Q: Archbishop J, What explains the high crime?
There are many ways that we could look at this present crisis in Trinidad and Tobago. I have chosen to look at it from the perspective of disrespect, lack of lived values and our picaroon nature. We cannot solve a problem at the same level of consciousness as the problem. We need new consciousness if we are to move beyond our current state and direct the energy born of this crisis towards authentic development.
Here is the fourth element of our challenge. We have not had a national plan for integral development. We have done many things that we have called development. But they have not worked for us for a variety of reasons.
Models of development
From the Catholic tradition, development is primarily about people. The development of the economy, business, education, etc., are all in the service of the development of people. This, I believe, is our great challenge. We have not made the development of people the national priority.
Matthew Kelly, in his book The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity, gives an apt story. A father was at home working on an important speech to save his company. His wife went out and left the eight-year-old at home with dad. The child kept interrupting because he was bored.
Dad knew the child wanted some money to buy something. So, dad tore out a page from a magazine that had a map of the world. He showed the picture to his son and said, “I am going to tear this picture into many pieces. If you could put it together right, I will give you $20.” He tore it up and gave it to his son. He knew this was a complicated puzzle that would buy him some time.
Within half an hour, the child came back with the map put together right. Dad was confounded. “How did you get this so quickly?” The son said: “Well, I realised on the other side of the map there was a picture of a man. So, I thought to myself, if I got the man right, I would get the world right.”
If you get the human right, you get the world right. Dad gave the son the money. Dad had a story that shaped his talk in a very different direction.
We often try to get the economy right, or to get business right, or education, or so many other sectors. If we are to move from this crisis to a better Trinidad and Tobago, we need to get the human right, that is, we must ensure that every individual has the opportunity to flourish, meeting his/her basic needs, achieving psychological stability within peaceful communities and spiritual growth.
We need to build an ‘ecosystem’ around core values that serve authentic human development. The economy, the education system, the growth of business, etc., must be organised in the service of the human person, not the other way around.
St Paul VI said: Authentic integral human development is the vocation of the Church. Pope Benedict XVI elevated this principle to the foundation of our social thinking in the Catholic Church in the 21st century. This is the development of all people, every person and every dimension of the human person.
A young rapper from Gonzales, Donny, said to me one day, “… the future of the nation is in the village”. He is right! But the future of the village is in the family, and the future of the family is in the person. If we get the person right, we will get the family right; we will get the village right, and then we will get the nation right.
This notion of development begins by addressing those in most need. St Paul VI advocates moving people from poverty to stability, then their overcoming the moral scourge of bad policies, political systems and corruption, etc., then to overcoming selfishness by offering themselves for the development of others and ultimately offering themselves to God, the beginning of all and the finality of all.
The continuum from poverty to sanctity is the Catholic model of development. It challenges every person to become the best version of himself/herself, regardless of where one is on the continuum. It also challenges each person to work tirelessly for the development of all—for the common good.
Development in T&T
To achieve authentic development for every citizen of our beloved nation we need a very different strategy. We need to target those most in need and on the fringe. Further, we must have a systematic plan for moving these individuals and communities out of poverty.
Working on development in Malaysia, Mahendhiran Nair argues for creating a national ‘ecosystem’ that gets the values and access to development right. We need to agree on a national ‘ecosystem’ for development that is built around core values that we all appeal to and live.
Without a commitment to end poverty in Trinidad and Tobago in a reasonable timeframe, we will not address the crime problem in a fundamental way. St John Paul II said: “All private property has a social mortgage.” We all have an obligation to end poverty as quickly as possible.
I understand that some of those who benefit the most are certainly not poor or lacking in enterprise. It takes skill to pick up a product in Latin America, move it to Trinidad, pay your bill, tranship to the US, Europe and the Caribbean and collect all the money in each area.
The skill needs to be greater when the product is illegal; and the money needs to be laundered. The easy money and the power to corrupt officials has undermined the integrity of our nation. This too is a developmental challenge. The people used by this group are available because of poverty and greed. Poverty, greed and the drugs trade are a lethal cocktail.
Key message: We need a model of development that puts people first and targets those most at risk for direct focus for alienating poverty. If we get the person right, we will get the nation right.
Action Step: Reflect on your attitudes to those living in poor communities. Do you see poverty as a moral problem that we all have a responsibility to alleviate? Or do you see “those people” as lazy and immoral? Enquire more deeply about the education and other options for a child in a poor community.
Scripture passage: Matthew 25:31–46