Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 28th 2014 Contents A22
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt September 28, 2014
When a friend of mine
with the last name of
"Khan" told me he is
routinely frisked and taken in for
questioning upon entry at JFK in
the US, for no other reason that
he has a Muslim name, I thought
of the global ripple.
The age of technology has
brought with it the loss of the
age of innocence. My grand-
mother always said a little
knowledge is a dangerous thing.
And that s what we have now.
The world is a mangle of live,
crackling criss-crossing wires. All
shock and sound bites. No space
for substance. We are all, espe-
cially the young and impression-
able, dangerously connected and
prone to the many land mines
provided by technology---from
porn to terrorism.
Whether or not you meticu-
lously seek out world news, it is
now part of our collective sub-
Take the Middle East: The wars
came at us like 3D computer
generated effects of sci-fi block-
busters. States in turmoil---Egypt,
Libya, Syria, Iraq, Israel and its
occupied territories, have
whipped passed us like flying
saucers. In them we have seen
piles of corpses, battered cities,
refugees, terrorists, freedom
fighters, invaders, the UN,
beheaded journalists. We have
seen Nigeria, Africa s biggest
economy and most populous
country, battered by the militant
Islamist movement, Boko Haram.
Even Germany s bombastic econ-
omy seems to be faltering. That s
just the man-made stuff.
As a journalist or human being,
it is impossible not to be affected
by the pleading of the wife of
British hostage, aid worker Allan
Henning to the Islamic State of
Iraq to please, please, spare her
husband s life. Her language is
conciliatory, placatory and care-
ful; a woman walking on wafer
Barbara Henning is painfully
aware that Isis has already mur-
dered two Americans, James
Foley and Steven Sotloff. Both
The videos are ostensibly pro-
duced by Isis as a warning to the
US to stop air strikes against the
group in Iraq.
Barbara Henning implored the
militant group to "open their
hearts and minds."
She appealed to them, not as a
desperate Westerner bewildered
by their barbaric acts but as a
friend of Islam, reminding them
gently that a Sharia court had
found her husband innocent of
being a spy.
What s this got to do with us?
Everything. We are all connected
(In one of the beheadings it was
rumoured that a Trinidadian
accent was heard for a start). It s
time we acknowledge a few
things, take stock. We don t want
to be caught with our pants
Like Iraq, like Libya, we are an
oil-rich State. What happened to
those States? Their institutions
were weak, the rule of law broke
down, and citizens had no faith
in the police, the armed forces or
the courts. Certain sections of
the population felt they didn t
have equal opportunities. The
State favoured certain factions---at
times Shia, at others Sunni, lead-
ing to the disenfranchisement of
pockets of society.
The lost souls surfaced. In this
void, young men with no hope
were the easy prey of Islamic
extremists and militants who
gave them guns, ammunition,
bombs, power over those weaker
than themselves. Finally, they had
a reason to live, and die. With
the mentality of children on a
violent video game they literally
blasted the innards of these soci-
eties. They felt better. Thousands
suffered. Countries collapsed. In
this weakened space extremist
organisations like the Isis thrived.
No, no, you say, we are not like
that? We know that Iraq is an
extreme case. That Libya is an
extreme case. That Isis is an
extreme case. But let s examine
what we are sprouting. The US
Department of States Crime and
Safety Report 2014 has warned
diplomats and visitors that crime
in T&T has deteriorated to a
"critical" level and is a "principal
threat to visitors," with a rising
murder rate---405 murders in
We have (a) an alarming mur-
der rate (b) a tiny spike in Islam-
ic extremism imported from and
exported to Pakistani madrasses---
that s all we need, a small spike
can be deadly (c) weakened insti-
tutions (d) loss of confidence in
the police (e) certain factions feel
disenfranchised not over religion
but over access to political and
Still in the big picture, there is
a lot that s right with our world.
Unlike parts of Europe, we have
no extreme right wing parties.
Unlike places like Greece, our
protests are peaceful. Unlike Pak-
istan, our women and girls are
thriving in our education system
and not short of career opportu-
Our politicians are careful to be
inclusive of our multicultural
society, careful not to incite eth-
nic hatred. Our people aren t
unruly yet. But that could be
because the oil is still flowing.
