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Acting in bad faith

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
November 06, 2023

I want to congratulate the Government for voting affirmatively on the UN General Assembly's resolution on October 27 that called for an "immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce" between Israeli forces and Hamas militants in Gaza. The resolution also called for "continuous, sufficient and unhindered" provision of lifesaving supplies and services for civilians trapped in the enclave.

This non-binding vote, supported by 120 nations, is gaining greater international support, especially as one witnesses the destruction of Gaza and the rising Palestinian death toll. Even the United States, which supports Israeli's right to respond to Hamas atrocities, is now calling for "a humanitarian pause" to allow more deliveries of badly needed food, water, medicine, and other supplies and to facilitate the release of hostages held by Hamas". (NYT, November 3.)

The same progressive policy we saw on T&T's support for the UN resolution was at work when the Government supported the recognition of Nicolas Maduro as the democratically elected president of Venezuela. The Government should act in a similar manner on the question of crime.

Although the Government has a long-standing policy on foreign affairs, it has not worked out an equally well-crafted principle on crime. Instead it jumps from one position to another without realising how disconcerting this is for citizens.

With regard to crime, one can argue that the Government acts in "bad faith", as Jean-Paul Sartre describes it. Acting in bad faith allows us to hide from the responsibility we should demand of ourselves as free human beings. Lewis Gordon has noted: "In bad faith, I flee a displeasing truth for a pleasing falsehood. I must convince myself that a falsehood is in fact true. I therefore lie to myself... In a normal lie, there is the deceiver and the deceived. How can there be a deceiver and deceived in a single consciousness?"

Take, for instance, our prime minister's ruminations on crime after eight people were murdered. He offered his philosophical (some say, flippant) view about the causes of crime: "Notwithstanding the persistent efforts of the various State machinery, the selection of violence as a way of life, the love affair and glamorisation of firearms and the wanton disregard of human life has now gone beyond concerning, to ridiculous."

The prime minister must know that the elements he outlined are not "the necessary and sufficient causes" for the rise of crime. Even though some of the elements he outlined may contribute to the rise of crime, they are not "a sufficient" cause to explain the event.

Intellectually, the prime minister is a brilliant man. However, the rationale he offers displays an attempt to flee from the displeasing truths which he is afraid to confront, hence his articulation of an apparent falsehood or misrepresentation that he wishes to believe. "Consciousness," as Gordon suggests, "requires a relationship to phenomena, to things that appear. Bad faith, meanwhile, involves attempting to take consciousness out of the relationship through which things appear, emerge, become manifest or intelligible. It's the imposition of non-relationality into relations."

Moreover, "Bad faith works by lying to oneself, which requires eliminating one's relationship to evidence—that which clearly shows lies to be lies." Anyone who believes that violent crime and its annual rise has to do primarily with "a love affair and glamorisation of firearms and wanton disregard for human life" is trying to disguise a horrific truth with a horrendous lie.

The prime minister went on to say, "This intractable situation now demands that the law-abiding citizens be given the right to their peace and safety above the freedom of the lawless and the violent few who operate with impunity." I wished he had remembered this when he refused to attend the meeting on crime with the Opposition.

John Stuart Mill, an English philosopher, argued that because happiness is desired by all people, it is in fact the summum bonum or the highest good. Even the violent criminals who create havoc desire happiness through actions that are not in keeping with the respect to human life which is the highest human value. Unfortunately, they do not know how to attain this without hurting others.

The major question is this: where have they gone wrong and why would they continue to threaten "the peace and the safety" of law-abiding people every year, regardless of how many people are recruited to go after them? I will leave the "white-collar" criminals alone, although they are just as dangerous as those who commit physical crimes.

To say that the government or its ministers are acting in bad faith does not mean they do so in a deliberately malicious manner. It means that until they come up with a policy, analogous to our long-standing policy on foreign affairs, they will continue to act in bad faith until they are able to define the major cause of crime.

To determine the causes of crime, we may want to differentiate between the phenomenon (that which is observed) and the noumenon (that which is or the essence of the thing). Like the Express said in its editorial: we have to look at the deep causes of crime, explore them, and act upon them.

Spending millions on foreign travel to elicit more investments rather than trying to discover what engenders human happiness should be our major national objective. We can live with fewer material things and greater freedom.

—Prof Cudjoe's e-mail address is He can be reached @ProfessorCudjoe.

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The Slave Master of Trinidad by Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe