An opportunity to truly serve

Dr Errol Narine Benjamin -
Dr Errol Narine Benjamin -


LIKE A drowning man desperately clinging to a straw, my hope against hope is that the proposed dialogue between the Government and the Opposition would bear some fruit getting us back onto a path of civilised living.

I balk at my own cynicism over this effort at reconciliation in the interest of the people. All the ingredients of the continuing relationship between these two entities have been adversarial, deriving from their race-based political struggle for power, so the prospect of both genuinely reaching out to each other seems to defy all rationality and good sense.

But it’s all we’ve got, and the straw which this effort seems must be made to multiply a thousandfold to become the foundation of the new cornerstone, or brick if you will, that will pave the way for regenerating our long lost humanity.

For we have become almost inhuman in many ways, symptomatic in our concern, reportedly for our damaged wall and a gate, and other matters of self-interest after a recent accident in Diamond Village, south Trinidad.

And this even as the female victim lies traumatised and severely injured in the driver’s seat and her 88-year-old mother lies crumpled up and dead in the back seat, while the little grandson, apparently saved by the airbag, disoriented as he was, runs wildly out of the car into nothingness.

And as testimony to what we have become, as in so other many similar instances, it was an opportunity to steal the woman’s purse, instead of being concerned for the life or death of this family.

I make reference to this episode in Diamond Village for such singular trauma should dig deep into the psyche of even the most callous and generate a response that is a marker of our humanity.

I would probably give into one who would steal a purse left carelessly on a car seat, or from a neighbour’s backyard garden, or one yielding to the temptation of stealing jewellery from a careless homeowner, together with the multiple instances in our day-to-day experience where human frailty succumbs.

For “to err is human,” as they say, for even as there is an essential goodness in all of us as against the instinctual beast which consumes its own, so there is a counter-balancing negativity in our own make-up to which we are often vulnerable, both psychological effects deriving from our continuing socialisation, good or bad.

If the good prevails it is a triumph for our humanity as a people; if the balance tilts in the direction of the bad the resulting mindset is its antithesis.

Which is why this proposed dialogue between the Government and the Opposition must succeed, because the balance seems to have tilted towards the latter and we seem on the brink.

One can see this initiative as part of the political gamesmanship to which we have become accustomed, the Government seeming to want to mitigate its responsibility for the criminal culture that now overwhelms us by drafting in the Opposition to share the blame if the talks fail. And the Opposition likewise using this as leverage to make demands that hitherto have gone unheeded.

However, both sides should demonstrate the character to put that behind them and to meticulously consider, in a pragmatic and practical way, the strategies that would begin to make a dent on the inhumanity that is now so pervasive. They must begin with measures to deter, followed by programmes of reform that would build on the results of such deterrence.

As a first step, deterrence is key, for not withstanding the way some armchair psychologists glamourise reform ahead of deterrence, the criminal mindset can only begin to diminish if it is subject to a “fear of consequence,” which is the primary effect of deterrence.

Which is why the focus in this symposium must be on the law and its enforcement at the beginning, and once this sets the stage curtailing the criminal mindset, the reformatory zeal, through our processes of socialisation in the family, in the school, in the church, in the community, et al, must be made to build on the positive effects of such deterrence.

Mere talk won’t do. Leadership must show the character and class to truly serve the people and this is a unique opportunity to do so.


"An opportunity to truly serve"

More in this section