Moved to take up somebody's Facebook challenge to guess how many will be murdered by next Old Year's Day, I went back to my rule of thumb from the mid-2000s. In the 157 days left (at time of writing), my estimate at the rate of 1.5 murders a day, adds 235.5 to whatever the latest figure is.
The decimal, I have liked as a nice touch—a way of accounting for some fatally wounded wretch who may just outlive the ringing-in of 2013. But that's the figure I put on the table, in the manner of a gambler placing a roulette chip.
Crime victim last week, Martin Joseph had been once the minister victimised toward learned helplessness, as bullet-riddled bodies dropped and dropped. Ever since then, murder has been something survivors have resigned ourselves to live with. Only the most spectacular or the most heart-tugging of them qualify as "stories" any more, and even those not for long.
I have long been fascinated by the way Trinidad and Tobago has made nice with violent crime, rubbing shoulders with it, implicitly withholding moral abhorrence, and eventually even according it a kind of blessing. The murder toll, then, is received as a portion we have somehow earned, a plight for being who we are, a reminder of all we amount to.
At once suspect is anything proposed or tried to contain such crime. For it's the devil we know, compared to which anything new must by definition be fearsomely worse.
Such was the virus that infected and doomed the 2011 State of Emergency, even renaming it "SOE" for ease of negative reference. The "SOE" gained in pathological taxonomy what it could never acquire in popular trust and open-mindedness among the commentariat.
Much respectable opinion thus convinced itself the emergency would lead only to more acrimony, more murders, more rapes, more demonising of people looking young, male and black. The goat-mouthing worked as a self-fulfilling prophecy.
It's bedrock of conservatism that underpins T&T attitudes and promptings. This amounts to a continuing validation of the immortal Ellis Clarke observation that "We like it so".
Targeted changes ranging from 21st Century Policing to the west Port of Spain traffic plan are blighted from conception as potential disturbances inside a psychological comfort zone. The only change imaginable is for the worse.
Indeed, "change" turns out to be a bad word. During the 2010 general election campaign, Conrad Enill, PNM campaign manager, characterised his approach to the contest as "not about change". His campaign's soca songs assured that Patrick Manning was going "right back" into government.
Mr Enill declined the self-defeating embrace of "change" by people who could not think of a better word. Patrick Manning had to go: that was a more precise and more reliable formulation of the mood of the moment.
And so it happened. The People's Partnership was hoisted on a petard of "change" that was always understood, deep down, to be impossible of realisation. For "change" represented, if anything, a condition on a horizon so far distant as to be beyond reach of wide comprehension of how to get there.
In no time at all, in this second decade of the new millennium, Basdeo Panday, a brand name for terminally damaged political goods, would again be invoked for his time-worn 1987-1988 trope. Then an outsider in the ANR Robinson-NAR administration, he jibed that the people in 1986 had voted NAR for "change", but had got only "exchange".
Like a distant dhantal, or a steelband engine-room iron, that Panday soundbite continues to clittink-clang in T&T public affairs. Mr Panday himself, long a vessel emptied of political potency, remains available to produce noises, and to enjoy their echoes in the headlines. With the deceased reliably not speaking up in contradiction, Mr Panday asserted at the man's funeral that he was speaking "truth" as the late Kelvin Ramnath would have recognised it.
Mr Ramnath had apparently died of natural causes, in a country where the public affairs concern centres on those shot and mutilated for reasons more mysteriously diverse than those applying to drug-related killings in northern Mexico. The name of T&T "truth" is liable to be taken in vain, as T&T murders most foul appear less related to the Pandays and the Ramnaths, and more to Keith Rowley and Patrick Manning.
A brigadier risen from the Nelson Street, Port of Spain area, John Sandy, the now-fallen National Security Minister, identified 21st century criminality with those, young and black, now growing up there, as once he did. With damaging political effect, took possession of the emergency dragnet that optimistically pulled in gangsters from off the hard streets he once himself had trod.
His own experiential "truth", however, ran up against today's Afrocentric doctrine, embraced by the Rowley PM and others. Such teaching holds those targeted by police as almost freedom fighters against a racially oppressive state.
This close to Emancipation Day, as multimillion-dollar demands fall like trump cards onto the national table, nerves inevitably get on edge about any concern over which an Afrocentric influence may be exercised. Promptly, the dollars demanded were disbursed. Will that now mean fewer murders by December 31? My own bets are already placed elsewhere.