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Confronting our social cancers

WE can no longer act as if we are not in a societal crisis.

According to a daily newspaper we have recorded 46 murders for the month of January. The levels of murder, street and domestic violence in Trinidad and Tobago are totally unacceptable.

Pope Francis teased the Catholic Church when he questioned, “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”

This Christian sensitivity can be applied to our local context. Have we become desensitised to murder and violence such that we are lacking in systemic solutions to confronting these social cancers?

The response to domestic violence can no longer be, “That’s husband and wife business; I am not getting involved.” With respect to street violence, the chorus can no longer be, “Let the gangsters kill out themselves.” Violence is somebody else’s business. A cultural shift must be made.

Our response to violence has to move beyond the political finger-pointing, the nightly news cycles and postings on social media.

Trinidad and Tobago may not be accused of under-reporting crime and violence. What we can be accused of is inaction on the part of all stakeholders on follow-up with collaborative intervention programmes.

What action steps have we taken as follow-up to years of UWI research on the link between poverty, patriarchy and gender-based violence?

Are recommendations of social workers and school guidance officers taken seriously?

There are also structural and cultural issues that must be analysed to determine why violence is seen as “ok”, especially, violence against women. There are structural and cultural reasons for the violence on our streets and in our homes that we must discover and maturely discuss.

What does it take to sit all our stakeholders around a table and do the gap analysis? Where are we failing in our schools? Why are we failing our young black men?

What is the role of corporate citizens and media in disempowering the violent sub-culture that seem to be leading mainstream culture? Is Corporate T&T and the media going to part of the solution or be implicated in the problem?

A difficult conversation is needed to facilitate the cultural shift that may consider slow and incremental cutting of the National Security Budget and re-channelling budgetary allocations for a Restorative Justice Ministry and a Ministry of the Family.

This is hard but necessary work. Deep analysis needs to be carried out with respect to the role that restorative justice and family development can play in addressing the root causes of crime and violence in our society.

This present crisis is an opportunity to use our imagination. What if millions of dollars could be allocated to restorative justice education in schools? What if an entire government Ministry be dedicated to the development of the family and enhancement of family life in Trinidad and Tobago?

According to Black Stalin, “We can make it if we try…just a little harder.” Together we aspire, together we achieve.

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