Journalists who cover the post-Cabinet news briefing were very fortunate last week to get advice on professionalism from veteran radio presenter Dennis McComie. McComie's advice was given after the journalists unprofessionally continued asking Communications Minister Jamal Mohammed about his insignificant Muslim coolie e-mail to CCN after Mohammed had ended the briefing when journalists began grilling him about his insignificant Muslim coolie e-mail.
McComie told the journalists that their behaviour was unprofessional and, since he now holds the position of communications director in the Office of the Prime Minister, this must be a man who knows all about unprofessionalism. The pity is that McComie wasn't there from the start, because there are several individuals, from Reshmi Ramnarine to Sasha Mohammed to Herbert Volney, who could have used professional help.
So I now know that I am not and never have been a professional journalist, writer, or hair curler. The truly professional journalist, according to McComie and the Communications Minister he was defending, does not seek the Opposition's opinion on any issue, but relies on Government sources who know what they're talking about and, more importantly, can offer the journalist a $30,000-a-month salary if she's professional enough. Truly professional journalists must only give the Government's version of SUVs, OPVs, Section 34, and sisters. The most professional journalists thus become paid bloggers or, if they are especially talented, aka Anand Ramlogan.
But the country cannot change if these standards are confined only to media. Other professions must follow suit, and tie. Take auditors, who came into public awareness recently in the Hindu Credit Union enquiry. The job of an auditor is to examine the accounts of companies but, if they are very professional, they are obliged to understate liabilities, extend amortisation, and do the hokey-pokey. Truly professional accountants use the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) with a complete lack of principle to conceal offshore bank accounts, contributions to political campaigns, and outside women. Auditors must always show companies making a profit, especially if the company is making a loss, since this means higher fees for the auditor.
And what about even more prominent professions? Doctors must adhere to an oath to do no harm, and, since money is the root of all evil and evil is harmful, they are medically obliged to remove patients' wallets. This is the key to medical success, which in T&T is measured by money made rather than by patients cured. If necessary, doctors must persuade patients to let them treat them privately, even if they use the hospital's equipment, since the higher costs ensures that dengue won't be diagnosed as a cold, heart attacks won't be dismissed as indigestion, and golf handicaps will be reduced.
As for lawyers, many of them are already extremely professional. The highest professional standards require a lawyer to write commentaries or letters about the hypocritical standards in public life and then accept a brief from political party financiers. This makes the attorney look like he's speaking from both sides of his mouth, which is exactly what a lawyer is supposed to do.
The law, in fact, offers wide scope for total professionalism, T&T style. This is why very professional police officers preserve law and order by shooting young black men. A professional police officer follows the law as it should be, not as it is, because the law does not require the death penalty for theft, smoking weed, and annoying language. Professional officers do not take bribes, unless they're sure it's not part of a sting operation. And, as part of their professional image, police officers should be impolite, sweaty, and at least 40 kgs overweight.
But the main measure of professionalism in T&T is how much money you make. And there are three bases of successful business in T&T: being related to a Government minister; being friends with a Government minister; and bribing a Government minister. Of course, there are many successful business people who have no such connections with any Government ministers, but have only related, friended or bribed public officials. It is therefore important for aspiring business persons to practise being born into the right family, liming at the right rumshops, or making wire transfers to offshore bank accounts.
Which brings me to the largest group of T&T professionals: politicians. Politicians who rise to the bottom in their chosen career insist that they defend democracy, but don't change the country's 19th century libel laws; say they support transparency, but won't ever create campaign finance laws; and proclaim that they stand for integrity, but only when in Opposition. The most professional politicians have solutions for crime, poverty and hairy ears, until they get into office. Then they only have solutions for friends who need State board appointments, tax-free vehicles, and tickets to Carnival fetes.
If, therefore, you are a professional who has not been a success in this place — well, congratulations.