By Terry Joseph
May 13, 2005
Although given to cavalier wisecracks even in circumstances screaming for guidance, a recent remark by Opposition Leader Basdeo Panday on the prevailing issue of escalating crime, in which he argues for giving businessmen the right to bear arms, has been warmly received in several quarters.
Mr Panday's gun-talk is not without merit. As it stands, bandits clearly hold the monopoly on firearms and evidently, supplies aren't limited. Businessmen are primary targets in a war the good guys sure as hell aren't winning. Outlaws triumph daily, while police limp along with inferior hardware and software, rendering their efforts both a laughing-stock and a crying shame.
Now, today's crime dilemma did not suddenly descend upon us, nor was it imposed as a curse or some other pastime of under-utilised demons. It was long in coming and we had ample warning.
Back in what elders still refer to as "the good old days", we had mass-murderers like Boysie Singh and the Poolool Brothers or the senseless variety like that of McDonald Bristol (who was killed for one penny during a dice game). There were professionals on the wrong side of the law, as in the Dr Dalip Singh example and we had career bandits like "The Green-Face Man".
Calypsonians have long brought to our attention the prevalence of guns in the society. The two most popular songs of the 1959 Carnival season remarked upon the phenomenon. Sparrow's "Gunslingers" trotted out the position, while Caruso won the road march title with a posture of intolerance called: "Run the Gunslingers".
And gun-toting wasn't exclusive to low-life. Decades before it was alleged MP Dhanraj Singh drew a gun in front of Tunapuna Regional Corporation workers, a member of the then Legislative Council, Bhadase Sagan Maraj, reports say, did expose a revolver right inside the hallowed chamber.
Calypso seems to have spared Mr Maraj but made the point through those telling songs of 1959. Hear Sparrow's chorus as he quotes the bragging war-chant of weapon-toting hoodlums of the day and see if you're struck by any similarity to the contemporary condition:
"We young and strong
We ain't 'fraid a soul in town
Who think they bad
To meet them we more than glad
We have we gun
And padnah we ain't making fun
If you think you bad clear the way
And if you think you mad, make yuh play."
Now, take a choice verse and the common chorus from Caruso's work on the same subject:
"My father told me
Long time was not so
You coulda walk in peace
Anywhere that you had to go
Whether day or night
They never had fight
And nobody ever uses to be in fright
But nowadays well it isn't so
They will knock you down
For a green mango
And when they do these things
They goes around
Calling themselves famous men in town.
When they hold them
And they arrest them
Do not fine them
Do not 'prison them
Put them in the square
Let everybody be there
Beat them with the cat
All who see bound to done wid dat."
Lord Superior was equally observant, giving authorities ample time to stem the crime surge of the 1950s, seeing no evidence of a return to civility and concomitant rise in lawlessness, citing the entire law-enforcement system and complicity at large as passive contributors to social decline; concluding that, in Trinidad, "Crime Does Pay".
"When a bad-john walk-in a nightclub
He gets free rum and whisky
Travelling in taxis free
Chauffeurs 'fraid to take money
He gettin' all the lovely women
Because the women 'fraid them
And for criminal assault
They getting away
So in Trinidad, crime does pay."
It was during that era Prime Minister Dr Eric Williams told us "the future of the nation is in the book-bags of schoolchildren" which, we have come to recognise, was astutely prophetic; given the frequency with which police discover illegal drugs and arms and ammunition hidden in their backpacks and in the latter-day, arson concealed in their heads.
Without doubt, these kids will mature into gunslingers, at which time today's businessmen will be a lot older and even more susceptible to attack. At least if they get guns now, there'll be more time for target practice before that day dawns.
Without personal protection, they might as well contemplate changing their product-base to the manufacture of hand-baskets, since it becomes increasingly clearer with each passing day that this country is going to hell, piece by piece, in precisely that type of packaging.
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