May 13, 2009

Third World Country Check List

It matters not how many skyscrapers, malls, American chain restaurants or chemical plants a country has or how many international sports and beauty pageant events it hosts. If that country possesses at least five or more of these signs of underdevelopment and tyranny, in any of the categories below, then it is still a third world country at the very core.

Ineffective Justice And Law Enforcement

1. Outdated laws deter progressive law enforcement; offer little to no victims rights and hinder application of any of the innovations in law enforcement and crime prevention over the last 20 years.

Cameras cameras everywhere in Trinidad and Tobago! But for what purpose? Our laws are so outdated that footage of a crime caught on camera is still inadmissible in court.

2. Easily bribed public officials and law enforcement result in more unsolved cases than solved ones. Police brutality is the norm. Crimes committed by the working to poorer sectors of society are prosecuted differently to crimes committed by those of a certain economic class.

The inefficiency of the public services supports a shadow industry of bribery to get things done effectively at a reasonable pace.

3. Third world prison systems that are non-rehabilitative and repugnant in their inhumane and sadistic conditions. They are criminal factories, turning soft core, non violent criminals into hard core violent criminals.

Inadequate Educational, Health and Social Services

4. Education is no longer a means to advance one’s station in life as only exceptional and/or privileged children from the best economic and/or domestic circumstances benefit from a blind, under-funded, ineffective education system. Children with special needs, learning disabilities, emotional problems or a less than favorable domestic/economic background will most likely be unemployable, barely literate graduates/dropouts thus widening the gap between the haves and have nots.

Most children have access to free education in Trinidad and Tobago. However only those who are naturally exceptional or have the ideal domestic life with highly involved parents who can afford or are willing to sacrifice for expensive additional coaching and extra cirriculuar activities, can withstand the difficult, unspecialised, non-holistic memorisation and regurgitation examination-based academic programme. All others are left behind.

5. Lack of or poorly funded social programmes to address the needs of the severely mentally ill; drug addicts; battered women, abused or parentless children, stray animals and others who will inevitably fall through the cracks. Vagrants, homeless children and prostitution become commonplace everywhere.

6. Rapid drop in life expectancy among the youth because of civil unrest, crime, AIDS, poor health care, malnourishment and increased use of drugs and alcohol. Young males are particularly affected by criminal violence. Young women are systematically targeted for sexual violence and the social and legal systems are unable to deal with it.

7. Hospitals look, smell and feel like diseased, third world clinics in a war zone, with constant shortage of drugs, beds and equipment and frustrated medical staff, high infant mortality rates, high death rates for simple surgical procedures, high infection rates.

Development In Defiance Of The Environment

8. Stray dogs and garbage everywhere and recycling, conservation and green energy are not even considerations.

9. Haphazard, unsafe, unreliable and inadequate public transportation.

10. Loss of green spaces, flora, fauna, clean beaches and air to unplanned, unfettered development. Nature constantly striking back with floods, pests and diseases. No natural disaster national emergency plan or resources and mass fatalities will result if a major disaster hit.

Impotent Media & Cultural Stagnation

11. News is either sensationalist, politically biased or pedestrian. Lack of press and media freedom, journalists are threatened if they probe too deeply, criticize the government too frequently much less dare to run a true exposé. Therefore there is no investigative journalism beyond the headlines.

12. Begrudging recognition of talented locals. Migration to succeed is the norm as the country has no confident barometer for its own beauty, talent and voices leading to easy takeover by foreign culture. Music, art, film is too expensive and unavailable to most to explore as a form of expression. The intellectual and artistic community continues to be insular, elitist and irrelevant to most of the population.

Brain Drain is a serious problem still in Trinidad and Tobago and those who leave really cannot be blamed if there is simply no where for them to grow, no where safe to raise their families and little opportunties for their children within their own country.

Banana Republic Economy

13. Only the salaries of top government officials, corporate CEOs and expatriate professionals rise with the skyrocketing cost of living. The rich send their money abroad and do not reinvest it inside the country.

14. Natural resource wealth and industrialization is not reflected in the standard of living by the majority of the population. The middle class disappears, upward mobility disappears. Left behind are only a handful of very wealthy land and business owners supported by a miniscule, well compensated upper managerial class (increasingly comprised of expats) and the rest of the population, no matter their educatioanal status just above or below the poverty line, including public servants.

15. The country is unable to feed itself with its own agriculture. Locals get the dregs of the sea and land produce, the best is exported and then unaffordable produce is imported. Food and other basic items are prohibitively priced. In the event of any world crisis or major natural disaster affecting trade, people will starve.

