Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Toward a new and happier Christmas


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Christmas will probably never be the same again, in a Trinidad and Tobago that has effectively if not officially identified the season which well-publicised acts of do-gooding. The Prime Minister leading the way on both islands, Members of Parliament, on both sides, have been playing themselves centre-stage in their constituencies, or would-be constituencies, in gestures of cheer-spreading aimed at children, but necessarily also catching the eyes of parents and other adults.

Always, Christmas has been associated with appeals for and actual acts of sharing with those in need. As expressed in the iconic figure, ringing a bell to call shoppers' attention to the Salvation Army's permanent drive to bring relief where needed, harnessing people's charitable impulse to worthy causes has always been a feature of the season.

In such activities, long associated with the private sector, the state has now taken the lead. Distribution of hampers has become a growth industry, of which the State must qualify as the biggest single customer.

MPs apparently supplement their official quotas of hampers by seeking donations from businesses in their areas. Moreover, parliamentarians organise festive occasions, as in the case of Donna Cox (Laventille East/Morvant), featuring video games, music, treats, a bouncy castle and, of course, a Santa Claus too politically correct to discriminate between the naughty and the nice.

Ms Cox cited likely donor fatigue among area businesses this year in that only three of 20 appeals brought results. Happily, however, the MP was able to entertain and treat more than 400 children and parents in Laventille on Sunday.

Political identification with Christmas gift-giving is evidently not guaranteed a welcome among beneficiaries. This is what Congress of the People leader Prakash Ramadhar discovered at Powder Magazine when he and toy-distributing party cohorts from Diego Martin Central got the loudly unenthusiastic reception expected in a PNM-held constituency. From Powder Magazine, Mr Ramadhar retreated to his own St Augustine constituency where an annual children's Christmas party restored the spirit of good cheer.

In another hopefully trend-setting development this Christmas, the police have been projecting a presence in crime-notorious east Port of Spain, but in the capacity of state agents of peace and goodwill. Deputy Commissioner Mervyn Richardson on Sunday headed a team of high-ranking officers, and at least one sporting celebrity in West Indies all-rounder Dwayne Bravo, who played hosts at a children's Christmas party in Sea Lots.

This should introduce children to a different image of police from the familiar one of law-and-order commandos, swooping down with assault rifles. As they make friends and influence people there, the police should also gain better intelligence to enable more effective crime-fighting. Already, however, the Deputy Commissioner was hailing this Christmas as the season when crime has taken a holiday. Without a doubt, then, T&T can use more Christmases like this.