Violent crime is riddling our country. Not to mention white-collar crime too, of which the Financial Investigation Unit (FIU) has just begun to scratch the surface. The scope of violent crime is so widespread that one feels one must have a police officer at every corner to avoid the many shootings and killings. Tourist alerts in different countries are advising citizens of the danger of vacationing in Trinidad, and now Tobago.
Can violent crime be eradicated? The answer is no. That pernicious evil in us – the inheritance of original sin – can only be brought under control, minimised but never fully eradicated. Violent and white-collar crime will, therefore, always be with us. But are we doing enough to minimise them? Clearly not.
This is because nobody wants to touch the proverbial ‘big fish’. We refuse to believe the problem is a low detection rate. Our police have undergone training in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Holland, Germany, etc. We refuse to accept our police officers do not know how to detect and solve crime. Why then this state of inertia? One inescapable reason is that powers higher than the police are preventing them from doing their job to the full extent.
The small size of our twin-island republic implies that the elite protects the elite. They form a tightly knit cabal that is almost impenetrable and from whom religious organisations benefit whether knowingly or unknowingly. To assuage our collective guilt we quietly allow the lower income group, often with little education, often illiterate, from disadvantaged families and geographically neglected areas to pay the price. They become the victims of hard labour or the hangman’s noose, notwithstanding the monstrous crimes some have committed.
Capital punishment in this parlous state of affairs will not solve our crime problems, but only gives us the temporary satisfaction of washing our hands like Pilate.
We need to aspire to a higher morality: as Jesus says to Peter in today’s Gospel: “It was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven” (Mt 16:17). We have been too concerned about what “flesh and blood” has to say to us in doing our duty – political patronage, the strong arm of business, the lure of money, our peers, promotion and job security. We forget many of our ‘heroes of faith’ are martyrs.
We need more people – including clergy, no matter the ilk – to witness to public morality costing nothing less than everything. As the 4th century Church Father Tertullian observed: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church” – both physical and metaphorical. A moral society is the highest aim of politics. What we have been hearing for decades is ‘ole talk’ when it comes to moral reconstruction.
If we default on that goal as Church and society then we should point a finger at ourselves as we celebrate our 55th anniversary of Independence and sing lustily: “Yuh hear lie? King Liar! Teacher Murphy say if yuh tell ah lie yuh going to hell as soon as yuh die.” For that is what we become – liars who give lip service to the vision of a moral society.