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2014 in our face already

By Martin daly

 Although I spent Christmas abroad, I fully inhaled the pungency of the double and triple murders, the two oil spills and the continuous road deaths.

We begin this New Year with so little hope felt out there that this year will bring better times. Some fellow columnists have already expressed this dearth of hope.

Lack of hope is hardly surprising when the Acting Commissioner of Police had “projected” murders at 399 for 2013, presumably to anticipate that the violent crime picture would be an improvement on previous years — another piece of his skewed jawboning.

Unrestrained evil doers are again making a mockery of the mindless statistics pushed at us. Has the police high command already “budgeted” the murders for this New Year, 2014, which they would like us to accept as “a good year”?

As soon as I returned I was further discouraged about the state of police work. Having left the airport after midnight, on my way home, I observed a crowd at the lookout on the Foreshore only to be told on enquiry that those people and cars were gathering for drag racing. How can any group of persons take over a public highway for a private pursuit in the course of which many laws would be broken? These activities are taking place in a small island Republic, where there is daily weeping over road accident victims, a significant proportion of whom are youthful.

I understand that bets are taken on these races and I am told that this is not the only venue in Trinidad where organised drag racing takes place on public highways.

Talk about “in your face”.

We weep and wail over so many things that can be dealt with by the application of political and civic will. Civic will is best expressed when citizens want something done or stopped and they band together to press the politicians into taking appropriate action.  We comment frequently on the lack of positive political will of each succeeding Government but what about our lack of civic will? 

Political and civic will is a potent combination for advancement.  I saw it at work again on the occasion of my first visit to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. What struck me as soon as I entered the foyer were the lists of names of persons and corporations that donated money and money’s worth to fund the Center in addition to the US $23 million that the Federal Government invested.

Anyone who visits a major hospital in the United States would see similar lists of benefactors and would observe how many wings in each hospital bear the names of those benefactors. 

In our violent country there is a lack of shelters and safe houses to which battered women can flee having taken the decision to leave an abusive partner.  A public private sector partnership could support the purchase or lease a number of properties appropriately located to be handed over to trustees whose qualifications as trustees would have nothing to do with affiliation to a political party or a satellite group of self-seekers.

The benefaction of which I speak is not mere sponsorship of a one off event. It goes into bricks and mortar, maintenance and administration.

The next two paragraphs of this column have been extracted from the relevant website.

“An Act of Congress authorized the Kennedy Centre. The National Cultural Center Act included four basic components: it authorised the Center’s construction, spelled out an artistic mandate to present a wide variety of both classical and contemporary performances, specified an educational mission for the Center, and stated that the Center was to be an independent facility, self-sustaining and privately funded. As a result of this last stipulation, a mammoth fund-raising campaign began immediately following the Act’s passage into law.”

“President Kennedy took the lead in raising funds for the new National Cultural Center, holding special White House luncheons and receptions, appointing his wife Jacqueline and Mrs Eisenhower (wife of a former president) as honorary co-chairwomen, and in other ways placing the prestige of his office firmly behind the endeavor. Volunteers solicited private support for funds, building materials, and artworks to assist in the project’s completion.”

Here in Trinidad and Tobago, we have no similar funding models in effective operation.

The current urgent need for domestic violence shelters would be a good place to start and I have already made the case for increased support of the performing arts as a means of turning many more youth into productive activity.

The funding model does not operate as a state enterprise thereby permitting political control and interference unlike this Government’s desire to cram our creative industries into a State enterprise with visible partisan and nepotistic tendencies.

Are we looking already at another year that we will want to forget even as so many are crushed by the weight of our indifference?

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