I empathise with this Government in the way it seems to honestly believe that showing goodwill to depressed communities would naturally generate a reciprocal goodwill on the part of those who receive it. And sometimes it may, with open-minded recipients, but does it always?
Can this generosity, for example, breed a kind of dependency syndrome, which if not sustained, can have the opposite effect of generating intense ill-will, as has often been demonstrated among such communities? If again such generosity goes beyond service into the politics of it, which is often the case, can the well established pattern "of taking from them, but not voting for them" as part of the well-known ethno-politico division in the country, be the response to governmental generosity?
Again, can a perceived favouring of depressed communities like Laventille, basically African and PNM, alienate traditional East Indian support of the government, more often than not, as the Ryan report seems to suggest? In a more specific way, can a programme like Hoop of Life, even as it may keep young people away from crime for a while, be subject to the problems above, especially as regards sustaining it indefinitely, and can it carry with it its own logistical problems, like who will comprise the basketball team, would it be the same throughout, and would others be deprived of sharing in the wealth with the consequent fallout, and also, would existing basketball programmes fall into abeyance undoing any possible positives of "Hoop"?
And further, would "Hoop of Life" be the "be all and end all" of a community like Laventille when it should be a support system to true and sustainable change, based on skills-oriented programmes leading to certification and job-placement in companies given incentives for the latter?
Asking questions like these, does not necessarily mean that one is against a programme like "Hoop" or other well-meaning efforts of the Government intended to bring relief to depressed communities, as one writer from Montserrat seemed to think on another matter when I asked questions about the realities surrounding the impressive rhetoric of the President in his inaugural address.
Interrogating issues, so as to be more knowledgeable about them, making more informed decisions in the process, as against a simple-minded acceptance of them, is the hallmark of a truly progressive society. It is part of the "critical introspection" which the President calls for in his Easter message, drawing on the maiden speech of the new pope according to a newspaper report, "if we are to move towards being a more loving, caring and stronger society."
Dr Errol Benjamin