Tyranny and Unfettered Corruption Is Standard Operating Procedure

16. Political leverage to win favors is gained through unethical means. There is intimidation and/or bribery of the growing class of desperate citizens stuck in daily survival mode.

17. Increased autocratic spending of revenues by the government. The public feels powerless to stop anything the government wants to do, even though the government is supposed to be their servant.

What the Prime Minister wants, the Prime Minister gets, regardless of what his citizens say. Disempowered citizens allow him to blow hundreds of millions on a one-time international event, while children are starving, young people shoot one another and hospital patients sleep on the floor. Sadly, they'll let it happen again even in the midst of the worse recession ever!

18. The frequent presence of less than reputable foreign “experts” and companies involved in large scale, unsustainable pork barrel projects. Some of these companies even have a track record of exploitation of third world revenues aided and abetted by their corrupt governments.

19. Tribal, dirty, petty politics is the custom and the electoral process is so emotionally charged, it lacks rationality, civility, intellect and credibility. Leaders are not treated like public servants but demagogues by a blindly enamored and easily manipulated populace.

20. Blatant, unapologetic cronyism and scoring a measly 3.6 out of 10 (10 being little to no corruption) on the Corruptions Perception Index by Transparency International. Public servants fear accountability and crisis management is about PR rather than problem solving.

I ask you please to take some time today and think of the opposing, positive 20 signs of a developed, truly democratic country. Use your imagination and visualise Trinidad and Tobago as a first world country in every way. When you get that picture in your head, ask yourself if the petty differences politicians love to exploit are worth getting distracted over.

The truth is that people get exactly the government they think they deserve. The epitome of insanity is applying the same ineffective method to a problem over and over, expecting a different outcome. Can we honestly claim to be so disappointed when the same selection methods fuelled by our fears, self-doubt and self-imposed limitations are what we use to pick our leaders? We are like a battered woman, who continues to stay in an abusive relationship, or jump from one abusive man to the next.

The truth is many will always “like it so” because they are lazy, disempowered, ignorant or are getting exactly what they need from the system. But the beauty of how easily change can happen is that not all Trinbagonians need to transform. If only a few courageous, stalwart number of citizens made up their collective mind that we deserve better and remained vocal, risking everything to focus on the issues that truly matter, it can happen.

Never underestimate the power of a few community organisers, look at Obama’s campaign. If only two media houses decided to grow some balls and not settle for mediocre journalism and demand answers from our leaders, it can happen. Look at how the media refused to buy into the shallow Sarah Palin image. A strong media can literally decide an election or change the cultural landscape to be more tolerant, rational and informed. A strong media ensures we get strong leaders as President Obama expressed at the White House Correspondent's Dinner. The ease and affability this man displayed with the media is a stark contrast from our Prime Minster who storms into media houses that express unflinching and strong disagreement with his policies.

If our visionary music, mas men, beauty queens, sportsmen and artists got together and pushed messages of tolerance, environmental awareness and social responsibility, standing behind political figures and raising money for them because of shared ideals, we could turn the nation around. Once again, look at what the Hollywood machine did for Obama.

I am willing to toss my name in the hat right now. I will volunteer my creative and advertising strategy expertise for any local candidate or party who wowed me with their objectivity, integrity, patriotism, holistic environmentalism, fiscal responsibility and unwavering servitude to the people of this country. I would design a campaign for you that would set a whole new standard in local politics; honest, eloquent, people-empowering and steadfast in its focus on the issues without resorting to smear tactics. There would be televised town-hall discussions, open invitation to live, televised debate, outreach strategies for party entrenched areas. It would use all the new media available and some you may have never thought about.

You see, I have faith that there are enough people in Trinidad and Tobago who are ready for something different. I believe those who are fair-minded outnumber those who are petty and ignorant. I believe those who are racially unbiased outnumber those who are easily baited by religion and ethnicity. I believe the private sector has had enough, period and are chomping at the bit to realise their “first-world” goals and are grinding their teeth as the government drags its feet. I believe the middle-class and professional class has had enough. I believe young people are much smarter than we give them credit for and can be persuaded to vote for change if properly motivated. YES WE CAN experience a Vision 20/20 that reflects the real signs of progress instead of just pomp and ceremony.


jannine valenti said...
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Anonymous said...

Gosh, Naps girls rule!! We need more ppl like you in this world ;)