Wednesday, April 23, 2014


There is in circulation around the internet right now a joke that (like most jokes) has a lot of truth in it. It says "it's only when you see a mosquito landing on your testicles that you realize that there is always a way to solve problems without using violence." I was reminded forcefully of this joke this morning when I read the Guardian story about the mother who beat her teenage daughter for posting most inappropriate pictures of her in various stages of undress. The mother posted the beating of the daughter on the internet because she wanted the daughter to be suitably embarrassed at the humiliation of the beating (as if the reported 63 or 69 blows were not enough!)

Now,  I was in my car close to lunchtime and had tuned into I95.5fm radio which had a live on air discussion about this video, the punishment meted out to the girl, and whether or not it was appropriate. To my great chagrin  what little I heard of the radio program (I had tuned in very near the end) suggested to me that not only were all the callers in agreement with the mother beating her daughter, but the radio host also felt that the beating was in order. Certainly, I did not hear the host disagreeing with all the callers who made it clear that they saw nothing wrong with the beating and in fact condoned it. One female caller even invoked the old saw about sparing the rod and spoiling the child!

So? What's wrong with this picture? Go back to the top of this post and read the rather crude joke. Then pay attention to its deeper meaning. Look past the more than slightly explicit crudity and understand the point that it is making. If I have to explain that point then you obviously haven't got it and never will!

But, what does this attitude tell us about our society? The answer, unfortunately, is a lot! If the average person in this society believes that it is all right to beat a child for any infraction ... serious or otherwise ... then why is the average person in this society so surprised at the levels of crime here in good old T&T which every right thinking person in the society condemns? All violence does is to breed more violence.

In order to succeed as a nation we must look at ourselves as honestly as we possibly can. And when we do so we must admit that just about everything in this society that is wrong is not really the fault of the politicians (although I would be the first to admit that a lot of them on all sides seem to be doing their level best to make things worse) but is really our fault. We are the ones to blame. We are the ones to blame for the lousy health service, the terribly inefficient police force and the worse than useless system that tries to pass for an education system. We are the ones to blame for the corruption that seems to pervade everything. It is us and nobody else. To paraphrase William Shakespeare on his 450th birthday, the fault, dear friends, lies not in our stars but in ourselves that we have almost gleefully ignored and avoided all the hard decisions that would have let us build that "shining city on the hill."  We really do not have a right to complain about anything! We have brought it all on ourselves!

Thursday, April 3, 2014


With the Sharma/Ramadarsingh debacles behind us we can probably expect all sorts of commentary both in social media as well as in the Sunday newspapers in support of the Government and the Prime Minister's handling of the two debacles as well as scathing criticisms of the Prime Minister, her management style, and of the two protagonists ... all of which are (or will be) fairly predictable. As a society we seem to be incapable of original thought and of any meaningful capability of not only analyzing a particular situation but of setting out a plan of where we are, where we need to be and (perhaps most importantly) the best way of getting there.

Let me give you an example of what I mean: on both Tuesday and Wednesday of this week Senator Faris Al-Rawi, the PNM's erstwhile Public Relations Officer spent a total of about one hour ( a half hour on CNC 3 on Tuesday and another half hour on TV 6 on Wednesday) criticizing the government, the Prime Minister and the two errant/fallen Ministers. I listened carefully to both interviews in the hope that I would hear something different. My own view was that the discussion of the very obvious mistakes made by all in the two debacles ought not to have taken more than, say, about ten minutes or so in each interview. What I would have found to be much more interesting and more important, was what the PNM thought could and should be done to eliminate, or, at the very least, reduce violence towards women. I am a father of three girls. I have a wife whom I love very much, and I have a mother and a sister. (And in case there are any wags out there, yes, I love my daughters and my mother and my sister as well). I am acutely aware of certain ... shall we say ... "unfortunate" attitudes towards women that seem to prevail in our society, and I condemn them roundly.

But all we seem to get from our leaders is a lot of rhetoric and nothing else. For example, I would have been far more impressed with Senator Al-Rawi's performances on the two television programs this week if he had (after taking the understandable and obligatory swipes at the Government) had said something to the effect like "The PNM strongly condemns violence against women in any form whatsoever. Further, when we regain political power we intend to do the following ....", and then list out the Party's proposals. "Further," he could have said, "let me make it clear: if any of our people are guilty of violence against women they will be expelled forthwith from the Party."

Now, I don't mean that he had to use those exact words. What I mean is that I would have liked to have hard concrete proposals as to what a major political party that hopes to form the next Government of this country would do about a serious problem that plagues our society. Violence against women, unfortunately, is not confined in our society only to UNC front line politicians but goes across all races, creeds and political loyalties.

I suppose that what I am really complaining about is that in our society we tend to allow our politicians a free pass where we accept their criticisms of the other side but we do not insist on them spelling out their own philosophies and policies in any meaningful way. Perhaps some blame for this can be laid at the feet of the media. Perhaps some blame for this can also be laid at the feet of the politicians themselves. But the sad truth is that the majority of the blame must lie with ourselves. We continue to complain but do nothing about it. We do not insist on either philosophical or political debates, but prefer instead to listen (with a certain relish) to allegations of 'who t'ief what'! While accepting absolutely that the question of 'thievery' is important, my own view is that 'thievery' is a by-product of an amoral society that refuses to confront the real problems that exist, choosing instead to indulge in high sounding rhetoric that, at the end of the day, means absolutely nothing.