I’m writing from inside our ‘limited state of emergency’ and with mixed feelings. On the one hand, i know that the population has no idea how many crimes go on because many remain unreported or do not make it on the newspapers. a few years ago, just hearing stories from kidnapping victims, stories no one knew about, taught me lots about how little of the horror people actually hear.
quite a few of the folks on fb that i’m friends with have been sharply cynical and often quite glib, making jokes, the kind that pass for critical engagement on things like facebook. others whom i have a lot of respect for, like gayelle’s errol fabien, warned of the threat to our democracy, and the dangers to those profiled as criminals from poor communities easy for the police to advantage.
given this, i was surprised to see people interviewed by news stations saying how much they supported this measure, but it seems that ordinary, working people are fed up of being terrorised by crime and fear, and they are willing to trade liberties for security. i fear that i agree. for all of us, there is some desperate hope that this will make some difference, any difference.
i also have concerns. i worry at the exploitation of power by politicians and police, about illegal surveillance and detentions, and the shut down on protests just when unions were planning to strike. i also agree with the ‘big man vs small man’ thesis, that rich men get away with robbery, corruption, impoverishment of masses and forcing countries into spiralling debt while running the big shipments of guns, drugs and women. at the same time, the crackdowns are on small time thiefs, dealers and murderers, the ones whose class war is just trying to make a living.
i believe in safety not security, in community-centred not police-centred solutions, and in fair distribution of resources and wealth as the basis for peace. still, truth be told, i’m less afraid of the big men than i am the small ones, the ones most likely to enter my yard, thinking that if i’m living in this house, i must be rich and it must have come easily and some of it should be theirs regardless of the costs. i also think the class war isn’t fought with guns, regardless of what men like to say. its fought by organising the poorest to do more than rob other hardworking, barely managing people. i think the hardworking, barely managing people would agree.
my disappointment in this emergency is mainly rooted in the fact that it won’t fix the things that really enable crime, like the fact that the majority of crimes don’t end in convictions or that the police are inept, uncaring and corrupt or that the justice system barely functions or that there isn’t serious rehabilitation including basic literacy classes or that no one wants to talk about the problem of masculine status as a cause of crime, violence and gangs or even that the in-shore economy remains woefully underdeveloped leading to few real options to make a legal living wage. you know, that stuff.
ironically, the people who will be the most angry are the ones most invested in the PNM’s long neglect and dsyfunctional governance of the country. the ones in the urban communities with bad roads, bad schools, bad water supply, bad community centres – or no schools, water or community centres at all. the ones still voting for de party. and the opposition, given too many chances to be taken seriously, only seems to be making noises about how much should have been done by the government in its 15 months of office and how they should have been consulted and what failures this shows. i really think they who presided over this deterioration for decades should shut up.
what can this emergency really accomplish? i’m not really sure. is setting a 9pm curfew realistic? definitely not. many working people will lose income and, as in any third world country, administration and implementation of this period will be chaotic and ad hoc. do desperate times call for desperate measures? yes, but what happens after? is the ruling party playing politics? sure. high office calling down war makes good show. is my hope misplaced? clearly. but like any worker, woman and mother, the safety of my family is what i think about at night. i’m already thinking ahead, to when the dust settles and the status quo returns.
clearly, many of us have been lying in our bed uncertain and unsafe, asking imagined gods to do what the government can’t seem to. i’ve had to live in a prison and so do many people i know. maybe that’s why so many think this should have happened a long time ago.