Truth and justice must stand above my comfort and physical well-being, or else my life itself becomes a lie.
Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi, para 38
CCSJ Social Justice Education Committee
By Leela Ramdeen
Chair, CCSJ & Director, CREDI
CCSJ shares with you 15-year-old Kerlyssa de Verteuil’s second prize poem at CCSJ’s & the Catholic Youth Commission’s Spoken Word Competition on October 2, on the theme for Justice, Peace, and Community Week: The dignity of work. Inter alia, she urges us to “unite as a nation”, and to “break the chains that strip us of our dignity; that corrupts our society”.
I am in London and once again family and friends of Trinidadian origin are concerned about what we are doing to build “community” in T&T. Many are concerned that in the lead up to the local government election (December 2), they are not hearing enough about plans by the various political parties to improve the quality of life of ALL citizens.
They hope that parties and their followers will focus on policy-oriented issues rather than constantly making statements that can inflame passions, and further divide members of our multi-ethnic society.
Has much changed since Ralph R Premdas’ 1996 sentiments outlined in his ‘Working Paper 224 on Ethnicity and Elections in the Caribbean’—with a focus on T&T? He said: “Elections elicit fearsome primordial responses and are deeply divisive affairs. In a communally divided society lacking shared beliefs, all political structures, however neutrally designed, tend to be tainted and imbued with suspect ethnic motifs and interests…In the give and take of the electoral campaign, negative ethnic stereotypes are often invoked and manipulated for votes. Consequently, intersectional animosity and distrust rise to new levels at elections time.”
He continued, “After the elections are over, the ethnic distrust that was cultivated does not disappear but is retained as a residue on which new fears are built…Elections have served not as a mechanism to weld a diverse people together but to signal a struggle for ethnic assertion and superiority. In part, this evolved not so much out of a conspiracy by ethnic chauvinists but from the fact of interethnic fear of domination by another communal section.”
Kerlyssa’s spoken word highlights some of the issues to be addressed.
The Work World
Kerlyssa de Verteuil, St Joseph’s Convent, St Joseph
Parish of St Francis of Assisi, Sangre Grande
the heart of the home
While the husband goes
to reap what he sows
The woman in the past was seen as a fragile submissive woman who was made to stay at home
And the man was seen as the breadwinner of the abode
In postcolonial times the way in which they worked
Was that the man did the labour in the fields and the woman stayed home and cooked.
The dignity of work was seen
in jobs with the suit and the tie
Not in the type that made people try and try to the point where they wanted to cry.
Those were back in the days; things would never stay the same but apart from technology have we really changed in any way?
The unemployment rate increased, and the employment rate decreased but that’s okay?
The underemployed still have no place to work even if they are better workers than the rest.
The men are still seen as being
superior to the women, the women are still being paid less, not the best, but does that make sense?
Sexual harassment shape shifts and transforms itself so that it always finds a place in our work world.
It watches people everywhere they go and leaves no one out in the cold.
It haunts you at work and then makes advances into your home
It treats you as an object with a colour and not as a scholar with a power and it will just trample you like a flower.
The question in my mind right now is what will the future unfold?
Dignity of work they say but some people are still looking and searching for that dignity in this world.
Dignity of work shouldn’t be based on the social hierarchy or the
tyranny of our society
But rather on how we present ourselves and respect ourselves to earn our dignity.