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posted 24 Nov 2016, 11:57 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 24 Nov 2016, 12:05 ]
There’s a video making the rounds on social media showing a confrontation on Charlotte St between two young men and some police officers. And as is now customary, many of the “mature” radio talk show hosts and many of their callers engage in the usual hang-wringing pontifications.

Image result for trinidad police making arrestIt’s practically standard now; someone expresses shock at the level of indiscipline and morality; the way delinquent youths show almost no respect for the police or any form of authority, the influence of violent movies and music…and then, of course, someone calls for the police to take a firm hand and get tough on “crime” (and/or the need for “god” and more prayers).

It’s easy to call for the police to get tough on “crime;” it’ll be visible and yes, disruptive. I have no problem with that. But too many of those calls are embedded in a culturally embedded mindset of retribution. The getting tough approach in and of itself is understandable and is needed to a point. But study after study after study shows how it often intensifies the violence and the fatalism that drives much of that violence.

In other words, it often makes those living in depressed areas even more violent and radical. Wayne Chance always speaks about this fatalistic rage and what psychologists call redirected aggression. Neither does it do anything about the very long history of culturally valuated aggression and impunity – which is why I put “crime” in quotation marks; some groups and their acts of criminality have almost always been exempt – that has been at the core of how this society was structured since it was colonised.

Image result for ramesh deosaran
Professor Ramesh Deosaran
And this is what gets me with the mental laziness of many of these pontificators, one of whom is a former minister of Foreign Affairs and a teacher before that. There is a dearth of the deep critical analyses that bring out anything I just listed. Recently Professor Ramesh Deosaran came out with yet another book that points to that long history of unequal distribution of wealth and justice (I prefer ‘hypocritical double-standards,’ but I’m no academic); anybody read it? Anybody compared it to David V Trotman’s book on crime in Trinidad in the 19th century and made the connections? What about the findings of the Moyne Commission?

The culture of impunity that comes from belonging to a certain elite status seems to be something few wish to openly speak about. Perhaps it mashes too many corns. But this is what has been observed – and adopted – by working-class people in this society since the 19th century.

Read the book “Glory Dead” by Arthur Calder-Marshall, particularly the part where he said: “Trinidad [is] an island in which the government can accuse a man of putting into circulation a vast quantity of notes that should have been destroyed and yet take no legal action against him: and which while he is awaiting trial for manslaughter, the Acting Solicitor-General can continue to prosecute his fellow citizens for sedition and murder.”

He wrote this in 1939. Similar observations can be found going back to the late 1800s; even the infamous Captain Baker of the Canboulay Riots fame wasn’t a captain at all but gave himself that rank. Nothing so far as I read came out of that. See how far back this attitude goes? You think the domestic workers and labourers didn’t notice? Many of their descendants, some living in the same locations, are the ones who are causing all kinda problems today and for the exact same reasons.

So deal with the root causes and you might just see a difference that actually lasts. Address the culture that developed after herding people into barrack yards; they may have over time become “communities” but the culture is still there and so too the alienation and the ethic of materialistic consumption that became a valuated ideal. Deal with the ideas that equated non-white people, particularly dark-skinned men, as criminally violent by nature and how that thinking, internalised by people on both sides of the divide, became an us-versus-them mindset that pitted working people against law-enforcement.

Furthermore, stop seeing that approach as condoning or excusing delinquency, that’s a very stupid way to think. And don’t talk to the youths about personal responsibility if you’re not going to talk even louder to those in the business sector about their personal responsibility and their societal responsibility.

They are the ones building structures without Town and Country approval and who have the EMA virtually in their pockets. If you have to condemn the dependency syndrome, cool...as long as in the same sentence you condemn the political elites who foster it to win votes. Dem bad boy and dem may not necessarily articulate all of that, but they are observant and how they behave just reflects the values you instilled.