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The prevalence of hopeexperienced

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Last Monday, I spent the morning at San Fernando City Hall with 2013 shooting victim Caron Asgarali, about 20 secondary school students and supporters of Asgarali’s wordily-branded group—Raising Awareness on the Ripple Effect of gun violence (RARE).

The occasion was an exchange of views and information on ways in which much of the hurt of the current era of violence and death can be turned into a situation of sustained hope.

As moderator for the event, my research included a question put to my 22-year-old son the night before: “If you had to use a single word to describe the impact of criminal violence in T&T on young people, what would that word be?”

The response did not require tedious reflection: “Fear.” This, he later explained not only included a fear of being victimised, but a fear of the young by adults. I added to this my view that fear also extended to youth against official oppression.

I inserted the concept into a discussion I initiated at the San Fernando session, during which I added that there were at least three other qualities of youth that have transcended generations—confusion, joy and hope.

Confusion, on account of the mixed messages and hypocrisy often exhibited by elders from whom much more is expected. Joy, because children are capable of delivering such a condition even against the backdrop of a wide variety of serious ills. And hope, because I am convinced that the coming generation can rescue our society from the current destructive rut.

Unfortunately, not many adults my age apparently share this view.

However, raise the matter with young adults and you find relatively easy endorsement of the view that the “lost generation” talk emerges out of the minds and mouths of those who do not regularly find themselves out and about among young people.

The logic to arrive at the conclusion of a “lost generation” also derives from what I often describe as the analogue versus digital divide—the fact that the digital world has created a reality for the young that varies almost completely with the linear world us older fogeys once knew.

There is also a perspective on this based on a belief in the failed status of inner city populations. I have written before about a longstanding, and erroneous narrative which asserts that political circumstances have rendered one group of people “hopelessly and terminally injured—damaged cultural goods requiring political subservience, economic tutoring, and the intervention of others purportedly better equipped to run the show and the strongest arms of the law.”

On Monday itself, for example, education minister Anthony Garcia quite correctly dismissed the call for the presence of armed police officers at (selected) schools.

Here we come again to the fear factor, together with the many dimensions of the anxieties being experienced. The sad reality is that too many young people live with the fear of being repeatedly pulled over at the road blocks or having crimes against them being routinely described as the outcome of their direct or indirect involvement or misconduct.

For, believe it or not, dinner table prejudice has long morphed into institutionalised focus on perceived s…hole communities in our country. It happens all too easily in this tiny space we occupy.

Nazi propagandists understood dehumanisation through the use of euphemisms, codes and stereotypes very well.

In our case, the names of geographical communities are used as code for anticipated behaviours. Groups of people are also reduced to national percentages (however statistically inaccurate) and others to legal status.

All of this makes it easier to commit acts of open, widely-accepted persecution against them. Hopefully, those who have looked closely at anti-gang and other extreme legislative measures have thought about these things.

On Monday, my own hope was renewed by the young people at City Hall and the contributions of people such as Asgarali, Lynette Sinanan, Roslyn Elias and San Fernando deputy mayor, Vidya Mungal Bissessar, who exhibited an impressive awareness of the realities we confront.

In the midst of the fear, hope prevails.


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