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The price of a Trini life

By Martin Daly

 As I continue to observe the panic among the bourgeoisie, it is amazing to me they could not connect the dots before the murder of Dana Seetahal. For decades there was certainly no lack of commentary on where we were heading.

I had been writing since 2003 concerning the possibility that conventional social order in Trinidad and Tobago would be overthrown and I refer later to the warnings of persons like Diana Mahabir-Wyatt about routine cruelty to children and the evidence that those who are abused will become abusers.

I am doubtful whether the panic has produced any clearer understanding that we cannot ignore the negative social and political conditions. These have escalated while we sat around and permitted various leaders to think that they could not be checked. Many permitted the leaders simply to buy them out.

In May 2003, I began writing about the lack of common objective to have a just and functional society and that the law alone could not restrain anti-social elements. I referred to Prof H L A Hart’s explanation that law, coercion and morality are different but related social phenomena and that the diffuse social pressure of those who accept the rules against those who reject the rules must support the law.

I concluded then as follows: “There is no dodging the common loaded bullet of the human condition that however high and mighty we think we are, each of us is capable of being brought down by a circumstance beyond our individual or collective control. Before we use might for right, we should consider that we are all vulnerable to the happenstance of life and that our time is better spent in fighting for right.  It is our duty to do it rather than to suck the poisoned fruits of might.”

Our long and continuing repast on the poisoned fruits of a corrupt system does not underlie violent crime only.  We are now witnessing the death of children, not merely as a result of violent crime or reckless motoring. We have to come to terms with the lack of day-care standards for children left in the care of persons other than a parent.

Before we discuss the lack of standards we need to acknowledge the indifference to child abuse. As chairperson of the Coalition Against Domestic Violence and a founder of the Coalition for the Rights of the Child, Diana Mahabir-Wyatt has gone further and stated that our cultures support domestic violence and excessive beating. She has pointed out that persons who abuse include those who do it because they don’t know anything is wrong with it. “It’s what they have experienced all their lives.”

The sad fact is that our governments have never treated social development issues as a priority.  Very few cared who died or were brutalised once they were not from the upwardly mobile or political parasite classes.

Referring now to the recent swimming pool drowning and the car seat death, the primary questions appear to be these: Is it competent day care to let a child go out of sight of an adult or to use a car seat as a place to put an infant for any reason including restraint otherwise than when travelling in a vehicle?

There is a broader question: do we expect hired caregivers to reflect a greater kindness than we exhibit ourselves?

Meanwhile, do we have regulatory standards in place for day care? In England, for example, there are statutory requirements regarding the proportion of child minders to children in day care. The proposed alteration of these proportions is a contentious issue between the political parties.

The current ratios reportedly are: one-year-old and under—three children per adult, two years old—four children per adult, three years old and over—eight or 13 children per adult dependent on whether a qualified teacher is present.

I have made some enquiries about the day-care industry in Trinidad and Tobago. It is unclear to me whether there are mandatory certification requirements and who is responsible for the supervision of health and safety standards.  

It is big business and no doubt enticing to have a low number of supervisory staff in proportion to the number of children who can be accepted at $1,000 per month, plus the provision of certain supplies.

In addition to legal regulation one would expect that those charged with inspecting regulated day care would recognise the common interest in not giving a pass to someone who was not compliant, for money or contact reasons.

But can we be sure that there would be such a common understanding and honesty? We have done so little work on raising the level of our socialisation while pursuing megaprojects and entry into the premium all-inclusive enclosures that no one should be surprised that the price of a Trini life has become negligible.

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