We don’t need yet another survey of Trinis to learn what our greatest concerns are in terms of upcoming elections, I thought wearily, as yet another socio-economic political research organisation called to ask the usual questions.
First, they asked my gender, and when I responded that I was female, there was a semi-condescending query about what women’s concerns were, as, I was told, we form a large part of the electorate.
“We are the majority of the electorate, in fact,” I acidly reminded him, which appeared to be something neither he nor those running for office have realised. Check it with the CSO.
Then I was asked my occupation and my age. For each of those categories – age: post-retirement, and occupation: business consultant (industrial relations, if you want to know) – I told him that the major concern in my group is crime and violence in our business places, in our homes, in the streets where women, particularly, are afraid to walk after a certain hour, all elderly people are at risk, and business owners from mom-and-pop enterprises to large retail emporiums, NGOs and religious and educational industries are increasingly unsafe.
These groups are the easy targets of gangs of the unemployed young and strong, sent out in pairs and small groups (now increasing in size from three-six by those who control them) to rob.
I honestly wondered why the question even arose. Does anyone really need to ask what women’s greatest politico-socio-economic concerns are when our daughters and granddaughters are classified as the most vulnerable species in the country by a certain class of hunters?
Next question: “What does the electorate want most?”
For crime and violence to be eliminated, of course, or, if that is unrealistic, at least diminished by half at every level.
It is obvious to hapless ordinary people that passing more laws will not stop crime by itself. Someone will always manage to slip in a few words into the Control of Gambling Act, or the new law governing the act against corrupt procurement or one dealing with construction standards or whistleblowing on ill-gotten gains from drugs or underpaying people without passports that will enable conmen to budget high and spend low and profit mightily.
You will never control by passing laws. The only thing the sociologists tell us that works is aiming at the root causes. And the root cause, as the good books say about everything, is money or the lack thereof. It seems to be.
In in a capitalist/mercantile society like ours, the root cause of crime and violence is poverty and its effects. To earn you have to work. To work you have to deal with the purveyors of poverty.
These would include structural violence, like that which weekly press and social media expose about corruption in the police force that CoP after CoP promises to eliminate but never does.
Never can they ever, according to people on public transport (or as they say in English legal judgments, “on the Clapham omnibus”) and probably never will. Which translates into a lack of trust in our institutions that govern us.
Then there is social injustice, which to most of us means the hopeless poverty some of us live in and the rest of us come in dangerous contact with daily through angry and hate-filled young people who cannot get jobs, because of an inadequate educational system and the epidemic of “credentialism.”
Who, for example, dreamed of asking young men and women for O-Levels in geography or history in order to qualify for the application for nursing training published recently?
Nursing is an occupation that will be in high demand in the future, both here and in jobs abroad, one of those professions woefully short of male professionals. Did anyone connect jobs and early childhood education?
Does knowing how to derive a quadratic equation qualify you for a plumbing licence?
Is this a colonial-style attempt to keep certain young people from moving forward in life? Getting a job? Condemning them to a life of exploitation?
Then there is the bitterness engendered by excluding people from participation in making decisions on how things are managed in TT as a nation, like the numerous employees in institutional “homes” for children now being censured country-wide who wanted all along to expose the abuse and injustice the children under their care suffered, but dared not because they would lose their jobs if they did, jobs that they know are all that lie between themselves and “putting down a wuk” that requires you prove your loyalty by carrying a gun and showing you can use it. Accurately. It doesn’t matter against who, as long as it hits a target.
Survival is the primary and most fundamental motivation for a healthy citizenry. Sociologists like Maslow tell us how to motivate young people to work in productive jobs, but Maslow doesn’t live in a culture where barriers against getting to those jobs are built into primary schools, except, perhaps for those fortunate enough to enter Servol.
Last week the government proudly announced that it intended to provide spaces for 66 fortunate young people in the new tech-voc training centres it intends to open. We will wait and see if they materialise. So many government announcements say, “We have plans to…” instead of, “We have done…”
It may save those lucky 66 from the nouveau slavery of gang “wuk,” sex “wuk,” drug “wuk” or dependency on scraps offered by “community leaders.”
But what about generations of bright youngsters already crushed? How do we get them to want to avoid the traditional and illegal results of poverty?