Its a long way to fall


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Category: International 03 July 11


“Now, I have to go back to work on my State of the Union speech. And I worked on it until pretty late last night. But I want to say one thing to the American people. I want you to listen to me. I’m going to say this again: I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms Lewinsky. I never told anybody to lie, not a single time; never. These allegations are false. And I need to go back to work for the American people. Thank you” Bill Clinton, President of the United States, was impeached by the House of Representatives on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice on December 19, 1998 but acquitted by the Senate. The laughably bad actor and comically muscular “badboy’ of Bollywood Salman Khan has launched a baffling but touching charity complete with a tiny T-shirt worn by pouting starlets to great effect.

It’s called ‘Being Human’. It’s not clear what he means to achieve by this or precisely which charities benefit, but I love the phrase. Being Human. Aren’t we all? Famous footballers, golfers and presidents have affairs with women, commit indiscretions with interns and also send ‘sexy’ photos of themselves on Twitter. The problem with being human when you are in a powerful position is partially us, the ordinary people. We impose on powerful and influential people a heavy crown. We attribute God-like qualities to them when they are only human. If Adam could fall for a woman holding an apple, there’s no stopping the slippery slide created by a slope of wealth, fame, influence and power. Still, the gods have their own private joke at us. They sit back and enjoy the show.

The more people bow and scrape the powerful, open and close fantastically expensive car doors at the wealthy, and usher the famous into suites of five star hotels. The more power they feel, the more hubris they have, the more they lose their judgement. Like Marlowe’s Dr Faustus they overreach, and set themselves up for a massive fall. One almost expects arrogance, a remoteness from people who have shot up to high office. Do they need to be brought to task over their vanity, their peccadilloes? Yes, but proportionately and without hypocrisy. We need to separate the private from the public. Bill Clinton is a brilliant man; clearly foolish like many powerful men when it comes to young women, but his foreign policy has been unmatched by any American President.

Faced with a partisan, isolationist Republican Congress and a disinterested American public, Clinton managed to engage Russia and China, fight nuclear proliferation, liberalise world trade and save lives in Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo. He deserved hell from his wife Hilary for mucking about with Monica, but did he deserve to be impeached? No. Did the US Senator David Weiner deserve to be sacked for posting explicit photos of himself on Twitter? No. It was enough that he was publicly humiliated. I don’t think men look at his juvenile act and say “he is a role model. I want to be like him.” No. Weiner is a symptom of a society which plays on the Internet. It may be disgusting and immoral to some but it’s not a crime for consenting adults. What is truly disgusting is when we remain silent when we need to defend the defenceless; silence when an essential human freedom is being eroded, when heinous crimes are being committed against our most vulnerable.

More service needed

What is disgusting is silence when we have failed, after over a decade, to find and punish the perpetrators in the case of 11-year-old Akiel Chambers' death. Chambers was found floating in a pool at the home of Charles and Annelore James at Haleland Park, Maraval, on May 24, 1998. A second autopsy found semen in the child’s anal tract and evidence suggested murder. What is inhumane, is the neglect of children in over 13 forgotten villages in the north east of Trinidad. Maureen Arneud, the President of the NGO, the Social Justice Foundation, has been emailing me repeatedly with her numbers, (662-5417/ 709-7465) and email address

She needs funds, contacts to save the lives of children who will no doubt one day rape, kill and rob to survive, because they are as young as eight and nine, sexually active and completely illiterate and amoral. I reported her experience recently in this space. She told me: “Welcome to the world of poor. They have nothing; no education, no family, no values, no hope, nothing but themselves, their bodies. You may see it as perversity.

“All they have is the body they walk around with and that is their resource and they use it for social, financial, emotional needs, for defence, attack, wagering, bartering and acquisition. “Nine to 11-year-olds tell me that sometimes people bring blue movies in the villages. We all watch it; the men, women and children.” They see nothing wrong because they have never been given a moral compass. “They feel cut off from the rest of Trinidad. Few want to teach in schools here.

It’s hard to carry vegetables out of there to sell. There is nothing there for anyone. From Toco to Matelot the roads are terrible. There are no doctors, few shops. No amenities. You are standing there with a bad toothache in the hot sun for four hours waiting for a maxi and not one car passes. Sometimes taxis go up to a certain point and turn back. People turn back. There is a heavy drug culture in these villages. Praedial larceny, pilfering. There are so many on drugs. Drugs arrive in the night to Matelot on the fishing boat. They get the kids to run it down to Sangre Grande. They tell me: “It’s no big thing. It’s a ‘wuk’. "They’re truly poor. They do what they can do. They need to belong to something.” I hope the Social Development Minister contacts Ms Arneud. We despaired about the hubris that was eventually the fall of the PNM government. We know this Government came in with the intent to serve the people, serve the people, serve the people. We want to see more service. We want it to go beyond hampers and Cepep jobs and housing. We don’t want sexy sound bites. We want boring sustainable development.

At odds with the PM

If the allegations of threats being sent to the editor of a national paper are true, it is directly at odds with what the PM herself advocates. The whole affair is disappointing. In November 2010 at the launch of the new Guardian Media Group Logo Kamla Persad-Bissessar encouraged the media, saying to us: “In a society plagued by domestic violence, youth gangs and crime, child abuse, drugs, the media can play a critical role in helping to address these concerns. I seek a partnership with you in this regard. “As a developing country we are in a state of transition. We are a nation in need of ideas, inspiration, fundamental changes, and shifts of consciousness, enlightenment and hope. Never has our transformation been more important and crucial than now. But it will not occur without the help of the media.

“You help to fashion the way people think and behave, you prompt and nudge their thinking, you help to create the society we happen to be. Remember, all of us who professionally use the mass media are the shapers of society. We can vulgarise that society. We can brutalise it. Or we can help lift it onto a higher level.” Being human, foolish, is one thing, but systematically neglecting a society or undermining fundamental human rights such as freedom of information to “brutalize it.” To those powerful people filled with hubris, I say: “Don’t look down it’s a long long way to fall.”


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur