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It’s simple: We need to recalibrate the moral compass

Published: 
Tuesday, September 5, 2017

This weekend’s news of the murder of former curator Dr Claire Broadbridge in her own house shook many because, even by our already troubled standards when it comes to violence, the scale of the brutality by the perpetrators was particularly shocking.

Unsurprisingly, the events of the weekend generated considerable reaction. It’s true that people are being brutally murdered on a regular basis and relatively little disgust is shared. Some will say—perhaps with some reason—that we only pay attention when someone from richer communities are killed.

These arguments miss the point. If a brutal death, even if just one of many, causes us to stop and think, we ought to do so and consider what is going on. And also consider why so much seems to be going in the wrong direction in our country.

Before we round up the usual suspects, though (and there is plenty to choose from colonial history to God’s will), let’s be very clear and honest with ourselves: what we need to fix are our individual and collective moral compasses.

If we live in a place where violence is just part of the landscape and murderers know that the likelihood of being caught is extremely low, we will continue to have an unacceptably high level of crime.

If we live in a place where corruption is believed to be widespread without any major politician, public servants and, indeed, business people going to jail for their crimes, we will continue to have an unacceptably high level of corruption.

If we live in a place where rules are broken all the time—from small traffic misdemeanours to considerably more serious matters—we will continue to have an unacceptably high level of disregard for the rules and the laws. In today’s newspaper, we bring a heartfelt description of her angst with the state of our country by respected journalist and broadcaster Ira Mathur, initially posted on her Facebook account. It brought a challenging comment by former British High Commissioner Arthur Snell as he shared his own frustrations with what he saw whilst posted here.

It is a coincidence that his successor, Tim Stew, wrote a letter to this newspaper reflecting on the independence celebrations and stressing how rule of law is essential if we are to have a fairer and more prosperous Trinidad and Tobago.

The lazy reaction to their comments will be to complain about foreigners (especially Brits) meddling with internal affairs or that many social commentators live in their bubble and do not really understand what is happening.

There might be some degree of truth in those points but there is even more truth in what these diplomats and commentators are saying. We ignore them at our own peril.

But, in one way or another, what all seem to agree on is that we need to look deep into our moral compass because, in the world we created for ourselves, right now anything goes.

It seems we can break the rules, ignore the problems, steal from anywhere and everywhere or take a short cut to everything because, in the end, “it’s alright.” If not too serious, we just laugh it off.

The reality is that, if given the chance, most people anywhere in the world will break the rules for some personal advantage. It’s human nature. Our moral compass needs to fight hard against this tendency.

To help us along, though, comes the rule of law. Successful nations helped overcome this natural urge by creating and applying the law as well and as equally as possible. Those nations floundering under their own mess are those failing to do the same. Sadly, we currently belong to the latter, not the former.

If we are to face the serious problems we need to deal with—corruption, violence, organised crime, social injustice, etc—we need to fix our moral compasses urgently. There is still time—just—before it becomes broken beyond repair.