3 Aug 2015

Cultural norms

I admit, I was slightly peeved at this letter in the Daily Express:

I READ in the weekend newspapers that one of the individuals involved in the recent jailbreak attributed that flare-up to the fact that the “system had failed the people”. Pray tell, what system is he talking about?

Is it the one that gives us free educa­tion, free medical, free elections, free press, freedom of speech, food cards, subsidised gas, electricity, water, transport?

Or is it the one that gives criminals the right to abuse the overloaded justice system? Could it be that “Scanny” got what he deserved?

Mr Man, you should be on your knees, thanking your God you are living in Trinidad and Tobago.

F Mouttet


It will appeal to the masses. On the surface, the letter makes sense. It panders to the outrage the society felt at the escape of the three prisoners recently, and the death of a police officer in so doing.

But the letter is misleading. These items quoted, “free educa­tion, free medical, free elections, free press, freedom of speech, food cards, subsidised gas, electricity, water, transport” are all available to ‘free’ people. Those who are not incarcerated. With perhaps the exception of ‘free’ education, and ‘free’ medical, prisoners are at the mercy of a different ‘system’ inside prison walls.

The most private bodily functions are done ‘publicly’ in full view of their fellow cellmates. They do not have the dignity of a toilet, rather a ‘slop’ bucket is used. How would F Mouttet like to sit on a pail in front of strangers to piss and shit? Then live with the contents stinking in a tiny cell meant to hold one but holding about 10 or 12, where the other body odours vie for dominance with the excrement?

Prisoners are at the mercy of whatever deranged ideas come to the minds of prison officers. I’m not saying that there aren’t good officers. I’m saying we know there are bad officers. These abuse their authority. They build resentment in the prisoners. They are incompetent.

Then there is the ‘system’ where prisoners wait years, sometimes up to 10 years, awaiting trial. In other words, despite the assumption of innocence, they are incarcerated. Understand again, I am not saying that there aren’t repeat offenders who have proven that violence while on bail is the norm. I am saying not everyone who is held awaiting trial is a risk. They may be too poor to afford bail, or a decent quality of defence or any other number of factors. But the ‘system’ that let them down is the same system that have them intermingling with the more ‘hardened’ criminal elements, making them become more violent, more criminally inclined and learning new tricks, just to survive in the cesspool they end up in.

All the scenarios I have outlined are well documented. So, Mr F Mouttet, that is the ‘system’ you have failed to recognise, and on your pale white charger, you refuse to acknowledge that prisoners do have grouses for complaints.

Another letter that peeved me:

The last five weeks I spent in London and environs in England couldn’t prevent me from feeling dismayed at the news of killings and political scandals that continue to plague our nation.

However, I was able to make some observations which I would like to call First-World best practi­ces. I am constantly amazed at the things we continue to do in our country when there are more viable and sensible options out there.

The major motorways are divided by a road-level surface or raised platform around eight inches (20 centimetres) high, and with continuous metal railings, some of which we have here. Also, there are continuous concrete dividers, around three to five feet (one to 1.5 metres) high. There are no metal stakes with cable barriers or concrete barriers with gaps to eat up your car. There are also no ditches separating the highway that make cars go airborne and catapult to the other side.

Guides for motorway exits and mergings [sic] are really only needed at night-time. On unlit sections of the motorways, reflective cat’s-eyes are placed at road verges and the centre of roads. They are also placed at said exits and at merging zones. In Trinidad and Tobago, we now have metal stakes that are not illuminated at night. They are placed wherever there is an excuse for doing so. Our highways are not driver-friendly and are becoming less and less so. I don’t know who comes up with these not-so-brilliant ideas.

In the United Kingdom, cars have reflective number plates at the rear. Overtaking from the slow or left lane is illegal and the law is enforced, quite opposite to what obtains now in T&T. I never saw anyone flouting this law, in the many hours driving on the roads in and around London. If you are parked badly, you are ticketed or clamped, or both, and if you do not remove your car in one hour, you are towed away. You are not towed away as soon as the offence is detected.

Many people use public transport and bicycles to ease the cost of parking and to avoid congestion, and many people own and use very small cars that give over 40 mpg. Speeding tickets are automatically generated at camera points.

The cost of living in London is very high. A small meal can cost $50, a good hamburger with fries, at least $100. Transportation, food and rent are very expensive, but some other goods compare favourably. What passes as curry in the UK would anger a Trini as it did me.

Many people take our flight attendants for granted, but I (passenger in seat 37J) would like to thank the attendants, pilot and crew who brought us home on flight BW 903 on July 30 for their excellent service and friendly and caring manner. You made this Trini very proud.

I’ve come to realise that vacations, though they are necessary at times, are really short breaks from reality; reality is about home and family and nationhood.

Joel Quintal

San Fernando

It pissed me off primarily because it took nearly 10 years since I wrote about London, for people to see the light. In other words, their noses are only very slowly coming out the dung heap. They are now waking up to life in a First World country. Take the passport experience documented here. Think I’ll ever see that on the Rock? Maybe when I have pink pigs flying outa my arse.

As to the cost of living in London, I’ve covered that too.

But this post is about the culture of the Rock and the different culture here on the Larger Rock. People are too blind to see how their cultures affect their views of the world. Sunity Maharaj hit upon it well. The culture on the smaller Rock means that the people do not have the ethical wherewithal to follow customs and traditions, which are actually part of the UK’s ‘unwritten’ Constitution. Instead, the Rock Crawlers operate under the principle that ‘if there is no law against it, it’s legal’. No one does the ‘right thing’ for its own sake (although they all speak how nice it is).