Monday, September 28, 2009
I don¹t want to overstate the case for change, I am fairly circumspect about political parties intentions when they insinuate change. For the most part they do not act very forcefully to help bring it to fruition. There needs to be tangible evidence which is very essential if there is to be any progressive change of consequence in this country.That said, those who have been in the political process for what seems like eternity and believe that the ruling Party is firmly in the hands of a malignant and self-serving corporate and political elite have to explain why their own political agenda, seems to be sinking.Meanwhile, it must be acknowledged that the change phenomenon is a real thing. That is to say, whatever your personal politics, the change desire is genuinely igniting a wave of passionate support across this country especially among and particularly the young, and more recently the middle and lower income citizens who had for years been ignored by, and consequently disinterested in the political process.It might be that this is the result of all the mismanagement, corruption, crime, intimidation that has become a staple in the present regime. Hence the reason, it would be a mistake for anyone, to dismiss this phenomenon as meaningless, and to ignore it or its potential.Indeed, I want to suggest here that at this point it would be wise to take the proverbial tiger by the tail, and heed the clarion call for "change". The stirring up of hopes and expectations for those in dire straits should not be denied, in the end that call will succeed. Those who are complicant and comfortble with the status quo will be suprised that the folly of their ways is but to their own detrement.Therefore, the forces that are propelling this call is louder than they could ever imagine, and those forces will not easily be denied if they are determine to succeed.Should this happen- and it probably will happen there needs to be a real alternative agent of progressive change.This is a call-to-action, definitely, not a reason complancency.What I'm suggesting here is, the very rhetoric of change, may be creating something bigger than one can imagine, and that there is: a powerful constituency for real change.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
“Don’t talk to strangers” is one of the foremost practices that a lot of families try to instill in children when it comes to guarding personal safety. In recent times however, it has proven to be both inadequate and ineffective. As the world of strangers is becoming bigger these days, thanks to the internet and a host of other advanced technology, our children are more exposed and more vulnerable to predators than ever before. Kidnapping does not just stop at that. The more terrifying reality of it is that kids do not only go missing; they could be in danger of being victims of sexual abuse, human trafficking, or both.In a 2008 report the total number of missing children almost reached 3 million worldwide. What was interesting in the report was that only a very small percentage—less than 15%–fell prey to suspects unknown to the victims. This is extremely alarming because it shows that advising kids to simply not talk to strangers won’t protect them at all since predators anticipate this and are likely to befriend children before staging their attack.Good strangers, bad strangersFirst of all, the word “stranger” needs to be redefined so that both parents and children can be re-oriented as to who should be appropriately considered as such. The most common off-hand definition of “strangers” given to children is that these are people that they do not know.But out at the grocery store or at the gas station, kids see their parents talk to strangers all the time. This is especially confusing to little children and they will probably wonder why it’s okay for parents to talk to people they don’t know but it’s not okay for kids. Try clearing this out by saying there are good people and bad people out there, then follow up by explaining that parents can usually tell the good ones from the bad ones.It would be helpful to add that even nice-looking people can turn out to be bad. The challenge here is that it is nearly impossible to tell who can be trusted. Instead of trying to cover all possible stereotypes and breaking them up for your child, try to focus on tailoring your explanation to the personality of your child. An easily-terrified child should not be made even more wary of the world, while precocious and outgoing children should constantly be reminded to be careful with people they don’t know, whether good or bad.Run, yell, and tellDiana Jones, proponent of the stranger-danger program called Run, Yell and Tell, advises parents that it is good to teach children as early as the age of four about what to do when being attacked by a stranger. She advocates the method of running as the first step, then making noise, and then finding someone to tell the incident to. It is a good idea, according to her, to point to your children some “safety havens” along routes usually taken so they know where to seek help—a police station, fire station, church, and retail shops. It’s also a must to have your child keep money in his pockets at all times which will solely be used for telephone calls in case of an emergency.Be with a buddyAdvise children to