Masters of recycling

Debbie Jacob -
Debbie Jacob -

WE ARE masters of recycling – not plastic or glass – but no one can recycle problems better than us. Take the recent news of four men dying of gunshot wounds and four others injured in the Port of Spain hospital. That’s not a new problem, but judging from people’s reactions you might think it was.

The president of the TT Registered Nurses Association, Idi Stewart, said, "As these young men engage in their own turf war, they don't see the need to differentiate safe zones. It appears that the past respect shown to places of worship and hospitals is no more.”

When last did anyone feel a semblance of respect or feel safe anywhere in this country?

Steward recalled a hospital shooting in 2019 and although he didn’t name the victim, it was DeSean Broker, 25, a past student of mine from YTC and Port of Spain Prison, who was trying to get his life together so he could take care of his sister.

I seem to recall violence in the Port of Spain hospital long before that shooting too. Broker’s death signified another recycled problem: unaccountability.

Broker, stabbed when he was reportedly trying to break up a fight, ended up in the Port of Spain hospital where he repeatedly reported death threats. He was shot to death in his hospital bed.

His relatives expressed outrage and wanted to know why police weren’t there to protect him when he was a stabbing victim and how could staff say they couldn’t accommodate his request to be moved because there were no hospital beds? Inaction is one of those recycled problems that plague this country too.

What are the chances that the hospital’s security problem will be fixed – or any other problem we face repeatedly in this country will find a resolution? We, the people, have emotional outbursts, express fleeting moments of righteous indignation, bury our problems in the sand and then recycle them.

No problem seems pressing enough to solve. When the public complains about rude and inefficient public servants, they just get shuffled around like chess pieces in some endless game so they can demoralise the staff under them and the public in a new place. Questionable characters with blemished records in the public service get transferred. Public complaints fall on deaf ears. You would swear the public is the nuisance – not the lazy, incompetent, uncaring, unproductive public servants.

How does this go on? Why does it feel like our voices don’t count? Why is it so easy to dismiss public outrage, and why does our anger just disappear? Do we just get worn down from complaints that go nowhere? How do we solve the problems that result from inaction? How do we create drive, empathy and a healthy fear in government workers so they realise job security depends on performance?

No problem can be solved until we hold people accountable for the jobs they do. We are a country strong on religion but weak on faith, trust and pride.

We wouldn’t have men shooting up a hospital if they had respect for authority. If men felt there was adequate security in public spaces like the hospital, and if there was no doubt that they would be held responsible for their heinous acts, they wouldn’t commit such boldfaced crimes that disrespect professionals who work in the hospital and the patients who come from the lower socio-economic tier in this country.

Can we not see how we create these vicious cycles that perpetuate the culture of violence? What do these acts of violence say about leadership? The Government does not meet the educational or socio-economic needs of young men in the culture of poverty, so gang leaders step in and wield their power over disenchanted young men. Everyone is looking for some kind of effective leadership.

A hospital shooting enrages us, but in the culture of poverty, it proves the Government’s inability to protect the poor. They’re not protected in their homes, in their neighbourhoods or in their hospital. Their problems spills over to society at large where we are shocked to witness normalised violence in poor neighbourhoods.

And then we recycle. We recycle the same politicians and don’t hold them accountable. We listen to empty rhetoric and confuse that with action. We don’t solve the problem of violence in a government hospital. We don’t have the manpower or the money for that, but we have a beautiful, large Ministry of Health building just up the road.


"Masters of recycling"

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