LESSON FOR US: Wayne Kublalsingh during his hunger strike. –Photo: MICHEAL BRUCE

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Kublalsingh and the power of one

The new dawn of May 2010 has now been fully transformed into midnight in Trinidad and Tobago. We are in our darkest hour; that hour when everything and everybody all appear to be the same – a dirty shade of grey.

There is a sickness of the national spirit; a crisis of faith that has made effective governance almost impossible. It is a crisis of confidence; a crisis that strikes at the very heart, soul and spirit of our national will and it is threatening to destroy the entire social fabric of our country.

It seems to me that in many ways our country has lowered its head into the soft, satiny pillow of apathy. We have been lulled to sleep by indifference. We wallow in the vain pursuit of the images of economic success, while, a stone's throw away, our children and, more particularly, our young men, are dying in the streets.

In these vile times concerned citizens must question how men can sleep while criminality abounds in both high and low places.

We question how men can sleep while people die and communities collapse before our very eyes. Perhaps, it's good for men to sleep. Perhaps sleep is the only time prejudice and injustice, indifference and apathy finally recede from our collective consciousness.

Everywhere we see pain, suffering, alienation, evil and violence. And there's an insidious undertone in the very atmosphere that people are choosing to look the other way while others die. The philosopher, Albert Camus, refers to this condition as "an algebra of blood".

T&T today is living out a horror story! We are experiencing unprecedented levels of brutality; homelessness, vagrancy, drug abuse, AIDS, gang rapes, gang murders, brutal executions, male-constructed violence against women, child abuse and child murders and the list goes on!

When will it end? How can we stop this rapid descent into barbarism? Is it that we've become indifferent to this reality? Are we as a people and as individuals losing our ability to distinguish between right and wrong; between law and anarchy? Are we shirking our responsibility to protect the rule of law and the rule of reason against the tyranny of situation ethics?

I'm afraid that if we are, we will be robbing our children of the one infallible moral compass that can lead them to an honourable, satisfying adult life; a strong, just sense of right and wrong.

If we grow to accept the premise that all things are relative and that law and reason apply differently to different people, then we have broken faith with our forebears and we've ruined the future of civilised society. For there can be no true justice when justice is not equal.

Events over the last couple of years suggest to me that something is going seriously wrong with the way we view our relationships with one another, with our society as a whole and with our basic concept of law and order. As more and more people become the victims of violent crime, fewer and fewer people seem willing to take responsibility for their individual acts. Every day we see witnesses disappearing or suffering from acute amnesia while lawlessness abounds on our roadways.

We know that evil, mean, dishonest and depraved individuals exist in all societies. But we universally condemn these wrongdoers, because we have yardsticks to measure their behaviour, to define their misdeeds. And we condemn and punish those who do wrong because we know that if we don't, they will flourish and others will be tempted to take the easy, evil way.

The British political philosopher, Edmund Burke, warned us many moons ago: "The best way for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." So the question we're now forced to confront is this: "Can we, for our part, do nothing?" Can we fail to condemn the criminal behaviour in evidence all over the country and expect to survive as a just and decent people?

Where is the outrage against the criminal element? Where is the outrage against the mollycoddling of "community leaders"? Where is the outrage against the failure of our leadership?

Surely we must know that in our failure to stand up to wrongdoing, in our failure to do anything about it, and in our failure to teach our children the essential laws of good citizenship and civil behaviour by our example, we fail both ourselves and those of the generations yet to come. And in that failure, we see the decline of respect for all things good and meaningful. That, my friends, is the bad news.

But the good news is that we need not despair. Yes, the world can be a rotten place. But, if Wayne Kublalsingh's hunger strike teaches us anything, it is this: it isn't good enough to simply stand up for what is right. He also vociferously condemns anything that he perceives to be wrong. Dr Kublalsingh's lesson to us is that in each of us lies the "Power of One" to revolt and rebel against the outrageous; to fight against injustice wherever it raises its ugly head.

Dr Kublalsingh doesn't have to be a deep philosopher to know that he alone is responsible for keeping his honour, his dignity and his happiness intact. And by fulfilling his duty to himself, he is automatically fulfilling his duty to those closest to him and to the larger society.

He believes that we all have a fundamental right to expect others to judge and treat us fairly, honestly and with respect. He expects our governments and our leaders to uphold basic fundamental principles in office and in daily life.

He instinctively knows that if we allow anybody to trample those rights, then we will have forfeited our freedom; only to reap the whirlwind of tyranny and injustice.

Wayne Kublalsingh unashamedly and unapologetically loves this country. He has a definitive sense of Trinidad & Tobago's capabilities; of what we can accomplish as a nation.

But we can derive strength to sustain us and be comforted by the words of the Master that whilst weeping may endure for a night, joy cometh in the morning.

For us in Trinidad and Tobago, it is a long night indeed. But even as we live through the hell of this midnight, we all hope and pray that morning is close by.

Robert A Mayers

Petit Valley

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