T&T's jungle culture
Consider that between Saturday and Monday, two persons were murdered for alarming reasons — in one case, over a "bad drive"; in the other, over a woman. Consider, too, the profiles of the victims and the circumstances which led to their deaths. Schoolteacher Jagdis Harripersad, 43, was a good citizen who had spent his last day helping out at a fund-raiser for a friend who was in financial trouble. Labourer Marcus Akiel Peters, 19, had brought a woman who had a child for another man to live in his family home. Harripersad was stabbed to death when he was accosted by four men; Peters was also stabbed, allegedly during an attack by three car-loads of men, after he had walked away from a confrontation.
These two men — one in middle age now seeing the fruits of his labour, the other a teenager now about to begin planting those seeds — were killed by persons who embodied the worst qualities of this society. Mr Harripersad's attackers were almost certainly wrong and strong, because that is the attitude of all those drivers in Trinidad and Tobago who speed on the shoulder of the highway, cut people off, and break traffic lights. It could well be that the schoolteacher's attempt to educate them about road manners enraged them enough to commit murder. As for Mr Peters, jealousy was probably the cause and just as the first murder in humanity's history, it remains one of the most common motives today. If the argument over a woman was indeed the reason, then clearly the perpetrator was more concerned with the bruise to his macho ego, than with the woman's wishes or with another man's life.
In both cases, such actions were facilitated by a society in which law is considered both ineffectual and corrupt, and where the principle of fairness has no bearing. The attackers, like chimpanzees in the wild, ganged up on a lone individual to maim and kill. So there was not even the saving grace of honour, which would mandate a fair fight.
This is the law of the jungle at work. That law, which is lawlessness, activates when officials of the State charged with maintaining social order are failing in their duty and when cultural norms facilitate extreme reactions. Not only do the perpetrators feel that they are wronged, but they also have no sense of proportionate response and no fear that they would be punished for their actions. And why should they not believe this in a place where the privileged and the powerful appear to be above the law?
Teacher Harripersad and young Peters were victims of that jungle culture which now defines the state of T&T.