always bring a buddy along when going to places such as a public bathroom or when walking home from school. It is even better to be with more than one friend, especially when going out by themselves to places such as the mall or the park. Remind them that there is safety in numbers.Knowing the enemyRemember that kidnappers, child molesters and their ilk know exactly where to find their victims. These places are the ones frequented most by families: shopping centers, playgrounds, amusement parks, fairs, and even school premises. Reminding yourself constantly that there might be a pedophile lurking in the corner will force you to keep your guard up the whole time you are in these places. Next, keep in mind that some predators take their time before attacking. They would go through deliberate lengths NOT to be the person parents tell their children to stay away from.Keeping secretsStart nurturing an open relationship with your children from a very young age. This way, they will learn to feel comfortable talking to you about almost anything because they feel confident and secure. Teach them about the idea of a “safe” secret versus an “unsafe” one. It’s okay to keep a secret about a birthday present, but definitely not about an online friend who is asking for personal details and even photos. Ask your children about their new friends, both young ones and especially the adults. Make them feel that you want to be involved in their social lives but restrain yourself from smothering them too much, or else they will hold back and this will just leave you in the dark about the relationships they have outside the home.Finding the balance here is critical or else they won’t be as open with you as their safety requires.Make room for mistakesDon’t expect your kids to remember every single precaution you outline for them as this is an impossible task even for a grown-up. If your child forgets that she was not supposed to accept a ride from anyone other than you without your permission, let it be a learning experience rather than a reason for punishment. Children are more likely to keep things to themselves when they know that they will be in trouble for something they did, no matter how innocent it was on their part.This is by no means a comprehensive list of how to keep children safe from predators. It is futile to try and cover all possible scenarios because there is just no way to do that without losing one’s head. Even if a parent does succeed in doing so, it will probably be too frightening for the poor child that he would not even dare go out at all. The important thing is that parents should be aware of new and more difficult challenges to the safety of children and that children in turn should be equipped with enough know-how to keep themselves away from harm.I look forward to your comments. This is an important issue so let me know what you think and please kick in any tips you have because you never know whether it could be the difference in saving a child’s life!
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
On the 24th day of September 2009, we celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. When we became a twin island Republic 33 years ago, it was a defining moment in our history. As a people, we had passed through harsh and cruel times - from slavery and indenture, through the colonial period, to the status of a free, proud and independent people. By that act, we had assumed the responsibility of creating a nation out of our diverse ethnicities, religions and cultures. We eagerly took up the task of building a cohesive society with great courage and optimism; for we had decided to be masters in our own house and together carve out our own destiny.At that juncture of our history we had the good fortune to have had at the helm of , people of towering intellect, incisive intelligence, great courage and stubborn determination. They taught us that real independence was not evidenced by the formal symbols of sovereignty – a flag, an anthem, a seat in the United Nations – but by an independent mind, the ability to do our own thinking and make our own decisions. They relentlessly instilled in us the importance of self-esteem, pride in our country and the obligation to work hard and to respect each another.For them, true independence also meant the pursuit of certain objectives as ideals: foodself-sufficiency, the acceptance and promotion of local cultural expressions and manifestations. They saw all of these things as reinforcing national pride and our sense of achievement. They advocated, too, the development of a cohesive national culture as the best means of promoting understanding among our people, breaking down prejudices and reinforcing our sense of nationhood. And in the early days we pursued these ideals with a restless energy. We engaged in extraordinary feats of self-help work, from building of small bridges, to theconstruction of schools, to the repairing of our aging infrastructure. Our cultural life flourished. We established several local and national programmes to showcase our culture. Our sportsmen and women, being greatly encouraged, turned in significant achievements and triumphs on the world Olympic stage. And the arts – sculpture, painting, theatre, flourished. Those were wonderful, joyous days when it seemed that nothing could stop our progress and development