“To bring political organisation to the picaroon society, with its taste for corruption and violence and its lack of respect for the person, has its dangers. Such a society cannot immediately become responsible, but it can be re-educated only through responsibility. Change must come from the top. Capital punishment and corporal punishment, incitements to brutality, must be abolished. The civil service must be rejuvenated.... The need to be efficient will change some of these attitudes...and perhaps, gradually, there will be a lessening of the need now felt by everyone all down the line to display his authority by aggression.”
—VS Naipaul, The Middle Passage
While most of the developed,
modern world has moved away from sanctioned violence, we in Trinidad and Tobago continue to cling to it in many spheres of our lives.
When a child is beaten or berated as a form of discipline, it sends the message that this is how conflict is handled. The eventual upgrade to gun violence is just an escalation of that message which was received early in childhood. The same applies to hanging and physical punishment, which the majority of citizens seem to favour.
Cultural and religious traditions such as stick-fighting, beating the Good Friday bobolee, underage marriage and burning of Rawana effigies are a few
of the many symbols passed on from generation to generation that inculcate violence.
Loud noise during our festivities represents an assault on others for our own personal, momentary gratification.
We have very few examples of
caring, such as consideration for another person’s time, views or place in a line. During Jouvert, walls, signs and roads are vandalised with paint, garbage and urine. Aggression is deeply
ingrained in our psyche.
It is up to us to put systems and incentives in place that engender the kind of society that we all want to see. It takes a long time, but the end result of it would be what we have to live with every day.