Why is it that my mom keeps forwarding me conspiracy theories on whatsapp? : A look at the generational gap that makes “fake news” possible.
Most likely if you have an older family member who uses technology i.e. Social media, apps etc. I can certainly make a guess that you’ve received atleast a couple of those forwarded messages that seem so bogus. Whether it’s "plastic rice being made in China", or a warning that "the last days are coming in the next week, get ready for the plagues, it’s time to pray and fast", or something of a similar nature, you’re bound to be left a bit warned out.
I’ve been thinking about the reasons for such a reality. Why is it that people of an older generation are so easily prone to pass on news that can even on the surface level be recognized as bogus – maybe even absurd?
JUST A THOUGHT
While at the gym today, the thought crossed my mind. Is it possible that for our parents and grandparents, the way they process information is completely different? For them growing up, once something was on a screen, it was considered legitimate news in some sense. Most likely that baby boomer generation (generally considered those born within the years 1946-1964, roughly) grew up with probably a radio in the home as a major source of information. They had a radio or a TV with only so many station . And it effectively was their main source of information. News on a screen, most likely a television set, was seen as an authoritative news source. Just the mere fact that it appeared on the screen, made it authoritative.
WHAT IS NEWS AND WHAT IS NOT!
Is it possible that our parents and those of the generations before haven’t been able to fully make the distinction between rumor, jokes/memes, and legitimate news online? The internet is more so a millennial creation (born mid 1980s – 1990s), and is being refined and mastered by those of Generation Z (born mid-1990s – 2000s). On the other hand, policy is being enacted to limit its stretch by those of the Baby Boomer Generation (born 1946 – 1964), and in some cases those of Generation Y (born 1960s – early 1980s). Their views on information are altogether different.
Consider the reality. For the first half of the 20th century, television, in the US but also around the world, was limited to only a few stations. And those living in then communist states were even subjected to just one source of information – that which was state produced. It was only in 1980 that CNN was founded for example, and FOX News in 1996. The plethora of information sources which we are now flooded with is a relatively new phenomenon.
THE DEMOCRATIZATION OF THE MEDIA
Think about the following names: Facebook, Youtube, WhatApp, Instagram, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Starz, all of these either founded in or after 1995. Their founders were either of Generation Y, or the Millennial Generation.
The availability to choose your own content, contact others with ease, and transferring data with such frequency is an extremely new reality. It can be considered a relatively new phenomenon - a ‘democratized media’.
Now there are the very valid concerns of this being monopolized by Zuckerburg and his company Facebook, among others. Facebook owns Whatsapp, and Instagram, with Facebook’s news feed being one of the main sources for news in the present day. Facebook now effectively controls the traffic of what you see and when you see it. Can we be actually almost going back in reverse? To a time when our options were still monopolized by a few decision makers.
Recently I met up with my former roommate from the Gaza in Palestine who’s also an employee at a non-profit organization focused on assisting Syrian refugees; his words to me were: “Venezuela is the new Syria” - a heart wrenching statement if it happens to be anything close to the truth.
Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is that the nation of Venezuela is under extreme duress, and although many of us are firmly against the US's interventionist posture on crises like these across the world, and balk at the ignorance of American policy makers, regardless, the main focus ought to be the alleviation of suffering in Venezuela.
Venezuela has been in full-blown economic crisis for the last 3-4 years atleast, and for all the chants against ‘gringo imperialism’ it appears that the suffering simply hasn’t abated. If one has recently been to the countries that surround Venezuela, i.e. Colombia, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, the demographic change and economic toll that Venezuelan refugees are having on those surrounding countries has become evident, and there’s no telling how long it could be sustained.
No one else wants more for the Chavezian revolution to live on more than I. My formative years as a political mind (if I can take the liberty to consider myself such) was the early 2000s, where the US lost its place as the moral authority in the world and Chavez stood tall as a moral voice, worthy of respect, because he showed and recognized the suffering of the poor and powerless. Venezuela is now at a crossroads, Chavez is dead, and this revolution is being televised. The socialist revolution must continue, but it shouldn’t end this way. It shouldn’t end with refugees, bloodshed, and political chaos becoming the terms to be made synonymous with the socialist revolution of Chavez.
Finding a peaceful solution to the present crisis ought to be Maduro’s desire. Getting in front of the problem and considering ways to find a solution should be the focus of all regional and super powers apparently so eager to take sides. Another 'Syria' would only costs lives, money, and stability.
