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    Is T&T becoming a paradise?
    Saturday, December 14 @ 20:13:18 UTC
    Trinidad and TobagoDear Sir/ Madam/Ms,

    It is appropriate that there should be a day in which the public is reminded that verbal or physical violence against women should not be encouraged and will not be tolerated. But let us not be carried away with our criticisms and throw the babyout with the bath water. Let us not conclude illogically, on the basis of media reports of violence against women, that our women are an endangered species.

    Far from it: there are social indicators that suggest T&T is a little paradise when compared with many other countries.

    In the April 2002 issue of Scientific American, Kevin Bales, a professor of sociology at the University of Surrey, London, suggests we view as "slavery" any situation or relationship where there is "a loss of free will or choice which is backed up by violence." We may think of such a situation as one where women are controlled to a high degree, either because of patriarchal traditions, religious precepts, or a highly controlling male personality.

    Using data from a variety of sources, including reports from police, social workers, investigative reporters, and freed slaves, he has made estimates of slaves in individual countries. By his definition of slavery, T&T, Barbados and Dominica each has from 0 to 100 women who are slaves (to men, of course); Jamaica is worse with an estimate of 0 to 500 slaves.

    However, compared with many other countries, it seems we treat our women relatively well. The estimate for Israel is around 4,000 to 6,000; the UK around 4,000 to 5,000; and the USA from 100,000 to 150,000.

    Their estimates reflect the reliability of pimping and prostitution as lucrative avenues of employment in those countries. Human trafficking of women and children, girls and boys, is also a major social problem in Europe and South East Asia.

    In Mother Africa, two countries stand out: Ghana with an estimate of 10 000 to 20 000 slaves, and Nigeria with an estimate that is double, 20 000 to 40 000 slaves. In West Africa, a practice exists where illiterate laborers are deceived into signing "contracts" which are then used to ship them to remote plantations from which they cannot leave. In addition African diplomats and executives go abroad with domestic servants whose lives are virtually those of slaves.

    Please note, however, that the rate for the USA (that bastion of democracy) is five times higher than these African countries, which are wilting under the effects of imperialism and the erosion of their traditional cultures.

    But it is Mother India that takes first prize with a whopping 18 to 22 million slaves. Many of them are enmeshed in a vicious caste system with its hereditary family bondage for an earlier debt. Many of them are also women, who have been assigned an inferior social, religious, political, and economic status by tradition and the religion of Hinduism.

    Again, T&T, a little dot on the map, has the distinction (despite it youth as a nation) of being ranked by the UN, in 2002, as having a high level of human development, with a rank of 50 out of 173 countries! Way to go, T&T!

    The UN Human Development Index is a composite measure of a country's achievements in terms of life expectancy, education and adjusted real income. We are definitely doing something positive. Alas, Barbados is still ahead of us with a rank of 31.

    Something good is happening there, a fertile area for sociological research. The Bahamas is also ahead with a rank of 41, as well as St Kitts and Nevis with a rank of 44.

    The highest ranked country in Africa, South Africa, is far below us with a rank of 107. We are also far ahead of India, which has a low rank of 124.

    In addition, (a little more gravy) T&T makes a strong showing on the UN Gender Empowerment Index. This measures the participation of women in political decision-making. Out of 66 countries capable of being ranked, T&T earned a rank of 20, not far behind Barbados, which had a rank of 18. Now, that is an achievement! Many countries are still the captives of medieval religious attitudes and practices, which are inconsistent with the norms of democracy.

    In effect, T&T ( and its sister islands) is among the leaders of developing and undeveloped countries with respect to the above UN indices, a remarkable feat considering its relative youth (and domestic critics) .

    One factor that gives it stability and has enabled it to live amicably with its internal critics (mainly Hindu fundamentalists) is the "Carnival mentality" which some deplore. It is this which serves as a national catharsis for frustrations and thwarted hopes; which liberates the creative spirit from the confinements of mundane routines; and which gives an opportunity for laughter, joy, music, and good neighbourliness to enter our lives. And there is no reason why our Indo-Trini brothers and sisters should not contribute their musical traditions to enrich our national festival.

    "Carnival mentality" and "liming" expresses and contributes to the Trinbagonian's uniquely relaxed personality, transforms the serious into the comical, constructs theatre from the mundane, and eliminates hostility from conflict situations. Psychologically, it is a stress-coping mechanism, an inexpensive cultural anti-depressant, an alternative to Paxil or Prozac (on which Nth Americans rely).

    We might legitimately ask if we are becoming the paradise of the great French painter, Paul Gauguin.

    As the Trini ship of state sails into the future, we must be united to realize the potential of our people. In the memorable words of Rabindrath Tagore (the eminent Indian poet): "Let there be a single, just, and moral society."

    Kenneth Aquan-Assee

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