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Inside Paradise: Do you see anything to smile about?
Published on January 8, 2016 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Sherna Alexander Benjamin

“Courage is an inner resolution to go forward despite obstacles; Cowardice is submissive surrender to circumstances. Courage breeds creativity; Cowardice represses fear and is mastered by it. Cowardice asks the question – is it safe? Expediency asks the question – is it politic? Vanity asks the question – is it popular? But conscience asks the question – is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; but one must take it because it is right.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Morgan Heritage in his song asked the foreigner if he saw anything to smile about after he complained about the many screw faces (sad faces) he was seeing on the island of Jamaica, this foreigner was then carried into the world which the international community does not see, his eyes soon began to open amid the beauty and resorts and the nice travel brochures to see the vivid reality of pain and suffering, deprivation and want, illiteracy and violence of every nature.

Sherna Alexander Benjamin is a victim advocate and trainer, executive director, and a university student
No Caribbean country truly shows to the word the dark side of ‘paradise’ for indeed it is dark and there seems to be no amount of candles which can give light to this darkness.

But there is also much light. However this light is fading as a harbinger of doom seems to have taken flight over the Caribbean.

Human trafficking has taken a deep hold and become entrenched in many Caribbean countries as it is the most profitable illegal enterprise in the world right now. Caribbean nationals engage in this trade as a legitimate form of business enterprise and their conscience seems to be seared with a hot iron.

Innocent victims are subtly recruited and targeted for this trade and women and girls are the major targets as their bodies are sold repeatedly on the market to the highest bidder. Many sex tourists who feed their horrendous sexual appetite with under-aged children often justify their behaviour by saying they are “helping poor people”.

Gang related crimes and open warfare have many residents afraid for their personal safety as bullets fly and innocent lives are taken. Mothers bawl and children are left fatherless as gang leaders lay down invisible borderlines that if crossed it means your life. Lives are taken as fast as the breeze blows and young boys are called upon to earn their stripes through violence to keep the drug trade alive.

Prostitution rings are profitable and sex crimes numerous. Damien Marley truly prophesied and pleaded in his song ‘Gun Man World’.

“Now tell me is it worth it all?
If one don rise then a next must fall
Tell me is it worth it all?
Those sleepless nights on patrol roll call
Tell me is it worth it all?
One child smile while a next one bawl
Tell me is it worth it?
Is it worth it?
Is it worth it all?

The oil boom days that strengthened a handful of Caribbean countries are fleeting and the citizens, public and private sectors are sitting pensive, not sure as to which way is forward or their present and future realities.

Previous governments have contributed to this present demise, and one country that comes to mind is Trinidad and Tobago. I would not like to be in the current government of Trinidad and Tobago’s shoes as they have a hard task facing them and tough decisions to make which will not sit well with many yet they must still keep their promises to the people and this reminds me of the old adage which says “a promise is a comfort to a fool”, it is said that the country is in a recession; however, to many citizens on the island, recession means nothing to them, for their entire lives have been one of experiencing recession.

According to the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service Child Protection Unit, “an interim report submitted for the period May to December 2015 showed that there were over 1358 reports of crimes committed against children. Of those offences 500 reports were of a sexual nature that is sexual penetration and sexual touching…. Matters have been investigated, we have a lot of matters pending in relation to the offences but no conviction thus far” and the lyrics of Queen Ifrica – ‘Daddy’ – come to mind:

“Daddy don't touch mi there
I'm gonna tell on you one day I swear
Can't you see I'm scared
You suppose to be ma father.
Everyday a wonder why ma daddy had to be di one to take away my innocence
Oh sometimes a wanna die feels like no one cares for me and it's evident
That something must be wrong with me
I'm not as happy as I seem to be
The long showers I take don't wash away the memories
Why do I have to face these tragedies
We go thru struggles in life I'm aware
But to have ma daddy touching me that's just not fair
Stop him from destroying ma future
Believe me he's behaving like a creature”

And so the innocence of our Caribbean youths are being forcefully taken away from them, they are forced into adulthood before their time, they are made mothers before their bodies are ready and perform the duties of wives as their mothers close their eyes. Many of our youths are being prepped for self-destruction and anarchy as they lash out with aggression as they live with rage daily. I send kudos to all the groups in the Caribbean who continue this fight, advocates who selflessly take up the call of duty to stand in defence of our women and girls, men and boys.

Do you really want to see ‘Inside Paradise’? Many may say no and others may be shocked beyond comprehension. Morgan Heritage asked the question: do you see anything to smile about. I would like to say there are a million things I can find to make me cry but I can also find two million things to make me smile, the resilience of victims of sexual assault, the power of a mother who has nothing but can produce doctors and lawyers from her loins, the faith of a grandmother that her child will turn from crime and the working of a Caribbean people to bring about change and hold public officials accountable.

Underworld atrocities are happening in every Caribbean country while the world sees a pretty picture of peace, tranquility and prosperity many suffer as they face real ghetto pain. But we also have the stories of hope and victory of Caribbean stars shining from sport to academics, some may say we are perfectly imperfect and some may say as a Caribbean people we are finding our way and evolving.

We are a Caribbean state and, while we do have hundreds of issues before us, we have hope that as we progress leaders will rise, leaders with courage that will inspire the masses and move the Caribbean ahead as a leading agent of change but we must change from within before we can be acknowledged from without.

To the majority who soothe their sorrows and pain in music, which for a brief moment works like opium, may you sing on for many moons. Music unites us and music is definitely one of the greatest gifts God gave us Caribbean people. Artistes like Gramps Morgan carry the minds of the people to a place where they feel at peace for a season:

‘Wash the Tears’

“My songs are not smiling songs
We shall be alright, yea yea
Don’t you cry
Don’t you cry, yea
Cause Jah shall wash away
all the tears from my eyes
in times when the storms
and the tides are raging high
we know we shall win, yea
we know we will survive, yea
Jah shall wash away all the tears

In this time of destruction
We must hold on firm
We got to get along
Been over hurdles all of the mountain tops
Forward on we all are marching, on we say”

Reads: 2875

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