The following should be considered as potential steps toward a solution:
Now the notion of compromise and negotiation is that both sides start from the point of understanding that they are not going to get all that they want. So, peace would only come through dialogue and negotiation, and the understanding that the other alternative is death and bloodshed.
As a site that focuses on informing students as best as possible on issues that affect them, it’s important for us to announce the beginning of that special season that so many college students do look forward to. It’s almost that season again, the MUN season! MUN stands for Model United Nations. These are simulations which attempt to replicate the format of the actual United Nations and its comprising councils. Students are given countries to represent and take their own individual positions on issues placed before them.
Students usually look forward to this particular group of events because it provides an opportunity to learn about the inner-workings of the UN. In addition, they get some experiencing in actually debating current event issues with fellow uni students from all over the world.
One of the MUNs that I’ve been fortunate enough to participate in is BIMUN – Belgrade Model United Nations. A well-organized Model United Nations that's open to participants up to 29 years – once you're a university student. Although it does carry a fee, it has proven to be an exceptional experience that has had consistently positive reviews on the European MUN circuit.
Check out details about BIMUN here: https://www.facebook.com/BIMUN.UNASerbia/
In more and more countries around the world, 21st century life is made for as few people to fail as possible. Greater access to educational opportunity, better conditions in the work place, greater access to information and technology. It's becoming more and more a case of emphasizing better individual decisions while suring up institutions which are becoming more and more people centric - and rightfully so. As I've become a bigger fan of American football, as opposed to my childhood love of European football, I observe so many similarities in American football and life. The New England Patriots win 10 AFC titles in a row because they function on the basis of system. Make as few unforced errors as possible, be consistently prepared every game, and make the decisions which place probability in your favor and capitalize. Life is like a game of American football, you play the numbers. Meaning that by doing certain things you increase the probability for success vastly, or at least you ensure that you have secured a basic threshold that puts you in a position to maximize your benefits and minimize your losses. For example, in a country with sufficient opportunity like, an affordable education, whether subsidized or supplemented by scholarships (try as best as possible to stay away from student debt), and a relative framework of institutions which allows for some degree of a meritocracy (making progress on the basis of your efforts and not for eg. your 'connections'); by doing certain things you increase your chances of material success. I’ll suggest doing at least two (2) of the following three (3) things: 1) successfully finishing high school, 2) having a child or children within wedlock (this being amoral – with focus on a child being a potential additional draw on one’s income - with no bias to one's religious persuasion), & 3) saving at least 10% of whatever you earn. I’ll go as far as recommending having at least six (6) months’ income reserved. Now, personally, I’m ever striving to mark all three off of my list, but, just through observation, I've seen those three things increase the likelihood of social mobility drastically.
As a child I remember visiting the homes of some extended family members who had done relatively well (materially) in life. I would go back home to my grandma and ask: "Granny, what does uncle (or aunty) do for a living?" "what did they study?" etc. One hundred percent (100%) of the time, they were always recipients of a tertiary level education. That brings me to my next point. Having a tertiary level education places you in the position of having a base salary that’s above the norm – certainly not minimum wage level. You have a head start. Not just income-wise but knowledge wise. After all, there are skills, knowledge, contacts, and access to numerous opportunities that you benefit from while spending time at Uni.
A Brookings Institute study highlighted the following three criteria for avoiding poverty: 1) at least finish high school, 2) get a full-time job, and 3) wait until 21 to get married and have children.The fact of the matter is that ‘getting married’ is a simple pointer mainly because two (2) incomes are better than one (1). Getting a high school diploma and gradating is beneficial because it opens up more job opportunities. And having children over the age of twenty one (21) ensures that you're more prepared for financial opportunity as opposed to when you're younger.
Sometimes you need to just ‘pound the football’
If you've ever watched NFL football, there are two things which translate well when it matters -running the football i.e. pounding the football, and a solid defense, or better known as Championship Defense. In life sometime you've got to become a specialist in those two areas. And what do those two things demand? Mental and physical toughness! Life is a game of hard-nose, bruising decision-making, the faster and earlier the hard ones are made the smoother the road ahead. Late nights studying till early morning, less parties and time-consuming hook-ups, less alcohol and more time in the gym? It all adds up. The tough decisions are critical pay-offs. Is the immediate pleasure more valuable than the long term sustainability and concomitant pleasure that in all actually will eventually come? Those are the tough questions to answer, and there lies the tough decisions! Consider whether or not you have the mental and physical toughness to play Championship football and go all the way to the Super Bowl.
Love & Blessings!