Let s get back to our
streets. Now we are embarrassed
because the US government is
pointing out that murders day
after day is not the norm. They
are warning visitors against com-
ing to our country. We are living
in a State with a sign that says,
"Enter at your own risk." Our
state witnesses are intimidated,
murdered or simply disappear.
We need to watch our young
boys, protect our state witnesses,
keep a close eye on terrorism,
strengthen our institutions, spend
more on health and education,
and let people know straight up
what could happen if the oil runs
out. We are connected to a
crumbling world. We have to
prepare to walk on thin ice.
There s something very
special about the 95,400
new voters able to mark
their X for the first time at next
year s election.
The largest group of young
voters will not be Afro-TT or
Indo-TT; a full 35 per cent will
be ethnically "mixed," or "other."
These young voters were aged
14 and up at the 2011 census. By
next year, they will be old
enough to vote.
Naturally, that 35 per cent is a
true-Trini assortment; three-
quarters of them are listed as
"mixed," and most of the rest
are categorised as "not stated."
Vanishingly small numbers
belong to a range of minority
groups. The census has just 171
ethnic Chinese who will be 18-
22 next year and 346 white
("Caucasian"); the latter must be
putting in some serious visibility
service at Carnival.
Categories of race and ethnici-
ty are fuzzy. The census ques-
tion works by self identification.
For young children, a family
member makes the allocation.
But whatever the precise
method and arithmetic, it s a fair
bet that most of the mixed-and-
others will not base their voting
behaviour on loyalty to hallowed
Afro-TT or Indo-TT tradition.
And that would also apply gen-
erally to the "not stateds."
They will vote for someone
they like, vote against someone
they don t, or just stay back
from the polls. Their choices will
flow from the perceived merits
and demerits of those who
That s also true, of course, for
many Afro-TT and Indo-TT
Nigel Henry s useful poll last
weekend showed an ethnic
alignment still in place, but fray-
ing at the edges. Most Indo-TT
voters went with the Partner-
ship, most Afro-TT with the
PNM---but plenty broke ranks.
The mixed-and-others voters
and floaters already hold the
balance; and more so next year
than in previous elections.
Looking further ahead, that 35
per cent of mixed-and-others
rises to 41 per cent among those
who were aged from zero to four
on census day, 2011. Those tiny
tots of 2011 will reach voting age
in the late 2020s.
A "one-race" parent can have
either "one-race" or mixed-race
children, depending who they
partner with. A mixed-race par-
ent can only have mixed-race
children; and they will generally
have a more complex ethnic
A few years ago, I did an
unscientific scratch-poll in a
couple of high-school classes. I
asked the question as a two-
First: "Do you identify with an
ethnic group?" About a quarter
of the students said, "No." One
said, "Sometimes." For some
Trinis, that "sometimes" says it
Next: "If so, which?" About a
quarter of the original sample
put some variation on Afro-TT.
About a quarter had some varia-
tion on Indo-TT. And the rest? I
got some fairly complex mixed-
ancestry stories, Granny-this and
A different couple of schools,
a different day---and I might
have got some different answers.
But that s the way the wind is
Back to the census and the
real data; among the over-48s,
around a quarter are identified
in the census as mixed-or-other.
The proportion goes up with
every succeeding younger age
And check the youngest
groups. The pace is picking up.
Oddly, the percentage identify-
ing as Indo-TT falls off much
faster. The Afro-TT proportion
remains steady, at around one-
The group who will be 38 and
up next year were young voters
in 1995, when Basdeo Panday
first came to power. Now, they
are well into middle-age.
The largest slice in this seg-
ment is Indo-TT.
Afro-TT are the largest group
among the over-68s, who first
voted when Eric Williams was in
Tomorrow s voters we know
something about. But tomor-
row s new-ideas politicians?
That s anyone s guess.
THE FUTURE? IT'S GENERATION MIXED
PREPARE TO WALK ON THIN ICE
18-22 years 33%
23-27 years 34%
28-37 years 35%
38-47 years 33%
48-57 years 34%
68 and over 39%
NEXT YEAR'S VOTERS
THE YOUNGEST TRINIS
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