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Architects of our own demise

By Raffique Shah

 I am writing this column knowing that it will not be read by the target audience—young, black and ‘er...unschooled men. 

Few if any in this group read anything, least of all newspapers. If they pick up an Express, it would be to watch a photograph of some dead “bredren”, felled by bullets from police or criminal, same difference, and to wonder if they, upon meeting a similar fate, would make a pretty corpse.

Now, you would think that I, knowing I can never access their brains or influence their minds, assuming they do have these human endowments, would know better than to waste time and valuable newsprint trying to reach the unreachable.

But I am old and stupid, and I hold out hope that a few among these wretched boys would understand what I have to say, and maybe seek to change the course of their all too brief lives, this cradle-to-corpse flight that leaves them not knowing, far less enjoying, the finer, and I dare add, sweeter, things in life.

I have watched with intriguing interest over the past two decades or so life expectancy among males in urban Trinidad and Tobago reversed from the biblical promise of three score and ten to a self-imposed one score or less. This fatality rate is worse than what obtained during barbaric slavery and indentureship when massa’s range of punishments and our forebears’ inhumane modes of existence made 40 or 50 a ripe old age.

Since the early 20th Century, governments and people worked hard towards enhancing life expectancy to the extent that today, there are more than a handful of centenarians and nonagenarians, and many ordinary people easily scale past 70, staying active and fairly healthy.

But these young, not-too-bright boys I refer to seem to have revised the life contract downward, making 20 an unattainable goal. When nine- year-olds are packing guns and being picked off by other guns, what, pray, is the future of mankind?

Armed with peashooters or sometimes heavier hardware that they know not how to use, they gun down each other in senseless turf wars, and are often stupid enough to engage the better-armed police and soldiers in what are inevitably one-way shootouts. 

I should add that while the frequency of such incidents has increased significantly in recent years, the police have always killed men stupid enough to confront the law armed with knives, cutlasses, objects looking like firearms, occasionally museum pieces, but very rarely the real McCoy. 

Always, they who battle the lawmen are such poor shots, they miss the intended targets completely, or at best (or worst) inflict minor injuries.

These reckless fools who dare to confront the lawmen are doomed before they can take aim or even grab their guns. Mostly, when the smoke clears, as our ace cops and star reporters say, the perforated corpses are found close to guns that were never fired, but weapons that justify the fusillades of gunfire that are music to the ears of our brave crime fighters. 

Statistics show that once you are young and black and you carelessly display your hind-crack as if to rub it in people’s faces, someone will plug you with a bullet, lighting up the darker side of your anatomy. Yet the fools persist with this lifestyle of the damned, knowing well that they would end up dead, and their mothers (well, there are hardly fathers around) will have to beg around for money to meet funeral expenses.

Really, this degree of stupidity is unbelievable. And if stupidity is epidemic among these young men, it is pandemic among their prolific mothers. Every time a man-child or real child falls victim to police bullets or other misadventure, the mothers invariably have another 12-to-20 kids to “mind”, with yet unborn foetuses in the ovens...

What’s with these people? You and I know how tough it is to bring up one child in today’s world without pity, yet these unemployed, often homeless women, make babies like rabbits! And they expect “de govament” to feed, house, clothe and protect the products of their lust or irresponsibility. Unbelievable, I repeat.

In these circumstances, the police see themselves as a kind of pest control unit: between them and the criminals, they would prune the urban population by ensuring hundreds of “black hen chicken’ never attain the age of multiplication.

Look, reality is that for all the universally free education governments boast about, the numerous free-for-all social programmes, the computers in book bags and smart phones in pockets, GDP growth and billions in foreign investment, ours is a very sick society.

The disease is not restricted to the slums where little black boys kill each other or are killed by the police. The wealthy elite and the self-centred middle elements are as culpable as they are vulnerable, even if they do not admit it. 

Yesterday and today, the killing fields are in the slums. Tomorrow, the synthetic world we have created will collapse and consume us all in a kind of damnation that has nothing to do with God or religion. In so many ways, we are architects of our own demise.

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