It’s one of those rare occasions, maybe the only one I’ve ever had since writing this blog for www.poorboyspaper.com, in which congratulations are in order for both the PNM and the UNC simultaneously. In the context of a nation with a history of alleged corruption by both parties, there is a legitimate disenchantment with the way politics is conducted, or has been conducted in Trinidad and Tobago over the years. It’s sometimes extremely difficult to find the bright spots in the clouds of doubt (no wonder the enormous support and admiration being met out for the Commissioner of Police’s efforts). But meeting the Venezuelan Ambassador to Serbia just a day ago was one bright spot for sure. After sitting through what was an informative but somewhat lengthy lecture, the ambassador Dr. Dia Nader de El-Andari straddled over, energetic and with a broad smile on her face. It was a somewhat sad occasion given that this was her final farewell after seven (7) years as the Ambassador to Serbia. She’d previously served as the Venezuelan Ambassador to Syria but appeared to have certainly made strong and lasting connections during her time in Serbia. The sadness of the moment however certainly didn't phase her mood. She asked, in Spanish of course: “Where are you from?” It had to be translated because unfortunately my Spanish is still horrendous. I told her: “Trinidad and Tobago”. It was the happiest I’d seen a person in a long time. She almost jumped up in outright glee. “You’re a Venezuelan!” She insisted. "Trinidad and Venezuela are soo close..." knotting her two pinky fingers together to symbolize as tight a bond as possible. “This is your house”, referencing the embassy, “You’re a Venezuelan!”
Although my purpose at the embassy was to garner support for a youth organization that my colleagues and I are about to launch, the conversation fast drifted toward the relationship between Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela.
The relationship between Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela has a long history, and quite frankly I'm no expert on the inner workings of our energy arrangements, immigration ie. asylum policy, or even the political inner-workings as it concerns our two states. What I do know however, is that contrary to the narrative forwarded by the international media ie. Washington Post, Reuters, Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela's relationship has consistently been strong. It's amazing to read articles by US based press organizations that nit-pick the deficiencies which may exist in the Trinidad and Tobago immigration system while turning a blind eye to the present US foreign policy of actively destabilizing the South American nation and effectively causing the loss of life in the Bolivarian Republic. The United States over the last three administrations, including that of Barack Obama, has been hostile to Venezuela. On the other hand, from Prime Minister Patrick Manning to Kamla Persad-Bissessar to Dr. Keith Rowley, Trinidad and Tobago, regardless of our relationship with the US, has been an unquestionable ally to Venezuela. This ought to continue.
Even with the close relationship which we have maintained with Venezuela, I don’t think we fully understand the risks that Venezuelan leaders since Hugo Chavez have taken to stand up against the imperialist behemoth that is the United States,- on the basis of principle and to the detriment of their own nation's general well-being. The fact is that Hugo Chavez, and by extension Nicolas Maduro (and that entire revolutionary generation in Venezuela), took a moral stand for all small and developing nations to have the right to take independent positions and express their own self-determination. Whether it was against the morally reprehensible destruction of life in the US Iraqi invasion of 04' or other expressions of US neo-colonialism throughout the word, Hugo Chavez and Venezuela (now Nicolas Maduro) always provided a voice to the voiceless. That’s why they’re forever deserving of international support from all freedom loving peoples across the world, especially as US policy has sought to break the will of the Maduro revolutionary government and the country itself. Credit to both parties in Trinidad and Tobago & leaders Dr. Keith Rowley & Kamla Persad Bissessar for taking positions in support of Venezuela consistently (probably one of the only things our two main parties have ever agreed on). Meeting the Venezuelan Ambassador to Serbia, affirmed not only that Trinidad and Tobago had done well on the international level, but also that on the local level we can actually agree on something.
In 2016, Trinidad & Tobago and Venezuela signed what the Venezuelan President called "historic" trade deals in energy, commerce, and security. Hopefully we continue in our unwavering support to our brothers and sisters south of the boarder. Viva La Revolucion!
Think about the most dangerous places on earth. Which-ever country comes to your mind, Trinidad and Tobago is one of them, at least according to the business insider. Recently, the well-known online media outlet released one of those 'lists', placing Trinidad and Tobago as the 12th most dangerous country in the world. Now, it's certainly not difficult to make statistics dance like it's mid jourvert morning (the morning of Carnival celebrations in Trinidad and Tobago), with a Blaxx riddim blasting in the background. Under developed countries can appear developed, economic down-turns can be re-interpreted as economic restructuring, all with a bit of magic and some numbers on a piece of paper. It's not that hard. But Trinidad and Tobago's case is particularly different. As a country, it's a complex cocktail of race politics, socio-economic impoverishment, a corrupt political elite, and anecdotal excuses. If you spend enough time in Trinidad you'd fast come to observe what can only be described as a desensitization of the population to the loss of life. It's almost a real life experiment in how long a population could live under the persistent stress of fear for their actual lives; not material possessions, but human life. If it were a real life experiment, it has brought forth results...complete desensitization - particularly concerning the loss of human life. A normalization of the most horrific crimes one can imagine. But bear this in mind, the average Trinbagonian is afforded one comfort, a narrative peddled by elitist in the political sphere -those who're conveniently guaranteed state protection and security - who preach the sermon of: "some people have it worse than us."
