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Category: Trinidad Society 16 Apr 06


Dry air swirling with pale poui, settling into carpets of blossoms. About seven years ago, I wanted to do an entire piece on the poui. I wanted to examine the journey of a single petal and watch it land.


But then something happened that month. Five women were murdered in their homes by their husbands in cases of domestic violence. I felt as if their blood had tinged the trees pink. I couldn’t write about the poui anymore.


This time our eyes are on teenagers who kill. These are times when you walk the long way on the road or in the mall rather than face young boys and men. Who are they? We don’t know. Some are 14, 16, 18 years of age and they kill big men at point blank range or brutally mutilate and murder, even young children.


Can you blame the mob who wants to lynch these kids? They want blood.


The more sophisticated tell us they want these teenagers to stop blaming “society” and take personal responsibility for their heinous acts. I agree to the extent that nobody is above the law. Justice must be done. Perpetrators punished.


Failing education system


The phrase “personal responsibility” is relative, not universal. That’s like the statement attributed to the executed French queen Marie Antoinette telling starving people, “Let them eat cake.”


A man who has everything, caring parents, no childhood abuse, an education, a good job, a roof over his head needs to take personal responsibility for abusing and killing his wife. He needs to be hauled before the court and unequivocally condemned.


But how can a teenager take “personal responsibility” for an absent father, or one who abused and hit him on the head before he were three years old?


How do children become “responsible” after being neglected by their mothers who have to work for pittance as housekeepers?


How do teenagers take personal responsibility for an education system that leaves them illiterate?


Nobody questions the law. But personal responsibility? It presupposes that you have been taught right from wrong, that you have empathy and that you didn’t grow up feeling invisible and disposable.


Righteous criminals


Studies tell us people who kill, maim and abuse in cold blood most often have been physically and mentally abused by an adult.


Look at the faces of the people who want to lynch the two teenaged perpetrators in the killing of Sean Luke. They look like they want to hit and spit and abuse.


It is ironic that the faces of the righteous who want revenge often resemble the faces of criminals. They may be standing on separate sides of the fence, but they all want blood. I can’t get over the irony that the freedom fighters of so many countries—South Africa, Israel, Ireland—who rail (rightly so) against oppression, injustice, the bullying of big countries and business interests have the worst human rights record when it comes to their women and children.


It’s easier to blame an abstract government rather than look at ourselves. It stops us from asking the question, our hands midair about to strike our child, “Will this child strike someone else without mercy someday?”


“Society” is you and me. We weave it according to how we treat our wives, our children, our employees. Now all that dying poui reminds me is that we have destroyed so many children.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur