History lecturer at the University of the West Indies Dr Jerome Teelucksingh says the mass vigils being organized across the country against violence towards women, is not indicative of social revolution.
Speaking to Guardian Media, Teelucksingh said the public outcry following the death of Magistrates court clerk Andrea Bharatt was not unique and was a social outburst caused by the failure of State institutions, the cancellation of Carnival and the socio-economic pressures being faced by the citizenry.
Teelucksingh, who has done extensive research into societal unrest and trade unionism in T&T, said similar violent acts have generated waves of anger and remorse in the past.
“This public outcry is not unique. The petitions, motorcades, and words on social media reflect public discontent and usually occur in other parts of the world,” he said.
Teelucksingh noted that the candlelight vigils and demonstrations were organized not only to highlight gender-based violence but to also show public discontent over the regression of society.
“Some have blamed men but it’s a more complex issue. We no longer value life and this is the lowest point of human civilization,” Teelcksingh said.
In comparing events over the past two decades, Teelucksingh said there has been an alarming number of heinous crimes.
“Our society has become desensitized to the killing and harming of fellow human beings. The failure of our justice system, the high number of murders and the inability to protect our citizens seem like a remnant of our ugly past that occurred during slavery and indentureship,” he added.
Teelucksingh said, “The outrage we are witnessing is more of a social outburst rather than a social revolution. For many, the term ‘revolution’ signifies change, usually positive change. We have to remember that many of us are good at talking, pontificating to others and protesting but very few of us are brave enough and willing to risk our reputation, jobs or lives to undertake a serious revolution for change.”
He explained, ” Any social revolution needs proper leadership, discipline, patience and core values. The question is – do we possess these ingredients for the recipe of a social revolution? “
Teelucksinh also said the trigger factors such as age, gender, class and innocence of the victim Andrea Bharatt generated this public outburst.”
“I do not want to be accused of ‘attacking’ our culture but we also need to consider the fact that the cancellation of Carnival was an important factor. The public was focused on this murder of Andrea largely because there are no distractions such as fetes, competitions and parties associated with Carnival,” he added.
Teelucksingh explained, “We need to also note that other facts as COVID-19, unemployment and economic stagnation have all played major roles in creating frustration.”
Asked whether the movement will eventually fizzle out or become a catalyst for change, Teelucksingh said, “If this incident fizzles out or escalates will depend on the commitment of persons who are at the forefront, the media and also the popular support. It will also depend on whether businesses or wealthy persons are willing to fund events and other activities to maintain the momentum.”
He noted that some citizens have been blaming the justice system and the government.
” I believe that there are many institutions that have failed us. For instance, our education system – from kindergarten to tertiary levels should be focused on creating citizens who are caring. Our value systems need to be adjusted, our moral compass has to be recalibrated,” he added.
Teelucksingh said reform of the Constitution and the criminal justice system will be difficult to achieve because of the politicizing of major issues.
“We also need to remember that some of us who are protesting are also supporters of the government, so they will be reluctant to disrupt the status quo. And some of the protestors, who are supporters of the opposition, will also seek to gain political points,” he added.