Friday, February 23, 2018

The changing landscape

For those like me who attended primary school in the days when Nelson’s West Indian Readers were on the book list, you would remember this excerpt from a poem  called Trinidad: Iere—Land of the Humming Bird by Allister Macmillan.

“Those who eat the cascadura will, the native legend says,

Wheresoever they may wonder, end in Trinidad their days,

And this lovely fragrant island with its forest hills sublime,

Well might be the smiling Eden pictured in the Book Divine.”

The poet goes on to describe the natural beauty of our island and then ends with the words:

“Matchless country of Iere, fairer none could ever wish,

Can you wonder at the legend of the cascadura fish?”

When I recited this poem almost 40 years ago, as a primary school student in Standard 3, I remember the genuine pride I felt saying those words which spoke glowingly of our country.

It was such poems that made us feel blessed that we were born and/ or resided in this paradise.

For those of us captured by the spell cast with words paying tribute to our glorious island, we must have some time along life’s journey had a dose of reality and realised that we are actually living in a “paradise lost’’.

What natural wonders can we boast of today—young people probably have little interest in the “Cocoa woods with scarlet glory of the stately Immortelles”. 

“Rills and rivers, green savannahs, fruits and flowers and odours rich” might more aptly be described in terms of “polluted waters, once green lands with trees cut down and covered in pitch.”

I am not certain that given the current landscape of our country, Mr Macmillan would want to encourage anybody to eat the cascadura in order to ensure they spend their last days in Trinidad. 

The sad truth is that citizens over the years have looked on while our country has been rotting, many pretending that the gravity of the decay was overstated.

Some with the wisdom to see the writing on the wall prefer to be like the cynic character Benjamin in George Orwell’s book Animal Farm—content to make pessimistic predictions without raising a hand, or in Benjamin’s case, a hoof, to steer the country in the right direction.

If we continue to squander the opportunities given to us to set things right, our Garden of Eden will soon become a living hell.

Many may disagree with my analysis that we are sliding down a slope of societal helplessness in which we are losing champions who can restore truth and justice along the way.

These intelligent and patriotic giants, who no longer walk amongst us, spent their lives performing at the top of their game so that others who follow would have benchmarks to continue their works in progress.

But the focus of our society has become something other than making our country a better place in which to live.

The young generation is bent on making millions in record time without having to put their shoulders to the wheel or spend time in the trenches giving back to the State.

Many who came from humble beginnings are determined to change their station in life and those of their relatives and friends by taking unlawful shortcuts with routes of deceit and dishonesty.

They display no shame when they are used as exemplars of rags to riches success stories despite knowing , as the Shakespearian character Banquo  stated upon learning of Macbeth’s sudden rise up the ranks—“they played’st most foully for it.”

It is the blind heralding of these undeserving heroes that has contributed to the demise of our nation and the change of our landscape to nothing short of a desert nightmare.

Our society is short of independent, right-thinking individuals upon whom we must depend if we are to return to a state of normalcy.

We are not in a good place right now and we need all law abiding citizens to put the politics aside while we turn the ship around.

We must accept collective liability for the state of our nation and we must act responsibly in our combined effort to ensure that our vessel does not sink.

We must stop the knee-jerk reaction to fighting crime and implement measures to address the ills that provide fertile soil for raising and promoting a lawless society.

And without discounting the importance of the preventative approach in dealing with criminal activity, there must be specific plans put in place with immediate effect to deal with the dismal detection rate for serious crimes.

For the month of April 2014, the detection rate for serious crimes which include murder, sexual offences, larceny and robberies was 16 per cent.

The detection rate for murder was a pathetic and unacceptable five per cent.

For the first quarter of this year, the overall detection rate for serious crimes was 17 per cent, with a nine per cent detection rate for murder over the same period.

To say that fewer crimes are being committed when compared to similar periods last year is no comfort for a country that is living under siege for over a decade and with detection rates steadily on the decline.

We should not only be focused on finding killers but on preventing murders from occurring.

Unless we adopt an aggressive, pro-active approach to fighting crime, within the limits of the law and with regard to due process, our landscape will continue to deteriorate.

• Gillian Lucky is an attorney-at-law and presenter of the television programme Just Gill