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Hurtling to self-destruction

By Raffique Shah

 If we think that the top-to-bottom lawlessness and overpowering crime that besiege the country today are portents of hopelessness in tomorrow, think again. It will be much worse. Those who will live here for the next 50 or 80 years (I will be long gone, thankfully) should be afraid...very afraid.

This society is hurtling towards a collapse in just about every facet of life that defines civilisation. Oh, there will be more than enough wealth to satisfy the greed of the one per cent at the top, who will live in palatial prisons. Our diminishing hydrocarbon resources will even allow for the relatively good life among the top fifteen or twenty per cent of the population.

But the rest of people are destined to dwell in a hellhole that has been long in the making, that is maturing nicely, if I may so describe degeneration. The more recent manifestation of this malaise is the increasing incidents of thuggery among young girls. That, however, is but a whiff of a putrid mountain of manure into which we have all made generous deposits, generation after generation.

Let’s face it: the female ‘wajanks’ we see displaying canine characteristics on Youtube video clips are not aberrations. They are the products of dysfunctional families and communities that are commonplace in Trinidad and Tobago. Worse, for every such incident that is captured on camera, one can reasonably assume that one thousand go unrecorded and unreported.

In other words, our education system is a jungle in which only the fittest or ‘de baddest’ survive. I know many will argue that bullying and violence in schools are nothing new. True. When I attended primary school, shouts of, “Heave! Heave!” signalled a fight underway, usually a fistfight between two boys.

There were always bullies, too, big and strong boys who would intimidate or abuse the timid or the weak. Equally, though, there were those who would fend off the bullies, clout them before they took advantage of others. Also, groups of students hardly ganged up against the hapless, and girls rarely engaged in fights.

What we are witnessing today is different, bestial behaviour by boys and girls who, tomorrow, will be men and women, mothers and fathers. In fact, many of these youngsters already have children of their own. 

Witness the 17-year-old who bared her breasts during Jouvert celebrations in San Fernando: she is reported to have two children, one born when she sat the SEA examination, which means at age 11 or 12. Of course there are adults in this sordid picture—parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts. No one intervened before or after the fact. Another black hen chicken consigned to nothingness.

Then there is the case of the 14 year-old pupil, supposedly bright, shot dead as she studied near a 15-year-old relative. In that home, the lad was playing with a gun, not a toy, and it ‘went off’. By the time the police intervened, the illegal firearm had disappeared.

In this country where there are no consequences to criminal acts in spite of the hollow pronouncements of those in authority, nothing will come out of this homicide. In an orderly society where people are held responsible for criminal negligence or worse, the whole family would be behind bars facing a string of serious charges.

I chose to focus today on very young not because I hold them culpable for the decay in the society, but because I shudder to think where they will take the country tomorrow. 

Many argue that we are already there, that the young are merely following the leaders, known bandits who plunder the public purse. I do not subscribe to that notion, not because I think our leaders are exemplars. I dismiss it because these children do not know anything about our leaders.

The vast majority of our secondary school pupils might know who the Prime Minister is, but they will hardly know the names or portfolios of two or three other ministers. They do not read newspapers or follow news or sports on the electronic media. They are glued to cellphones and the social media, where they post and monitor everything, from breaking wind to breaking necks.

If anything, the leaders are following the pupils, a classical case of the blind leading the blind. Since I am not a Facebook fanatic or a Twitter twerp, I cannot say for sure. But I am told that most of our politicians promote their activities on these sites. That’s how, last week, people knew that the Prime Minister attended a Madrasi funeral in Florida, complete with pan music and female tassa drummers.

In the synthetic cyber-world of instant communication and instant gratification, values such as discipline, self-esteem, respect for others, humaneness and ethical behaviour are alien. Good grammar, spelling and language are forbidden. 

Worse, in the one-size-fits- all education system where misfits are the common denominator, the minority who strive for success or excellence are the aberrations, victims of their ambition. As the bad and the ugly triumph over the good, the entire society collapses.

That is where we are heading, hurtling to self-destruction. One day soon, we will wake up to find animals ruling us—if that’s not already the case.

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