THE EDITOR: I empathise with the Commissioner of Police (CoP) for finding it necessary to seek “divine intervention” to cope with the crime problem in the country. This cry for such assistance speaks to two issues: first, how dire the crime situation is, and secondly, how incapable we are of dealing with it with the resources available, both human and otherwise.
The question to ask in the first instance is: How did we reach such a place? It did not happen just so, by vaps as we say in local parlance. It seems more of an evolving mindset bent on wrongdoing, which is now finding its culmination in the pervasive criminality which has overwhelmed us.
And where did it begin if not with our youth? With poverty driving families to try and survive, the traditional moral compass of right and wrong had to be placed on the back burner and our young impressionable minds were made to feel with the Mighty Shadow that "poverty is hell" and that righting that “injustice" was just, by whatever means available.
And not surprisingly, they paid no heed to Ras Shorty I’s plaintive cry to beware of the “white powder” that would bring “shame and disgrace/to the human race," using the dollars it would bring to alleviate their condition, placing it as their top priority as against their end-of-term report card.
Is it any surprise, then, that they would have also disregarded Sparrow’s injunction to “go to school and learn well/otherwise later on in life you will ketch real hell?” And without the moral direction of the home or the school, or the church as a likely source, you try to find sustenance in your own peer group, only to realise that the price of admission is the proof of your manhood by some violent or unlawful act.
So, as you slowly emerge from your youth like the little naughty boy of John Keats's poem, you stand in your shoes and wonder where to turn for redemption in this new world of adulthood. And all you can see is our leaders in the politics “cussing off” each other and their loyal stooges enjoying the plums of high office which they hardly deserve.
And with your fingers spread in your empty pockets hoping to make an honest living, you can only see little opportunity for people like yourself with the price gougers lurking and the utilities and the taxman striking deep at your dream for survival.
And as you stand in awe you realise that the law is no counter to the now rampant criminality, for at the highest level as recently, injustice prevails, and at another level, some of those who should “protect and serve” are themselves the perpetrators.
It is as if in this country crime carries little negative consequence as far as the the law is concerned and to my young impressionable minds, deprived and without moral direction as it was, it seemed the perfect example to follow.
This is what you are up against, Madame CoP, and may God heed your plaintive cry. There can be no quick fixes for this mindset so pervasive and so deeply rooted in the criminal mind.
As we attempt to wipe this old slate clean we must, through our traditional institutions, like the family, the school, the church, community organisations and such like, make a fresh start with the youth of this nation, retrieving that moral compass lost and infusing it into their minds. It is perhaps the only way the present “winter of discontent" can lead to a new Trinidadian “spring” for the future.
DR ERROL NARINE BENJAMIN