Monday, February 3, 2014

                                                    THE LOST GENERATIONS

Nobody can look at the state of our country and be happy. Everything seems to be falling apart. The recent Petrotrin oil spills, the soaring crime/murder rate, the drug busts with no "Mr. Big's" being caught ... the list goes on. Critics of the present Government like to say that it is all the Government's fault, but this simply can't be true. For example, assuming (though certainly not accepting) that the OWTU report on the oil spills is accurate, especially about the part where there was an October 2010 report that the offending pipeline was rotten and in dire need of repair, this would mean that the then PNM administration under Malcolm Jones of Petrotrin had not done the necessary maintenance. This does not take away blame from the Gillette administration of Petrotrin but adds to the list of those who ought to be blamed ... if the OWTU report is true!

In other words, if we take all the criticisms of the present administration as being the gospel truth we can easily find that these criticisms all apply (mutatis mutandis) to the last administration as well. Am I saying that this is all right then? Not at all! In fact, what I am trying to say is that I am not particularly interested in allocating blame to anybody. What I am trying to say is that we should spend a lot more time looking for solutions rather than saying "it's your fault" ... whoever "you" might happen to be.

I also realize that the problems in the country are generational. In other words, to a very large extent there is no hope of changing attitudes now for the present generation, much less the one immediately preceding. It might even be too late for the next generation coming up. But it is certainly not too late for the one after that.

Let me give you an example of what I mean: I have two daughters who are married and live in Australia. Daughter no.1 has two children and Daughter no. 2 has one. To make a long story very short my wife, our two sons and I made the long trek to Australia for Christmas to see my children and grandchildren ... and, yes, thank you, we had a great time. But the point here is that one day we were all having lunch in a very casual restaurant (something along the lines of, say, our TGI Fridays or Trotters) and I heard the manageress say to one of the waitresses in the softest of tones "Cynthia, if you don't want to be nice to the customers you can leave. You don't have to stay."  In other words, behave yourself, be polite or get out. The waitress immediately apologized and assured her boss that she would be nice. 'Service' is an important and very key word 'down under'. And it works! The country runs ... and runs well! I could not imagine those words being said here, much less the offending waiter/waitress scurrying off to change his/her attitude immediately. What I would expect here is an increased amount of surliness and downright rudeness.
 I don't have to tell you what kind of "service" we all have to put up with on a daily basis.'Service' in this country is a dirty word.  But why? What has gone wrong? Why don't we work? Why do we accept it with a shrug and say "well, this is Trinidad (or Tobago)?"  Seriously, why?

The problems that we have cannot be fixed overnight. They will take at least one generation to fix. Attitudes have to be changed.  And we have to start in the schools with the very young ones and come up. We have to start giving our young children the tools that they will need to become useful and productive citizens. Right now we are not doing that and the result is that a lot of very bright young people are being born into situations where there is no way out except through joining a gang and living a life of crime. If we continue to bury our heads in the sand the situation will only get worse ... and believe me, it can get worse than this. Try going over to Caracas right now and see what a real crime rate is like!!

But we can stop it. Honestly, we really can. But we need to start thinking differently. I think that the present National Security Minister seems to have his head screwed on right and seems to know what he is talking about. But he is like the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dam.The pressure building up behind his efforts is enormous and his task is not dissimilar to that of Hercules who had to clean out the Augean stables. And good as he is, I don't think that there exists any person in this country (or anywhere else for that matter) who has the powers of the mythical Hercules.

It is either that we start to think "out of the box" or we give up, declare a dictatorship, put all the criminals against a wall and shoot them. That will certainly fix the crime problem. Whether we will be happy with the other problems and the consequences that such a course of action would create is, of course, a whole other story!


  1. Mr. Montano, you are quite right in your observations The culture imbedded in our people of being 'doe care a dam' because it's felt that standing & being counted is futile since no one, especially those in Gov't, will pay heed, has to change. People have to realize that if you continue to stand for what you believe or know is right, you will be heard, listened to by someone some day.

  2. The service problem is 2 fold. (1) People in the service industry think of service as servitude, in other words, a waiter, a CSR in the bank or government office looks at them self as a servant. Not someone doing a job and taking pride in their job at that. (2) Remember most of the citizens in Trinidad are descendants of slaves or indentured workers, these are people of the lowest class who were brought to Trinidad to work. Particularly their mentality is of the lowest class. They equate money, a big gold chain around their neck or a nice car as having class. As a result of this, they look down on others, particularly people in the service industry as lesser individuals. As a result they treat them as lesser individuals. I am certain that you Robin, in Australia or otherwise would see the difference in how the patrons deal with their CSR people, like a good old friend rather than a servant. Until these two mentalities can change, nothing will. I only need look at someone like Bill Gates, who can buy the biggest Gold Chain and a private jet yet he travels Economy when traveling. Warren Buffet who still drives his Ford and lives in the same house he did 30 years ago and even the late Steve Jobs who went to work in Jeans. These people are not millionaires but billionaires however it is not their money that make then men of class it is their character and attitude! I have met many so called big business men (whose wealth was obtained questionably) who would quicker buy a bottle of Johnny Walker Black to lime with friends and consider buying a business book a waste of money.

    1. You are missing an important factor - Australia was colonized also and by inmates from the UK freed if they went to Australia. So the excuse making us always live in the past and never move into the present so we can deal with the future is ludicris. My ancestors were slaves. Do I want to be a slave or always make that a reason for anything that happens to me in the future?? I have moved on and my past will make me more aware so that the future will be brilliant.

  3. I am sorry you were gone for so long. I did miss your thought provoking pieces. Thanks for you columns. Keep them coming so that we can think.