Now it's not my intention to debase my own homeland from afar - it's easy to critique; but for the record, I've been as active as anyone in recommending 'fixes' for the problems Trinidad and Tobago has faced. And sometimes by identifying our flaws we speak to our higher ideals. Furthermore, a substantive critique of our state and the citizen could never necessarily be a bad thing. Certainly I'm not in bad company when one considers the critique forwarded by none other than Eric E. Williams: "Finally, the entire West Indian tradition is anti-intellectual. People's lives are bounded by the narrow materialistic considerations of the price of produce or the cost of living or the laziness of workers or the growth of crime and delinquency or gambling or chasing after women (or men as the case may be) or just plain gluttony and imbibing. Add to that the movies and the radio and in more modern days the equally pernicious television, and fit in somewhere in the schedule sleeping and working or making pretence of working, and the normal individual's day is complete. Cricket and football, a sports meeting, the races – and the normal year is complete. A Head of Government cannot be limited to such narrow and materialistic considerations. So I read deliberately, in silent protest against the bastardisation of so-called West Indian intellectualism." (December 3 1965).
As benign and abstract as the above quotation may appear, I'll contend that West Indian anti-intellectualism as it particularly relates to Trinidad and Tobago has resulted in something even more sinister. Some 53 years since the above quotation by the Father of the Nation, the 'bastardization of so-called West Indian intellectualism' has proven more costly than a merely uninformed populace. It's effectively resulted in a society permeated by greed, self interest, and the lack of the intellectual and moral discipline to commit to a short, medium, or long-term strategy that puts an end to the murders of men, women, and children in Trinidad and Tobago. What's even more absurd is to hear men like Professor Ramesh Deosaran complain. He was quoted as saying to the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian Newspaper: "we need to know the criteria used and published and compare it to other countries because when you lump all countries as one in such a narrow analysis, you can give misleading results." Like really?? Who cares about the methodology Professor!?? Especially with 400 plus murders already in the year of 2018.
Forgive me if I’m somewhat of a pessimist, but progress of this nature, on the social front, doesn't warm my soul as it once did – especially in the context of a country with a homicide rate rivaling that of a war torn country.
Now some may argue:, “Make some room for a little joy bruda…jahhh”, “Why always so negative”!? Well, once you've lost friends to violence, and you still see that the core problems exist (eg. ineffective police service, leadership fearful of the tough decisions etc.) you’ll find yourself just as hard-pressed to find the silver lining in the clouds of doubt.
Now, as some of you may know, here at PBP, we were bold advocates of Calypso Rose for President. Although the country did name its first first female President, and as of recent Calypso Rose has been donned with a Diplomatic passport (the first time something of the sort has happened to a Calypsonian) we should realize, that the trappings of progress doesn't actually mean PROGRESS.
People usually speak in general terms about fixing the problem of crime in Trinidad and Tobago, but here at PBP I think we've made attempts to be as specific as possible in recommending solutions to the problem. This has given us some leeway for a bit of 'humble pontification'.
Mainly, we see crime as a two layer problem: Systematic and Cultural. 1) Systematically, the police service primarily needs to be improved. Years prior, we made recommendations in this regard - as small of a contribution as it was, it certainly was a move in the right direction.
On the cultural front, we've always attempted to pay it forward and give back, through experiences and knowledge. In addition, programs like the poetry slam, golden eagle beach games, and others have played a critical role in engaging the youth (and we've advocated the replication of similar projects), and we view programs of this nature as critical in contributing to progress.
On the political level, I've always asked the question: Shouldn't the leader of a country be willing to die for their country? and the principles that they stand for? Any leader worth his or her salt should be willing to put their lives on the line to sacrifice for their country; to make the tough decisions, even though it may put their lives in jeopardy. ANR Robinson was prepared to do so. Selwyn Richardson paid the ultimate price.
