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Wednesday 16 January 2019
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Commentary

Our smart-man society

Smart. This word usually evokes good qualities defined as “well-groomed, neat, bright and fresh in appearance.” But it is also described as “unscrupulous to the point of dishonesty.” In our smart-man (including smart-women) society, both descriptions get combined to execute the calculated attack on innocent victims. Single mothers are regular victims from smart-man sexual exploitation.

The smart-man’s dishonesty is well-groomed–often with jacket and tie. Recent reports of housing skulduggery, licensing rackets and immigration frauds attract attention to our smart-man culture, the everyday type apart from the high-up, billion-dollar types committed by, for example, Bernie Madoff and Allen Stanford.

Even before the days when the “fat man” sold us tickets to a fictitious “Sam Cook concert,” the smart-man was on the prowl, fleecing man, woman and child. Smart-women luring men into devious schemes too. The smart-man illegally selling government (Housing Development Corporation) houses to desperate citizens, promising jobs, selling cars not his, promising US or Canadian visas for $20,000 fee, promising driver’s licence for $15,000, using false deeds to sell other people’s land, corruption in housing/repairs subsidies, begging for funds for fictitious needs, etc, etc. Just tip of the iceberg.

There have been several reports of a roving smart-man “immigration consultant” who, quite surprisingly, even got a job in the Ministry of National Security! Three months ago, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley pointed to the smart-man culture of this country. Yet the rooted culture grows before our very faces. Vidia Naipaul mocked it repeatedly, much to our distracting denials. The smart-man wickedness is not only about dishonesty or fraud. It is about first gaining his victim’s trust–then deception and betrayal. It’s “cultural” because of mutual expectations.

This country is loaded with smart-men, top to bottom. They roam inside government agencies mainly because of slack supervision, bad record-keeping and worse yet, insider contacts. So the smart-man trickery is energised by another widely known cultural feature–the contact-man. Last month, when questioned why they were illegally living in a HDC house at Greenvale, the couple said a “nice man from inside” HDC gave them the documents. Many other illegal occupants were discovered. Only now?

Then there are smart-men who submit claims for flood damage that really did not happen to them. Authorities in a serious country would have executed some serious law enforcement. But we here are too much in the “pat on the wrist” business. How do you break down the smart-man culture when the guards themselves–top to bottom–are accomplices? Lawful, civic-minded citizens must support any government which courageously moves to correct such smart-man type corruption.

The smart-card facility (for poor deserving citizens, mainly for groceries) has been an easy target for dishonesty at tax-payers’ expense. I saw the dishonesty with my own eyes, people using smart cards for items completely outside the smart-card conditions. For many years now, the financial transfers, subsidies and social welfare policies (about 50 per cent of national budget) of governments have kindly helped nurture the dependency syndrome–people depending on the Government for everything. The keys to national development in this post-colonial society are self-help, innovation and entrepreneurship. This has failed.

Governments should have early declared themselves as facilitators with much of welfare and subsidies more conditional than permanent. But the political temptations appeared too irresistible. And as Caricature consultant Sir Ronald Saunders said early this year, the Caribbean is “the most governed region” in the world.

It often starts with a desperate citizen–mainly poor but sometimes rich too–who hears about “somebody who could help.” The smart-man appears, confiding to the desperate citizen that he has “a good contact” inside. Trust is given. Money too. Betrayal and deceit then fraud follow. Weeks, months, sometimes years pass and the citizen gets more and promises but nothing. The smart-man often disappears. No police report is made mainly because the citizen prefers to suffer than be publicly embarrassed. The smart-man moves on to the next desperate, trusting victim.

Mistrust affects the professional class too–above the streets. Public trust and confidence in our professions are quite low–from doctors, politicians, businessmen, accountants to lawyers–all of which help to make us a half-way society. Poll results show many citizens feel betrayed, manipulated in not fairly getting the public services promised. Maybe the smart-man comes in all shapes, sizes and places.

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