By Vincent Lynch
In consideration of the very many issues with which our nation is now confronted it is difficult not to follow-up on the earlier article ‘The power and beauty of our Constitution’ (CN April 22) in which reference was made to the spirit and intent in which the preamble was written and which may not be fully understood by many.
At this time reference should also be made to an interesting line appearing early in the preamble—“the Nation of Trinidad and Tobago is founded upon principles that acknowledge the supremacy of God” in which respect, reference is now made to Mark 12:30–31, “…and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You must love your neighbor as yourself” these two being the greatest of all commandments.
As we look around today, when the number of homicides already far exceed the number of days gone by this year, it can easily be concluded that there is a blatant disregard for what has been written into our Constitution to guide individuals in the conduct of relationships, and also, for those two commandments, on how we should live with each other.
There is evidence of man’s inhumanity to man, of dishonesty, and of cruel things which just do not simply happen, but are made to happen, given the “wisdom” bestowed on man by the Creator. We have been told “to honor thy mother and thy father” yet a child may commit an unlawful act against a parent and then seek the shelter of “rights” under the law.
There are those who break the law with impunity and then fight for a right which allows them some freedom of movement. One may also deny entry of another to one’s premises on the basis that such entry would not allow for the full enjoyment of one’s property.
An individual whose duty it is to protect and serve may break open and so gain access to property based on the “right” so given in a warrant and find nothing, much to the dismay and annoyance of the occupants.
There is also the street-dweller who, having been locked-out of his self-imposed sleeping area, goes to the Court in a challenge to such action, being of the view that his rights have been infringed. And what of the individual who has been lawfully incarcerated, what of his rights?
Yes, there are rights for all citizens as set out in the Constitution and some international conventions, and there are many who would go to the limit to protect and preserve such rights. An interesting question which one may ask is whether in any society there is a hierarchy of rights which simply places one right over another, and in seeking answers reference may be made to observe inequities in a society where social order simply determines what happens or does not happen.
However, it is the Court, in keeping with the Constitution which would adjudicate on any such hierarchy and its decisions would be subject to challenge up to the highest level.
In any society where individuals enjoy rights and freedoms, there must also be responsibilities placed on individuals and institutions not only to observe and uphold the law but also to respect and protect the rights of others within the spirit and intent of the Constitution and the Holy Book.
There are individuals whose rights have been under threat but are unable to approach the Courts due to financial circumstances. Do they qualify for Legal Aid, and if so, how much, or should they seek to find a good Samaritan attorney with a pro bono mind?
Values of a progressive society
While the law remains the mechanism for the effective determination of rights, to what extent has it succeeded in influencing society towards higher and more acceptable standards of behaviour and care?
For example, with respect to the five to ten-year-old group who know little or nothing of the law, how do we inculcate in them the values expected in a good and progressive society? Should this task be the responsibility of parents, teachers, or the Church?
What of the other age groups, those preparing for entry into the workforce, the university graduates and others where there are so very different orientations which need to be addressed in substantially different ways towards the making a progressive society.
Let us not forget the important roles to be played by trade unions, private sector and non-government organisations, all of which must be involved in the transformation of our society.
Of course, it would be expected that in the structuring of strategies and programmes some priority would be given to those age-groups that would in the future be expected to provide leadership at various levels in our society, of course not forgetting the important role to be played by current leaders and elders in our society.
It must be recognised that when compared with yesteryears, we have moved a long way from respect and observance of the law, and from loving our neighbours as ourselves. Progress has been more than significant in terms of available technology, and the material trappings to which we dearly cling.
Where then is that spirituality and moral fibre that can push our society in the right direction? Is it that materialism has not only moved faster but has gone onto higher ground and so overtaken our spirituality, and if so, where is this taking us?
In seeking answers to these questions there must be some clear vision of how, we as a nation would wish to be perceived by others and so be proud of ourselves.
In 2007 such a vision surfaced—VISION 2020—and from all appearances has become the platform on which VISION 2030 will take off. As we move towards the year 2020, and notwithstanding current financial strictures, it may be a good thing if the current status of VISION 2020 could be determined and brought back into the eyes and minds of the population, and VISION 2030 taken from wherever it is and given life once again.
Perhaps what is now required is a massive information drive utilising the many outdoor video screens and indoor cinema facilities to inform and caress the minds of the population towards greater interest in such a noble cause.
The transformation of Trinidad and Tobago into a better place to live and work is a task in which all must be involved, and, as in a relay race, we must individually and collectively pass and receive the baton in a highly effective manner and race to the various finishing lines.
A national effort is now required to take our country from where it is to where it can be, making the best possible use of its available resources, in which process no one must be left behind.
Vincent Lynch has worked at the managerial level in both public and private sector organisations in Trinidad & Tobago and Guyana. He attends Masses and services at both Santa Rosa, Arima and Mount St Benedict, and considers himself a friend of the Society of St Vincent De Paul.