'Women's lives seem cheap'

That's a quotation from Ms. Diana Mahabir-Wyatt in today's Trinidad Guardian newspaper. We empathise with the view of Ms. Wyatt, an indefatigable champion of women's causes in Trinidad and Tobago. However, Ms. Wyatt exercises some tunnel vision with her comment. It would be more accurate to state: in Trinidad, all lives are cheap. Certainly, the way women are treated while walking the street and within the home in this country borders on barbarism. It is not, however, a society targeting women only: it is a society that targets any and everything in keeping with an overall breakdown of morality, decency, tolerance with an acceptance of criminal conduct and social deviance as the norm. 

We are sure many groups feel targeted (because they are): young males (highest rate of untimely death through murder or accident); obese persons (targeted and humiliated by Dr. Fuad Khan, the previous health minister - who should be erased from the medical register for doing so); the LGBTQ community; the homeless; the differently-abled; persons with bonafide high intelligence and high academic attainment (frustrated and forced out, they eventually leave and find happy lives in developed countries); tourists who visit our shores; stray cats and dogs; all the Ocelots, agoutis, and other wildlife in the country; trees and vegetation, even grass - all discriminated against, murdered, disregarded and disenfranchised/bulldozed.

Trinidad is not a civil society. Before even beginning the path to fixing it, we have to acknowledge it.

We are pretty appalled by the assertions of psychologists in Trinidad about the possible origination of our dysfunctional social framework. Environmental associations play only a minor role in shaping the core psychological profile of the individual, which is really bad news for behaviorists entrusted with the responsibility of altering people's bad behaviour. For a modern psychologist to mumble anecdotal grandma's tales about psychological development as factual theory is a big reason why Trinidad may never evolve out of its social mess. An in-depth understanding of psychogenetics emerged with the work of Cattell et. al. in 1973 (which shook the foundation of 100 years of psychology research) and furthered by countless studies since then, (especially those by McRae et. al.) they now form the cornerstone of the modern approach to psychology and psychopathology.

Also, evolutionary psychology plays a major role in helping us understand the psychological underpinnings of why we do the things we do. Furthermore, we tend to regress to evolutionary primitive modes of conduct when there is improper superego development during the formative stages of life: from birth to age 7. It is here that the major damage occurs. We have to take a hard look at how we parent. That, and the primary school system needs to be overhauled immediately: both the curriculum and the teachers. The entire system does not operate in an evidence-based manner. SEA-type examinations (severe lifelong psychological trauma of fostering an examination/competition culture) have not been associated with good outcome in studies, yet we continue on this path. The technocrats in the ministry of education need to to be replaced. They have done enough damage. Just one example of folly is the use of laptops by students touted as the new way forward. All studies thus far have shown, uncategorically, that laptop use by young students encourages the loss of focus (especially in males), and plays no part in enhancing learning - rather the opposite. Yet we continue inspite of evidence to the contrary.

In desperate times such as these it comes down to the formation of a national policy - working at the level of the individual - of reflexive and operant re-conditioning of a dysfunctional society. This policy must include the new field of psychogenetics as a matter of critical importance: physical attributes are not the only things children inherit from their parents - they inherit ingrained personality traits that REMAIN CONSTANT irrespective of environmental upbringing, or schooling, or wealth, or social class. Startlingly, it has been determined that environmental influences contribute an insignificant 5% to the base personality trait make up of the individual. See the works of McRae et. al in the 1990s for an introduction to this science.

Although we have been brought up to believe that antisocial behaviour is a 'choice', most of the time, it isn't. Just as some people believe homosexuality to be a 'choice', it isn't. People are born with antisocial behaviour traits which they must struggle with throughout their lives (thanks to their parents, grandparents and genetic stock going back thousands of years). Changing these antisocial behaviours takes years of cognitive behavioural therapy which can be applied on a societal level. The bad part is most people do not even recognise that they have a problem until they get entangled with the law, or have problems with interpersonal relationships etc. Even then, they blame other people for the outcome of events instead of looking towards themselves.

This is a highly complex field which is undergoing many changes as new research comes to light.

Why did we develop antisocial personality traits anyway? Most scientists believe that they conferred a survival advantage in a more primitive epoch along the human evolutionary timescale. Unfortunately, antisocial personality traits confer no advantage for an individual living in a modern, ordered society. Which is one reason why Trinidad society seems so chaotic and borderline anarchic. We are 'winging it' on primitive behaviours hoping society holds together anyway. It won't.

Fighting back with psychological reconditioning en masse

This is the only answer for Trinidad and Tobago.

You would be stunned to know that the entire premise of the capitalist society of mass, conspicuous consumption that runs almost the entire planet is the fruition of a psychological theory for controlling large democratic populations. Its beginnings can be traced back to Edward Bernays who built upon the research of others, including the works of Veblen and Nystrom, to start altering the mindset of consumers. These theories were refined and put to use as policy by the American government post-World War II. Bernays was later dismayed to learn that his work was instrumental for the propaganda of the Third Reich initiated by the diabolical Joseph Geobbels in his destruction of the Jews.

The first criticism of consumer culture came from the French philosopher, Bernard Stiegler, who said:

"...capitalism today is governed not by production but by consumption, and that the techniques used to create consumer behavior amount to the destruction of psychic and collective individuation..."

Which is exactly part of the problem Trinidad is facing today: a failure to value human life (loss of individuation) over merchandise or needs, be they sexual needs, monetary needs, power needs etc. Ever notice those interviews with certain parents when their sons get gunned down? For the most part they seem unemotional, or apathetic. Interview the same people after their house and belongings get burned down in a fire - they are inconsolable. This is the kind of psychology we need to change.

Mass psychological conditioning, or alteration of the behaviour of a whole society, is proven to work. We are living examples of it at work today. But instead of having it work against us, make it work for us for a better society. The only problem is, no one has the balls nor the brains to do it in Trinidad. 


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