It struck me as a curious story when it was aired on the evening news programme; on-camera declarations by very young men (teenagers, they seemed) of their violent and criminal lifestyles and their resolve to turn themselves around. Members of this Carapo community had made a public display of their determination to end the violence to each other, to stop the turf wars and to seek peace. One of them mentioned that they had been influenced by the LifeSport programme, an initiative of the Sport Ministry.
It was remarkable, I thought, but I could find nothing more on what seemed a development worth covering. By chance, a conversation with a young man from the area led back to this.
The talk was about the recent discussion in Laventille, where, under the gaze of the Minister of National Security and the Acting Commissioner of Police, community members too had declared that they were fed up of the fighting and fear, and were ready to step towards peace. It seemed natural enough to have finally conceded that this is no way to live.
But the young man was more than sceptical. Saying he had seen nothing change in Carapo, he felt the whole thing was really a pappyshow, staged for cameras and subtly trying to promote the Ministry's LifeSport programme. The youthful, self-proclaimed delinquents were nowhere near the leadership of the gangs; they were probably paid to talk, he said. The LifeSport programme offers a $1,500 monthly stipend, and he says that participants attend just enough sessions to qualify them to receive the stipend. Whatever its intent, it had become just another easy dollar masquerading as a social improvement programme.
Watching the same news item I had seen with a positive eye, he felt distrust. When the Laventille discussion was aired on television, it invoked the same kind of cynicism.
In the wake of the S34 outrage to our citizenhood, this young citizen, bordering on 30, father of a toddling girl, newly certified holder of a bachelor's degree, said he felt like throwing up.
"Can we trust anybody anymore?"
This is one of the largest casualties in the mismanagement of our country – this loss of trust. And it is soaking the air with the stench of despair and outrage. Who remains trustworthy?
A letter writer to the editor outlined the hardship to family life as a result of the loss of savings from the CLICO mess. As in so many of the other related stories, the pain and sense of utter betrayal are palpable. Trust has evaporated.
A child born into this world comes loaded with trust that the people around will nurture and fill needs. We neglect and abuse them with impunity so that by the time they enter schools, they are already cynical about relationships.
Children come to adulthood already weaned of the idea that institutions will not trick them, that adults will not betray them, that the laws are there to protect them; that there is anything worth believing in. The world they enter runs by the most primal of rules: kill or be killed.
It has been a way of life accepted too blithely as the rule of survival because it gives no weight at all to concepts that should form the foundation of a civilisation: equality, justice, honour, integrity, care. All of these have been discarded as signs of weakness and naiveté, remnants of an obsolete time.
This Anansi country, run by shenanigan, tryst and malapropism, has finally and inevitably overrun itself. The latest charade is no parlour game playing out on a parliamentary stage; it was spawned and insidiously manoeuvred through a system that obviously relied on trusting that commitments made would be honoured. It is the ultimate betrayal of trust.
As a country, we have long been subjected to volumes of Anansi stories, appalling in their flagrant disregard for truth, coherence and commonsense. They have been cavalier insults to intelligence and it troubles none of the purveyors when there is a public outcry.
"It is a ten-day wonder, if as long," said the Justice Minister when asked if he thought his Government could survive an immediate election. That answer probably goes farthest towards explaining why citizens can be bandied about so casually. We are known for squawking loudly, but we don't follow our words with actions. You can get away with anything as long as you time it right.
The perception might be that smart-men rule and the rest have to abide by that, but each time a word is broken, each time we don't do the right thing, it doesn't matter what sleight of hand is invoked to cover it. People can see. They feel violated.
There is something about governance that most people seem to miss when they enter what they think are the corridors of power. It is that there is an unspoken pact between the group appointed to govern and those who have empowered them to act on their behalf. It is a pact that relies on trust.
When that trust is gone, the pact is broken, and the basis for governance is shattered. Just like that.