Dr. Kwame Nantambu

Youths, Violence and Values in TnT

'Chickens come home to roost'

By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
March 12, 2008

The recent stabbing death of teenager Shaquille Roberts at the Success Laventille Composite School speaks volumes as to the overt breakdown and rapid, exponential decline and failure of all aspects of young life here in TnT.

The fact of the matter is that the 18th-19th century inherited/ imposed/ accepted Euro-centric British education system has not only totally failed the youths in TnT but, most viciously, it has also successfully imbued in them a sense of worthlessness, nothingness and unpreparedness.

Truth Be Told: The current Euro-centric education system does not equip young people with the vital tools, foundation, direction and security to survive and/or make-it in this "dog-eat-dog" way of life in TnT, 24-7-365.

Today's youths do not "go to school and learn well." Instead, after years in public schools, the "3Rs", namely, Reading, Writing and Arithmetic" are alien to them. After years in public schools, these youths can neither read, write, nor think properly--but they can sure as hell beat a Tenor Pan exceedingly well.

After years in public schools, these youths are just allowed to pass through the System and thus, at the end of their putative matriculation, they find themselves as a superbly nothing group. They find themselves shamefully unemployable, unacceptable and unsuitable vis--vis the rest of society. They see themselves as miss-fits in society. They now find themselves engulfed in a total failure syndrome with no viable way/avenue to turn. They begin to hate the education system that did this to them. In their limited reasoning capability/capacity, revenge then automatically becomes the order of the day.

The sad reality is that today's public school is no longer a safe, healthy/humane sanctuary in which young people congregate in order to co-operate on knowledge-based issues. There is no serious academic/educational intercourse between youths. They now engage in a different genre of cellular intercourse in the nation's public schools--for a very cheap price.

Today's school is no longer a place where youths bring well-respected and well-held values from well-knit family-home environments. Such domestic/familial values as respect for all adults and those in authority, discipline, personal and communal responsibility and the ultimate value of human life are not innate assets that youths carry in their school bag. Today, youths carry other items therein.

Today's school environment is replete with the mind-set of competition, negativity, and self-destructive, dead-end behavior. In addition, the obdurate mind-set of "instant gratification" now seems to be the driving-force, albeit the magnetic force, behind the modus vivendi, of today's youths.

Ergo, in their socially-neglected and abandoned way of thinking, youths no longer see their father (if he is not in prison) and/or teacher as a role model to emulate. On the contrary, they see Tupac Shakur (who was born in prison) and "50 Cent" as their "brethren" role models to emulate.

Indeed, the scary part is that today's youths have deduced, rightly or wrongly, that in their current failed socio-economic status, "get rich or die trying" a la 50 Cent's life philosophy is a viably, acceptable option to emulate. And what is even scarier is that these youths violently act out this option, 24-7-365.

These youths have further deduced, rightly or wrongly, that their failure and/or despair in the education system has forced them to voluntarily embrace Tupac and "50 Cent" as their reliable comfort zone for survival in this society.

As a direct consequence, their personal, inner emptiness propels them not only to pursue vanity at its zenith but also to ossify their propensity for material things such as gold chains, fancy designer clothes and shoes, top-of-the-line cars, etc., rather than the acquisition of information and knowledge about themselves and their history.

Crass materialism and non-existence of the human factor/element/being are the overt mantra/trade mark of today's youths. "This is madness; total madness" to the extreme.

The "instant gratification" mind-set has propelled today's youths to gravitate, consciously or unconsciously, towards their community drug dealer/lord as their role model to emulate. And since the Euro-centric education system did not instill any modicum of reasoning powers in them, then, the magnetic force of the drug leader/lord seems a reasonable option.

Today's youths have also deduced, rightly or wrongly, that since society via the education system failed them, then, ipso facto, society and by extension the System, owes them. And if society and/or the System do not respond to their bottom-less pit and peripheral position, then, they will take and get whatever they want there from, by any and all means necessary. If this means killing another "youth man", then, so be it, period. Youths have declared "war" on society. Is society listening?

The fact of the matter is that the abolition of corporal punishment in the nation's public schools, by accident or unforeseen design, has sowed the seeds of the current germinated/blossomed reckless, inhumane, violent and anti-life behavior of today's youths in TnT. As a result, these young people have absolutely no respect for authority, themselves, people their own age, adults, etc.

And since no one can "cut dey tail", today's youths are operating like loose cannons in society. This abolition gives them a false sense of invincibility.

And this scary scenario is further compounded by their perceived expendable, "have-nots" status in society, the breakdown of family values and the violence these dislocated, impressionable youths internalize and act out via BET-TV. BET-TV has now emerged as the baby-sitter of these youths. This exposure accounts for their misplaced 'aggressiveness' and physical attire/appearance a la African-American criminals.

The fact of the matter is that these youths are solidly attracted to this criminal, anti-social lifestyle.

These youths have deduced, rightly or wrongly, that this criminal, anti-social behavior fills the void that the Euro-centric education system has dug deep into their very soul. These youths are in dire internal pain. Is society listening?

Today's youths, therefore, see violence as their only way out. It is their only perceived option to become equal with society that has robbed them of their share of the wealth that is floating around. They want piece of the action, now. They refuse to wait for tomorrow because they may not be alive to enjoy it.

The sad tragedy is that neither government nor society, at large, seems to be listening to the hidden cry of today's youths. Half-baked measures such as the Community-based Environmental Protection and Enhancement Programme (CEPEP) and the Unemployment Relief Programme (URP) are the problem; they are not part of the solution. Truth Be Told: These make-shift programmes not only perpetuate, foster and cement gang warfare and criminal activity in their "bowels" but most destructively, they also posit the cycle of neo-colonial dependency syndrome among the youths. Sadly, this dependency syndrome serves as another complimentary comfort zone for them.

In the final analysis, three immediate public policy actions are suggested: (1) the relegation of the current outward-looking Euro-centric education system to the ash heap of TnT's colonial history and its replacement with an inward-looking, real, historical holistic education system, (2) the re-introduction of corporal punishment in public schools and (3) the deletion of BET-TV from the nation's television line-up.

The fact of the matter is that subliminal indoctrination of our youths per this medium has got to go now.

Now is the time to stop this country's societal bleeding precipitated by the Americanization of life, values and human interaction in TnT, 24-7-365.

Fellow Trinbagonians: Wake up and smell the coffee--the "missing generation" has finally found us today.

In other words, as a result of the abolition of corporal punishment in the nation's public schools, "the chickens (have) come home to roost." A reality check reveals quite equivocally that there is undeniably a direct correlation between these two variables.

In this regard, now is the most critical juncture in terms of life and death in TnT for responsible public policy makers to stop being in denial of this stark reality. History will not absolve them.

Shem Hotep ("I go in peace").

Dr. Kwame Nantambu is a part-time lecturer at Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies and University of the West Indies.

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