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Corrupting the Minds of the Young

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
September 08, 2010

I was in Italy when the scandal about the cheating of the Pakistani cricketers broke. When I got back to England last Monday, it was the only thing one read about in the English newspaper; the major story one heard on television. One would have thought that the Pakistanis had violated English honor and brought the gentleman's game into absolute disrepute. It was not so much that the Parkistanis had cheated on the outcome of the game. They were accused on cheating of discrete aspects of the game such as bowling one or two deliberate no-balls which we are told resulted in the loss or gain of hundreds to thousand of dollars to criminal elements.

In spite of the fact that Pakistan was crippled by some of the worst floods in its history Pakistan's Cricket Board Chairman Ejaz Butt flew to England to interview the players to find out the truth or falsity of the matter. The Pakistani High Commissioner in London and the Scotland Yard immediately intervened to determine whether a case could have been made against some of the players although one player asserted that the 150,000 British pounds found in his hotel room was to be used to shop for his sister's wedding.

What a wonderful brother!

The results of the inquiry were quick, methodical and resolute. According to the Financial Times England and Wales Cricket Board "believes that the rest of the tour would lack credibility if any of the Pakistan cricketers connected to the controversy were selected to play in further games." Three players were suspended and the tour continued under a cloud of suspicion.

As I read the story I thought of C. L.R. James who talked about cricket and its influence on the formative minds of the young and how the morals inherent in the game shaped the lives of so many of us in our younger days. In 1985, he wrote: "An artistic, a social event does not reflect the age. It is the age. Cricket, I want to say most clearly, is not an addition or a decoration or some specific unit that one adds to what really constitutes the history of a period. Cricket is as much part of the history as books written are part of the history."

Perhaps the English officials were trying to preserve that essential Englishness of the game which made them act so swiftly. A way of life was at stake. One had to act with alacrity. That is what the game means to the country.

On July 1, 2010, Richard Baker and Nick McKenzie made the following allegations in the Sydney Morning News. "When it comes to the world of sports politics, Jack Warner may be the most scandal-tainted man with whom Kevin Richard [an Australian sport official] has ever posed. In the last decade, the FIFA vice president and Trinidad and Tobago football boss had repeatedly been accused of abusing his position as an international football official to enrich himself and his family. The scandals include acquiring lucrative sports broadcast rights for a pittance and allegedly stealing sponsorship funds from his home nation's soccer team…Warner of course is a man Australia is assiduously courting with a firm eye on the future. 2022 to be exact."

These were only allegations. Andrew Jennings also devoted a significant part of his book Foul! to Jack's alleged misdeeds and went after Jack in a vicious manner. It was almost as though Jennings had a mandate from heaven (or is it hell) to bring down Jack and make him pay for whatever his alleged sins might be.

The question arises: How important are these charges and do they have any consequences for law and morality in our twin-island republic?

While all of this is happening Jack keeps on thundering about the desirability of bringing back the death penalty as a choice weapon to solve our murder problem. Although Jack's concern is well placed one is not too sure that his method (and that of the People's Partnership) is the most propitious way to solve a problem they swore they would remedy within one hundred and twenty days in office.

It is not so much that one wishes to lay the responsibility of the crime problem at the feet of the People's Partnership–if the numbers keep climbing we would have to do so–but crime and the rising murder rate have much more to do with the signals that are given at the home and from our social and political institutions. Moreover our low levels of social, educational and cultural education do not help much. Every time we proclaim our material munificence we seem to ignore our declining social capital.

What, then, are the qualities our leaders must possess and what signals do we send when we place the leadership of the country into the hands of persons accused of improper behavior? What consequences does it have on the minds and morals of our young people?

I have nothing but the highest regard for Mr. Warner but when charges of such magnitude are made–and are constantly made–are we doing the best thing by letting them hang in the air pretending they do not matter and are of no consequence?

I go back to the English cricketing example. The English took the bowling of no balls and the fixing of a match as if London Bridge had fallen or the House of Parliament was being bombed again by the Germans. However, their swift action demonstrates that sports are not just sport and the behavior of players and officials matter in a civilized society.

Those of us who have the responsibility of being exemplars of our young people must be more than circumspect in how we conduct our affairs and the messages we send to them. They are begging to see honorable role models, something which money cannot buy.

I do not know how we will attend to the Jack effect in Trinidad and Tobago. However I think we play a disingenuous game when we call so vehemently for the return of the hangman's noose and the cat-o-nine tails of slavery day when we send so many mixed messages to the younger ones in our society.

My mother used to say "Actions speak louder than words." The moral inherent in this maxim is still relevant in an age of the internet and cell phones.

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