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Report Card: ‘F’ for Effort

By Dr Marlene Attzs,
Economist
Email: marlene.attzs@gmail.com

In the last days of 2019, a video was being circulated on social media in which a fellow citizen was passionately speaking about T&T as a failed state.

Within the first month of 2020 both the print and electronic media are chock-full of perspectives that share a common view—enough is enough.

One newspaper has editorialised the situation as the ‘sinking ship’. Ours is neither an acceptable nor sustainable state of affairs. That said, I stopped to contemplate what combination of sins from the past might have led us to this state.

One significant pillar should be the institutions at home—the family— the institution in which basic values of decency should be inculcated.

That institution seems to be dying, if not extinct, and replaced by social media as the proxy. The fact that a parent could film a minor smoking ‘weed’ and post such an incident on social media, speaks volumes about our collective failure as families. Children now feast on a smorgasbord of unhealthy internet options that are consumed daily.

When our institutions fail, our society bleeds literally and figuratively, then come the calls for extreme solutions. We often do not link the outcomes we experience to failing institutions.

We live in fear, are fearful, frustrated, talk about failed states and some citizens flee, while holding others accountable for what we, collectively have directly or indirectly created.

Some have suggested our police service should ‘do more’ given their duty to protect and serve. But is it fair to ask the police to address problems that we have cultivated, in some cases for decades, and some of which are the result of failures within our homes?

One example of an ‘at-home failure’ is a video on social media in which a young male child, about seven years of age, is lewdly gyrating behind a female teenager.  The song of choice is an equally lewd (but very popular in some quarters) song.  The dancing duo is encouraged by a group of onlookers including the person recording the encounter. For flavour, the child is clutching a toy gun lending credence to the lyrics of the song.

When that young man comes of age and repeats his actions, possibly with a real gun, shouldn’t ‘the village’ that raised him be held accountable for his actions?  We need to signal the changes we wish to see in our country. Our aggression on the road, behaviour in the workplace, levels of discourtesy, vulgarity and selfishness, all contribute to undesirable outcomes, including crime.

Law enforcement, while having an overarching duty to the national community, is not a panacea for the irresponsible actions of some.

In 2020, crime will take centre stage and for all the wrong reasons—who done it, who didn’t do it, and who should have done it— as opposed to how we manage the spiralling decline in some of our institutions.

We can constructively seek to unearth and fix the root causes of crime—which are multifaceted and complex—or we can expect others to bridge the gaping holes left by our failing institutions and live with the increasingly frightening consequences.   That’s just my point of view.

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