Wednesday, April 18, 2007

S1lent's official crime and 20/20 rant

One thing I've always admired about this country's current administration is their knack for PR spin. In the disastrous crime surge that has befallen this country, our leaders have decided the best way to cover their inability to actually do anything about it is by pointing the finger of blame in a different direction - right back at us.

First there was Fix Me First media campaign, which managed to burn a considerable amount of public money on prime time advertisements to the effect that the crimes committed by civilians on a day-to-day basis (littering? jaywalking?) were the cause of the order-of-magnitude increases in murders, kidnappings, armed robbery, rapes...Now obviously anybody possessing firearms without permission, or fudging taxes, or not having vehicle insurance is committing a crime.

But what about the massive amount of corruption at the highest levels of government and business, the alleged links between high government officials and business leaders with organized crime leaders and militants, the infiltration of drug trafficking at such a high level that cocaine was being trafficked through our country's U.S diplomatic pouch, the tens of millions of dollars of public funds for public projects waylaid and diverted to the personal bank accounts of the people we trusted and have put in charge of our country? What about fixing them? If these fellas could be lining their pockets left and right, flouting laws and procedures, spending billions on developmentally-disastrous projects no matter what our professionals and specialists and scientists and writers say...dispatching criminal prosecutions like Lara batting against England...I mean whoever in Government came up with the Fix me first slogan clearly is pretty cynical about the public's ability to reason things through and and come to their own conclusions, in lieu of mindlessly digesting the loads of BS fired at us by their crack PR cadre. I swear the three professions I will absolutely forbid my children to enter are politics, law, and communications/public relations. Nobody should have to be an outstanding liar make a living .

So now we have Public Consultations on Crime. I found the flyer above on my doorstep. I'm not participating. They will tell me that You are the only one who can solve crime and i will tell them that they lie. I'm not consulting or marching on a Saturday or turning on my headlights or praying or fasting or do anything citizens of this country who are at their wit's end are willing to do try to stop crime . No amount of death marches or speeches or million-dollar blimps is going to help the crime situation. Patrick Manning and Martin Joseph and Cro Cro and Sprangalang and Bounty Killa and Machel HD and anybody who comes to these consultations can talk till their jaws drop off. It will not help. I would come to hear Sprang if he was speaking though - he would be far and away the most intelligent and knowledgeable speaker on the platform.

I am very cynical about a lot, a lot of things, and I'm trying to move away from empty criticism and stick my neck out with and say what I think can help. So this is what I think about crime in Trinidad and Tobago:

I believe that if people, all people, from all social classes, with any level of education or employment; if all people believe they have an opportunity to make headway in life for themselves and their family, and to live the kind of life we all want, even the fellas robbing and kidnapping, and shooting want; if all of our people are given a fair opportunity to create a decent life for themselves and their families, then crime will decrease. Quality education, access to housing, a public health-care system that works, police protection without victimisation, an efficient, timely and fair legislative system that works the same for people living in Westmoorings as it those for people in Morvant, a reasonable standard of service from public utilities, a working transportation infrastructure that can connect all people in this incredibly small country to employment and self-advancement opportunities, social security for those who really need it until they can stand on their own two feet, social security for the most vulnerable - the disabled, sick, the old, the very young... All these things will reduce crime drastically in this country.

The problem is that no political party has the guts to come up with a 15- or 20- or 30-year plan to implement the long-term programmes needed to do this. Instead, they wants us stupidees to think that they can 'fix crime' in 5 years. The phrase "five-year strategic plan" is an oxymoron. The core developmental issues underlying crime cannot be solved in the time between general elections. Anybody who says to vote for them because they will fix crime is a liar. It will take decades for this country to come to grips with its demons, and we have yet to find people brave enough to forego their own short-term power-hungry ambitions to event start doing what must be done. The only way to reduce crime is a long-term commitment to improve the life and reduce the inequality of all people.

And that is why I grit my teeth whenever I hear anybody mention 20/20. Do people who talk about developed country status know what being a developed country means? Doesn't it mean that when you call 999 because somebody come to rob, rape and kill you, the police can't tell they have no vehicle to send? The could send the blimp to fly all over Trinidad, but fire bun you if you live in Gasparillo and call for police. How about public health care - everybody's nightmare is having to go to Casualty - 'pray you doh end up in dey boy.'

How about infrastructure - driven anywhere recently? We're supposed to be a 'knowledge-based' society, ok so what's the impact on worker productivity of crawling for hours through hot steaming traffic every day? If our 'knowledge workers' spend 2-4 hours commuting everyday what benefit will buying fast computers for them have? Why do I have to wait over an hour to get a bus to go from POS to San Fernando - our nation's two 'cities?' How about public utilities - how many places outside of north-east Trinidad get water 24x7? The only place getting water regular is when rain fall for five minutes and turn our capital city into a Caribbean version of Venice.

What's happening to the young people in our schools - why is having sex before you're fifteen the norm? How many children these days growing up in 2-parent homes, or whose mothers didn't get pregnant when they were still in school. Why are we importing billions of dollars in food - what is the effect of a lack of food security on a country's economy? What happens when food prices rise? Why are our farmers in our rural heartland losing their livelihood every rainy season through flooding, and the government don't give two damns (dams?) about them. Every developed country heavily subsidizes their farming sector...know why?

What about our justice system? If you are charged with an crime how long does it take for you to receive due process? By the time the jury says guilty / not guilty you probably have already been in jail for several years, guilty or not. So what's the incentive for people to allow the system to work for them instead of trying to bribe whoever? What about all the 'big-time-bobol' in NWRHA and CEPEP and...

I'm just going to stop. This is just my opinion. I am not an economist or historian or social scientist or criminal justice major. I simply believe a developed country is not labelled as such because they have skyscrapers, or people walking around with the latest smart-phones, or because the government spends millions on a high-speed network infrastructure (so they can't treat you in Hospital but they could surf the web really fast,) or has high-tech surveillance and listening posts and blimps (this is Trinidad, when last you went somewhere and didn't see somebody you know?) and billion-dollar aluminium smelters, and all the other ways our country is squandering our precious and soon-to-be-gone windfall of energy dollars.

Developed countries are those countries where the basic needs of society have been met. Don't talk to me about industrialization and knowledge-based society. Don't talk to me about public consultations on crime. Don't talk to me about 'developed nation status.' When the fellas on the block finally believe they could get ahead in life without following in the footsteps of their absent fathers right into prison, when we getting water regular down Gasparillo and when they get some more jeeps for the police station, then you could check me.

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