On the day that I write this, a young woman was kidnapped on the UWI campus. I felt an acute sense of a space being sodomised, to use a word that best describes the intensity of my feelings about the entire episode. Someone drives into the university campus and at 3.15 pm, picks up a whole person and hauls her off? And no one could prevent it because there were guns involved. Thankfully, this was one of those stories with a happy ending.
I hadn’t realised just how much impact the event had had on me until I saw the Facebook update about the woman being found, and felt the relief wash over. The incident had made me irritable and withdrawn. But there is only so much that one can say about the crime. And I promised myself (I am evidently not committed enough to this promise) that I would shut up about it, because talk is cheap and no one is going to pick up arms and shut down the entire country, so I might as well get that thought out of my head. This isn’t a population that will act in drastic manner. The abuse is now our normal and we have settled into it.
I often wonder what motivates the drive to end other forms of violence like child abuse and violence against women, when we are all seemingly satisfied with the abuse of our right to walk the streets in safety. Do we not realise that this emotional violence is just as bad as physical violence? That violence has many forms and usually at the base of it is the need for control, for power. It feels to me as though the reason we expend efforts to rectify the former is because it is easy enough, that we can put systems in place to deal with this, yet, we side-step the heart of the matter. Violence against women, child abuse and other forms of violence are symptoms of a larger violence that is taking place, a larger abuse of power and control that is taking place and trickling into these areas of family and culture. Crime is just an additional violence in the witch’s brew. While we all talk about this country as a melting pot of cultures, the image of this as a cauldron in which violence is on a slow boil, is one that I carry around.
Last weekend a group of girlfriends were speaking about the crime and lamenting that it is sad that we have now come to the point where we have accepted this as our normal to such an extent that we say, "Well it could be worse…" Each one of us in the group has had the opportunity to travel and we are all aware that the ability to walk freely is a right in the developed countries that we visit. Here in Trinidad, it is a privilege and our citizens are happy with this. Why is this a privilege? As though we have to work hard to be rewarded the right to safety. Why are we as citizens, not deeply invested in our basic right to security?
We speak about gender equality and the rights of the child but before any of those can be rectified the house needs to be in order. People have to care about these issues and caring only comes when we ourselves feel balanced and grounded. We cannot request caring from an unbalanced individual. And as far as I see it, our house is certainly not in order. While I do speak about human rights from time to time, I am also aware that our basic needs as citizens remain unsatisfied. So, why should anyone be interested in listening to why they need to be more aware and open-minded when they are themselves fighting for survival?
We are, as I had mentioned in an earlier column, a society in survival mode. Citizens of such a society will continue to do only the bare minimum to continue to survive. If we are undisciplined, if we gripe about customer service, government workers, inconsiderate driving and such, we are in fact just griping about ourselves because we are all a part of the problem. And the problem is that, we have not as yet as a society understood that power lies in our hands. But there is a limit to the number of times I shall allow myself to say these words before they just begin to lose their meaning. It depends on us a people to come to that point where we shall not accept “It could be worse…”