as a nation.But, the course of human history is not a straight line. We faced difficulties of one kind or another. We had our ups and downs, our vicissitudes; but thanks to our resilience, our courage and our determination, we survived. We acknowledged our setbacks and we need to start rebuilding again. Within recent years, we have seen a decline in the ideals of national pride, self-confidence, respect for one another, and the achievement of a cohesive society. Selfish men and women have jeopardised these ideals as they desperately strive after narrow partisan goals and personal agendas. Today, the nation is at it’s lowest ebb in it‘s history. Cultural life is becoming an endangered art form; national cohesiveness is undermined as some people promote ethnic and religious divisiveness as a virtue. Educational standards have deteriorated; opportunities contracted; and thousands of young people, as they leave school, face a bleak prospect. They can no longer see the horizon. The pervasiveness of a feeling of insecurity and despair is evidenced by the increasing number of homicides and migration in our society, by the frequency of crimes against hard working people and their property. And the kidnappings, drug addiction and HIV/ Aids threaten to destroy a whole generation. Many of our important national institutions have been weakened and are threatened with decay: the army, the police, the judiciary, the public service, all because of selfish partisan political policies. Today, however, the people of this country are showing that they will not allow this tradition to be destroyed.It is understandable, then, why so many people are despairing.But I bring you a message of hope. Do not despair!We are a proud people, courageous and resilient people. We have overcome many obstacles and impediments in the past. There is no reason why we cannot now overleap the hurdles that lie in our path. Indeed, we must, it threatens our very existence. We have overcome in the past and we must overcome again.At this point in time, we are now about to face another defining moment in our history. Very soon we will be having a national election. This will not be the usual run-of-the-mill periodic elections. For the nation, the outcome will be a matter of life and death. It will determine whether the people of this country will remain in the thrall of corruption, incompetence and backwardness and suffer a lingering social death; or whether they will, by their votes, throw off the yoke of oppression and burst forth into a new dispensation of freedom, security and opportunity –and so survive and prosper.For us, the choice is stark and clear. On the one hand, it is to allow this regime to remain in office and complete the destruction of our people and our country. On the other, it is to install a government that will guarantee that you and your children survive in conditions of dignity and prosperity.The people of this country are shrewd and sensible. They will choose to survive. They will elect a government that will have no time for victimization or witch-hunting or settling political scores; a government that will administer the affairs of Trinidad and Tobago in a fair just and equitable manner in the interests of all people irrespective of race, culture, social or economic status.Let us all do our duty to ourselves, our children and our country. That duty requires us to rescue our nation from the abyss in which it now finds itself and install a reform government to oversee the task.Have a happy and joyful Republic day! But after the celebrations, “time for seriousness has arrived”. We have a serious duty to perform, we have our country to rescue!!.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
The celebration of Eid is a fitting time to reflect on the positive impact that the Muslim community has made in the world.Eid-ul-Fitr is a Muslim festival that comes at the end of Ramadan, which is a holy month of fasting. Eid is due to be celebrated tomorow.I am delighted to send my sincere and warmest wishes to Muslims all across the country - everyone who is celebrating Eid-ul-Fitr.Now this is a special time for the Muslim community as it marks the end of the Holy Month of Ramadan. During this month of fasting, Muslims remember those who cannot take their next meal for granted, and we reflect on our society's shared obligation to help those less fortunate than ourselves.Particularly during Ramadan, Muslims are also encouraged to spend time with their families, be kind to others and give regularly to charity. These are all important values that every person in this country should share, irrespective of faith.We have a long and proud tradition in Trinidad and Tobago of welcoming people from all religions, races and backgrounds. Our Muslim communities have had a hugely positive impact in this country over the years. The celebration of Eid is a fitting time to reflect therefore on the impact that Muslims have had on Trinidad and Tobago, and indeed the rest of the world. From philosophy and Islamic arts through to science and business, that influence is at the heart of our strongest communities, it is distinctive, and it is positive.On this note I extend my very best wishes to Muslims across the world, particularly to their friends and families in Trinidad and Tobago, for a happy and joyous Eid. Eid Mubarak to everyone.
