

About Noble Philip

Noble Philip
Noble Philip, a retired business executive, is trying to interpret Jesus’ relationships with the poor and rich among us. A Seeker, not a Saint.

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9 comments

  1. With all due respect.
    This Andrea Bharatt case is about the corruption in the Arima Magistrates Court where she found evidence of duplicate documents used in different cases.
    She was killed for uncovering this scheme which has been in place for years and continues to make money for those in the court and let criminals go free for motor homocide and child abuse among other offenses.

    Mr Philip. You are right to have the MAD face as your picture because if you think people protesting is a waste of time then you Sir are completely lost.

    Have a rethink here.

    • Noble Philip

      I understand how the law works. I will not give airtime to unverified talk even though I am suspicious. I am not a conspiracy theorist. I use facts as a basis of opinions.

      Please do me a favour and help me identify any words I have used in this or earlier pieces to decry street protests. I am in agreement with MLK re protests and riots. I am not in agreement with the ones who cause or contribute to the problem trying to be the face of the solution – the nuanced point of this piece.

      It is a pity that you do not know Alfred E. Neuman, who graced the MAD magazine. He is the forerunner of Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Trevor Noah. Guys who give a different perspective on the news. I only try to be like Alfred. I am a work in progress. But I am on the journey.

      • Earl Best

        In other words, Damian, if you can’t–or won’t–back up what you say, then shut to fact up!

        That is my view. Noble is much too polite to ever say anything so rude so baldly. But I hope he will forgive me for reading between his lines.

  2. thehandbehindthecurtain

    Why are you poor?
    Are you poor because your father was poor, or are you poor because you spent your money on a new car rather than to buy stocks, crypto or open a business which if you had done so would have eventually brought in more money than you could spend.
    Most Trinbagonians are middle class, enjoying a lifestyle that probably is better than in the UK, New York etc. but you have been made to feel that your quality of life is crap. If TT can put an end to the weapons trafficking and corruption then TT can become paradise on Earth.

    • Lasana Liburd

      Poverty for you is spending your money on a car rather than seeking out better investments? And you thought that was worth sharing? Remarkable.

      • thehandbehindthecurtain

        The moment you drive that TTD 120000 car off the lot it immediately loses massive value, you probably lost TTD20000, even if you immediately brought it back you’d never get back your full money, if it gets damaged as is known to sometimes happen to cars then it’s even worse. Plus with big man toys come big man prices eg service costs, repairs, car insurance, rims, music, fuel etc. The point I am making is not about the car specifically, the point is about how money is spent (the car is one of the biggest expenditures of Trinbagonians including ”poor” ones so that makes it a great example). Obviously poor people will remain poor if they do not learn how to get out of the cycle of work, spend and work and spend again, you and your children sentenced to life as consumers who work till their back is broken and complain that they are poor because you don’t know how to make your money work for you. The remarkable thing for me is that rather than to give a proper criticism of what you disagree with in my comment and to elaborate why exactly I am wrong you have to go on the attack, like some dog barking at any passersby at the gate.
        I have seen horrible poverty in TT, vagrants living in the carpark across from the Min of Nat Sec, human excrement on the pavement, rivers polluted with styrofoam and plastic. But most Trinbagonians who call themselves poor do not live like this. I have spent extensive time in Diego Martin, the deep South, East Port of Spain and even in Tobago, over and over I have seen young men drive nice cars, nothing against the nice car, but what if they had spent their money on Bitcoin BTC 1 year ago when one Bitcoin was around USD3000 vs today 1BTC is almost $50000. TTD120000 is approximately USD18000 or 1 year ago about 6 Bitcoin, the current Bitcoin value is USD48782.01 per Bitcoin, USD48782.01×6=USD292,692.06 or TTD1984621.93, so instead of owning 1 car that immediately lost value plus the added costs of ownership they could have been a TTD millionaire today, of course there is risk involved, and this is just one verifiable example of how things can go good, when there are also examples of things going bad, but you have to be willing to accept risk (we never think about it buy buying and owning a vehicle is actually a major risk!), a farmer who plants a tree cannot be sure that that tree will bear fruit, or that that tree will be healthy, but he takes a chance and puts in the work and research to maximize his chances of success, the same goes for investing money. Look the Japanese are laughing all the way to the bank, because we work and send so much of our capital to them. The metals, plastic, electrics, fabrics, glass, wood etc. that is built into a car is worth approximately USD5000 or TTD30000, yet we send many times that per vehicle to Japan, Germany, USA, China etc. I want every Trinbagonian to think about how they spend their money, to think about investments, to think about 1 year from now, 5 years from now etc., and not just live from today to tomorrow as we both know so many of our fellow citizens do. Everything I just told you here the rich already know, that is why they are rich and stay rich. Do your own research and of course never spend/invest more than you are willing to lose. Do not mistake my comment for an attack as it is not, I am simply providing my opinion.

        • Lasana Liburd

          Hello. Some of your comments go WELL beyond the word limit allowed and we can’t always permit them. But why not send a letter to the editor at editor@wired868.com? Please stay within 600 words. Regards

          • Earl Best

            Couldn’t agree more, Mr Editor. Not everyone reads the comments and such strength of feeling deserves the widest possible audience.

            But with rights come responsibilities so simple things like paragraphs and punctuation are the price you have to pay.

            It have a man here who initials is JHC,who is a quality police, it look like…

          • thehandbehindthecurtain

            Thank you for the offer, I shall consider it and possibly take you up on the offer. I however would want to keep my pseudonym. 600 word limit lol, ok. Sometimes I’m in a topic, the passions rise, infos flood and tack tack goes the keyboard. I’l try a word counter to see what 600 words look like.