Laventille – A Brand?

The name Laventille has become a brand. It is a negative brand. The Laventilles in our country don’t only exist in East Dry River. They have been replicated throughout and there is a kind of lethargy which is immobilizing.

The only way out of this malaise is personal action. Just as the drug addict must take personal responsibility, so too must the unemployed, the gangster and the dispossessed. I accept that there are cases which require institutional support but the vast majority of people have the capacity to improve their lot in life.

As someone who spent the first 19 years of my life in Quarry Street, East Dry River (EDR) my observation is that the persons who were able to improve their lot in life did so by being faithful to the first word in our country’s motto – Discipline. It takes discipline to avoid pregnancy and bringing a child into this world when you are unable to provide physical or emotional support. It takes discipline to ensure that children go to school every day and devote the necessary time to studying. It takes discipline to learn a trade or develop a skill which will prepare you for the labour market. It takes discipline to save enough money to pay the deposit for a government house. It takes discipline to obey the laws of the land.

What I am hearing is a society interested only in quick fixes and a growing tendency to demand that someone else should solve the problems that we created in the first place.

Government has a major responsibility to provide the enabling framework but the responsibility for moving from point A to B lies in the heart of each individual and the sooner we accept that the sooner we will take responsibility for ensuring that sweet T&T is a place of equity.

Here are 20 things we can do to make T&T a better place:

  1. Go to work every day!
  2. Work for 8 hours!
  3. Complete your tasks to the best of your ability!
  4. Use sick leave only when you are sick!
  5. Let your supervisor know if you cannot go to work!
  6. Turn up on time for appointments!
  7. Ensure that your children go to school every day!
  8. Speak the truth!
  9. Ask for permission before you take or use anything that does not belong to you!
  10. Place litter in bins!
  11. Use cross walks or zebra crossings!
  12. Obey the speed limit when driving!
  13. Stop at “stop lights”!
  14. Stop at major roads!
  15. Drive on the correct side of the road!
  16. Overtake on the right only!
  17. Be polite to everyone!
  18. Refuse “bribery” in any form!
  19. Extend a hand to anyone in need!
  20. Implement the laws of Trinidad and Tobago!

This may appear to be basic and corny but they represent a list of “little things” which can make a world of difference in our society

Be true to yourself and your organization

Kendal Fontenelle is the Public Relations Officer with the Ministry of of Planning and Sustainable Development and must take full responsibility for any errors or omissions presented on the Ministry’s Website.  It is absolutely unprofessional for him to suggest that a Lecturer at the University of the West Indies did the research and presented the information.  Had it been perfect Mr. Fontenelle would have taken the credit 

One of the traditional roles of the Communications Professional is to keep the organization truthful. This means you have to take responsibility for the communication outcomes. By stating that “It was actually written by someone who is a lecturer at one of the tertiary institutions,” Mr. Fontenelle is shirking his responsibility. He clearly skipped the Fundamental of Communication class. We’ve seen this sloppy approach to communications several times with the current administration. It underlies the need for Communications professionals to be well trained before being placed in responsible positons. Mr. Fontenelle is not representing this noble profession very well.

“DAT NOT Good So”.

“Dat good so” was the comment made by someone with whom I was working.  The comment resonated with me for days after because it aptly captured an attitude of our people.  The waitress in a restaurant gives you poor service and “Dat good so”.  The cleaner continues to mop with black water and “Dat good so”.  The hospital spends two hours searching for your file and “Dat good so”.  This comment occupied my mind to the extent that I began observing situations and thinking “Dat good so”.  So obsessed was I that I have concluded that the newest ailment afflicting our entire society is “Dat good so”.

What could be the possible causes of such an ailment?  Some people’s default position is the minimum effort.  For others, it is doing whatever they think they can get away with and  for many others, they simply do not care.  Whatever the motivation, leadership has a responsibility to communicate  a different refrain.  Leadership must communicate “Dat NOT good so”.
How do we begin to communicate “Dat NOT good so”?  Consequence Management is a good place to start and it is not limited to formal organizations.  Wherever we operate, it is necessary to communicate that there are consequences to our actions, both negative and positive and “Dat NOT good so”.
Alongside the implementation of consequences it is necessary to re-visit some basic standards of operations.  Say the word standard and a popular mental association is the painted stick which masqueraders carry on Carnival Days.  This frivolous mental image is supported by our ambiguous response to societal rules at all levels.
On a personal level, we all have to determine the standards by which we operate and hold fast to them.  It means making tough decisions, embracing the concept of delayed gratification while ensuring that standards are upheld or consequences felt.
On a societal level, leadership must communicate their dedication to the maintenance of standards.  It might be a simple act of honouring agreements. If our leaders cannot honour their agreements then the messages are clear – get away with whatever you can and we’ll wiggle out of it somehow.  There seems to be a high tolerance for creating “wiggle room”.  It is with little transgressions that we begin the slide into the “Dat good so” syndrome.
Citizens are looking out for the signals which communicate that we share some common values such as trust, good behaviour, fairness,  kindness, respect and a host of other adjectives.
The reality is that there is a feeling or sense that these principles have little currency in  today’s world.
Maybe the time has come to mount a public campaign to define these “grey” words and work through some common understandings.  What I’m suggesting is not sexy and will not provide any immediate returns.  It certainly is of little “vote getting” value but it will have a fundamental, lasting impact on future generations.
My mind goes back to my student days at UWI, St. Augustine and the following quote from French Sociologist Émile Durkheim:
“When mores are sufficient, laws are unnecessary; when mores are insufficient, laws are unenforceable.”
What we experience on a daily basis is the absence of mores.  Even worse, there is no attempt to figure out what those mores could be.  No one has communicated to me that these are the morally binding customs of the Trinidadian or these are the habits and manners expected across the board.
Instead we live with the legalistic interpretations about why a particular extradition attempt failed.  Or why the act of resignation has put an end to clarifying whether or not a person was guilty.  And there are scores of other situations where the standards of behaviour are grey.
The recent spate of road fatalities is an example of the extent to which our laws are  becoming unenforceable.  There is a collective lamentation about the extent to which the laws of the road are ignored and I see no sustained effort to ensure that the laws are upheld.  The person who broke the traffic light probably began by breaking the major road.
Communication is the engine of behaviour change and in order to counteract the attitude of “Dat good so”, there must be behaviours that communicate “Dat NOT good so”.