I am pleased to send warm greetings to the Jewish community in this country, and other nations around the world as you observe Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of a New Year within the Jewish community, and it is a time for personal reflection. As you prepare for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, may this solemn period bring forth a deeper devotion to your faith's noble ideals. During this time of renewal and recovery.
Last two weeks ago a Facebook friend of mine almost got run of the road by a crazy driver. It’s Trinidad, nothing new.Oh but what he did next was ingenious and super cool! He whipped out his camera phone, took a picture of the crazy driver car with the number plate in full view. And then, he posted the picture on Facebook. What a hero! In an instant tons of people were commenting – I’m sure a lot of people knew the crazy person was too. And more than likely this person now knows that he/she is plastered all over Facebook. For shame!As I mentioned to a colleague of mine, I truly believe that other than domestic violence issues, many missing girls and women I feel are in such a state because of the sort of ad hoc transportation system that many face – there are so many unregistered maxi-taxis and taxis out there with so many predators taking advantage of this disorganized gap and over-demand for transport.We were discussing possible ways of fixing this disorganization – many long term options are available and some are in the process of implementation but what can be done NOW! NOW! NOW!There is a solution and you literally hold it in your hands my ladies and gentlemen, my boys and girls. It’s called a cell phone. CELL PHONE, CELL PHONE CELL PHONE! Almost everyone has a cell phone, even if it is only a cell phone that can send text messages. But, most people these days do have cameras in their phone.So listen…use it! People, if it is late and you’re getting into a maxi or taxi you don’t trust, take a picture of it, the driver and especially if you could the license plate. Do it discreetly, from in your purse or pocket. If you are in a car and you feel weird – don’t wait for the feeling to pass, text someone discreetly and quietly as much info as you can about the car, the surrounding places you see – ANYTHING! And send it to at least one person – parents or friends. At least that way we’d have a start if we have to set out to look for you!And it doesn’t have to be a car situation. Someone you know or do not know is seriously harassing you on the street? Get away quickly and safely first, but if you could, text or take a picture of the person and send it to at least one trusted person. And then if you feel safe enough to do it, anonymously BROADCAST it! Send anonymous pictures to the newspapers – who knows, it may save a life!In 2008 I did this for a man in lower Cascade (86 Cascade Rd, Port of Spain, people, for extra shame on this man), who was beating and starving his tied dog to the point of death. I went to the police (funny right?) – of course nothing doing. I whipped out my camera, zoomed in, took pictures, printed them with a message that I was going to share them with the News, and stuck them all over his front gate so people could see. The next week he gave away the dog.Now I’m NOT telling you to get camera happy like that. This is about giving yourself a chance to save your own life if you feel that you are in danger! Make sure first and foremost that you are always discreet and safe when you take these pictures or texts and make sure to send them to someone who will 1. Get them immediately and 2. Know what to do – call the right authorities, persons etc. Nor am I saying that you suddenly shame every Tom, Dick and Harry who is happily minding his/her own business. Please this is a life saving technique, not “Jerry Springer.”It’s not hard. It’s ridiculously easy to do – practice it with a friend or family member; it will actually be fun to do.And ladies, girls and boys out there, as an aside, there are many extra curricular defense classes out there, some of them are very affordable – please, join a defense class. While attending university they had a free weekend defense class open to the public and I attended – and let me tell you after it was finished I saw a 12 year old girl topple and safely run from two 6 feet robust men – knowing the right techniques.LEADERS who are reading this, it would be good to start a self-defense drive in schools and community clubs for ladies and girls in particular. Now.We don’t need guns and we don’t need to stay inside scared. We need to know the proper and effective tactics to defend ourselves and to make sure these attackers are exposed.And this is not only for Trinidad this is for every citizen of every country who reads this in Facebook and wherever this note ends up. (If you can read this and translate it into another language, please do and pass it on).I care about you! I care about us. Let’s do this.Use your cell phone to save your own life, and share the word and the picture with at least one trusted person. Become your own life saving journalist! Be the paparazzi to these predators. Empower yourself with this media tool you already have.