When Despers returns to “the Hill” to create their music, I will believe that we have turned the corner on crime! Until then, I expect very few improvements.
It is a tragedy that we allow Despers to move from pillar to post in order to find a spot to practice for carnival. It is a tragedy that the children of Despers have chased them off of the hill with guns and bullets.
It is a tragedy that our politicians are collectively wringing their hands as young and old are gunned down in the streets. (oops! Opposition Leader recently agreed to re-open talks on the the Gang Legislation).
Laventille has simultaneously been problematic while producing some of the most talented and competent sons and daughters of our soil (which includes a US ambassador to Trinidad). It has also provided leadership and creativity to the steelband movement for many years. Despers supporters from outside of the area have traditionally felt some fear of going up the hill to listen to their band but was always comforted in the knowledge that the community had “their backs”. Then something happened… maybe it was the passing of “de man with de hammer” but what began as small robberies escalated to full-on attacks upon visitors to the area. It became even worse when gun-toting bandits ran through a practice session of the band. Then someone made the decision that the safer option for the band was to practice elsewhere.
The social consequences of that decision are yet to be analyzed and measured, but the first consequence that I see is the absence of any positive visual role models for the young men and women of the area. For more than 30 years, generations saw men and women hard at work in the panyard mastering their craft. They say, “people striving for excellence.” That imagery is no more, having been replaced by the image of the “bad man” – so what do we expect will emerge? More “bad men.”
The aggression and violence which removed Despers from Laventille is both a criminal and a social problem for which there is no single root or solution. One type of solution lies in systematically addressing the evils; drugs, guns and poor self-esteem. But at the heart of low achievement is the issue of indiscipline which comes from not seeing the value of what you are doing. T&T has always been dreadful at organising anything but Carnival, because people saw the goal and thus the point of the work. Admittedly, even this is failing now.
From captain to cook, the lack of discipline which pervades our society is unbelievable. Even more incredible is a sense that there is a reluctance to bring wrong-doers to justice. At some point, the government must ensure that the necessary action is taken even at the cost of unpopularity. The public must see those “sacred cows” taken to the butcher’s shop because it is the right thing to do. Indeed we must feel that there is the discipline to just do what is right.
I live in hope that Despers will soon return to their practice home overlooking Port of Spain and once again bring hope and vision to a community which is in the wilderness.