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Poverty is the deficiency or lack of resources needed to survive and live comfortably. Everywhere in the world we see a lot of families suffering from this condition. They experience scarcity of food, clothing, shelter, and other things essential in order to exist. Poverty does not only affect the people struck by it, but also the society they are living in. This is a serious problem that each government has to look deeper into if they want to improve the overall well-being of their people and help in the progression of their country.The personal effects of poverty can be debilitating for people. This affects the physical, mental, social, and psychological condition of an individual. The most obvious hardship these people experience is the insufficient supply of necessary things that we need day-to-day in order to live. Getting food to put on their tables and clothes to protect them can be a real challenge. Starvation is the first and foremost effect of poverty, which can lead to malnutrition. This situation makes people more susceptible to contracting diseases and spreading them. Their overall resistance to illnesses lowers when their body does not have the sufficient vitamins and minerals to stay strong and repel viruses. When they get sick, they don't have the assets to go to the hospital and buy the needed medicines to recover. The mental state and health of people can also be affected when they are always hungry. Delusions and hallucinations can be experienced by malnourished people. When not prevented, this may eventually lead to more serious mental illnesses.Individuals who are denied of the riches that other people have can also have an effect on their self-esteem, confidence, and self-worth. They feel that they are worthless and no longer have a bright future, hence the tendency to lose hope and just give up. It affects their peace of mind since they are constantly worrying how to survive yet another day. Their dignities are also bruised and can eventually affect their perception of the world in whole. Impoverished people can actually feel hatred in the world they live in since they think it is unfair that some people can live abundantly and not them.Without enough resources, people also become illiterate. They cannot afford to go to school and learn. People living in really poor countries cannot even read and write, and this can limit their options in life. Without the proper knowledge, they won't be able to find a good job to improve their standardof living, and they will be forever stuck in the condition they are in. Opportunities to prosper will not be available.Other than the effects of poverty on oneself, there is also the effect on the society they live in. Everywhere we go, we see people living on the streets and sleeping on the pavements. They do not have permanent homes or shelters and just squat on empty lots or spaces. This view can be bad for tourism since it is unsightly to look at. Sometimes these people even relieve themselves on the streets making it so unhygienic not just for themselves but also on the people who lives around the area or passes the location. This scenario definitely won't invite tourists and in turn can affect the income of the country.Poverty also makes the affected people be a burden to the government since they are depended on whatever help it can give them. The budget of the government intended for other things needed to run a country can be hugely divided when there are more people to support in terms of health care, housing, or welfare. A country will not prosper well when many of its constituents are on the poverty line. When most of its people are poor with no means to education, a country's economy can easily decline. Skills, knowledge, and competency will not be available for the next generation to run the country in the future. Illiteracy will also result to unproductivity since people cannot work. They are not contributing to the society since they don't pay taxes and help in bringing more income to the country.Crime and delinquency will also increase with poverty. Individuals will do anything to live and survive, and when their means are limited, it is easy for them to break the law. People will be forced to steal, snatch, and rob just to have money to provide for their essential needs. Increase in prostitution and illegal businesses are also results of poverty. People turn to anything even if it is against their personal values just to get by. It is no longer a choice for them whether an act is right or wrong, their only purpose is to stay alive.Poverty is present everywhere and it can afflict anyone. When resources are limited, the distribution of assets and wealth will never be equal, hence, leaving some people with lesser money and some with more. This is a global problem that affects everybody, no matter what your status in the society. What we have to contemplate now is how we will be able to help and make a difference in our little ways.