Can any of our leaders answer this in the affirmative? Are you willing to die for your country? If yes, the tough decisions won’t seem that tough anymore. If no, maybe its best to stay in the private sector and make your millions; although in the private sector people are actually held to account for their actions to some degree, maybe that's why our leaders love 'serving their country' so much.
The reality is that most leaders today aren't prepared to answer that question in the affirmative. It appears that the trappings of office, the prestige of being the 'leader' of a country, unlimited access to different brands of rum or golf courses, occupy the attention of our leaders more than making the tough decisions. Let's just hope that this changes...
So what’s the role of the President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago? Is it just to swear in the Prime Minister and Cabinet? Is it to sign bills into law? Or even to consult with the Prime Minister on a regular basis as to the state of the country? Whatever one settles upon, it is an institution that relies on, or ought to rely on (in our incarnation of the Westminster system), moral authority. President Carmona lost it after his quite widely publicized traveling expeditions (that allegedly cost tax payers quite some penny); and Maxwell-Richards’ Section 34 proclamation on the 50th anniversary of our independence cost him dearly - especially considering the otherwise stellar time he was having in office up to then(by the standards of the thus far presidency, stellar generally refers to uneventful).
As a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago, I believe I reserve the right to a citizen’s nomination for President, and my nominee is: Calypso Rose.
Born McArtha Linda Lewis, Calypso Rose knows what it is to survive in a male dominated misogynistic culture. She’s spent a lifetime in what most of us consider to be the art form of social commentary, and certainly understands the struggle of the common man; something I believe Dr. Rowley’s time on the golf course and Persad-Bissessar’s time in her ‘complex’ of a home may simply miss the mark on.
In all seriousness though, shouldn't the President be someone with the moral authority to contribute to the public discourse without fear of reproach? Ought not the President and his/her office be that which sets the moral compass of our nation?
There is one interpretation however, which is very much legitimate. It’s a school of thought that argues that a President of our Republic should be knowledgeable on the technicalities of government, the ins and outs of our national institutions. The argument goes, that ideally, a man or woman of ‘letters’ ought to hold the ceremonial reins of power; someone who has spent a great deal of time in public life, or even occupied the halls of power, someone who understands government. It is a fair argument. However, first and foremost, who is to say that Ms. McArthur Linda Lewis doesn't understand government? But let’s assume she doesn't; isn't it the reality that all Presidents are well furnished with a vast array of advisors? And quite frankly, if there is a need for further expertise, I’m sure it's available at a moments notice to any Head of State.
Now, all of this does depend on whether Ms. McArthur Linda Lewis believes that she’s up to the task - the task of leading her country and being the figure-head of our great nation-, in what many of us would admit are some morally bankrupt times. Let’s hope she does.
For some, there may be the concern of Calypso Rose’s advanced age. Well, the last time I checked, the Office of the Presidency doesn't include brick lifting.
I’m willing to advance the notion that what’s most important in a President today in Trinidad and Tobago, is someone who has his or her hands on the pulse of the nation. Someone who understands the psychology of our people, and who is able to unify a nation so prone to racial divisiveness; one who calls a spade a spade and would easily say it as it is. If you've ever listened to Calypso Rose, you know that she can do this well. Try saying it out loud, I guarantee it gives you a comforting feeling: President McArtha Linda Lewis; or even sweeter, President Calypso Rose.
It’s a privilege to have the opportunities that we have. If you’re reading this text, then you’re on the internet, and if you have access to the internet, then you’re already ahead of the curve. When I was a teen about to do my finals in high school (we call it CSEC/CXC in the Caribbean), one of my uncles and mentor – Uncle Zicki- said something to me that made me take school a bit more seriously. He said: “If you can’t get through high school in this era of such widespread access to free information, then you’ve got no excuse. You never would have gotten an education in any other time.” Talk about pressure before an important exam! Quite frankly he was right. Getting a high school diploma ought to be the bare minimum – even if it takes an extra year, or two, maybe even much later on in life for that matter.
If your my age or younger (25), maybe even 40 years or younger, most likely you’ve had the opportunity of sitting in a secondary school class room. Many men and women of prior generations never had such an opportunity – especially in the Caribbean context. Maybe if this reality was driven home more clearly then the importance of succeeding on the secondary school level may be appreciated.
Now some may argue: “hey, you’re putting too much emphasis on a damn piece of paper...does it really mean that much?” Well, check this. You’ll be hard-pressed to find out that the criminal who jumped over your wall the other night had a high-school diploma, or that the teen who rubbed the nearby grocery store just spent his afternoon in the library preparing for finals. It just doesn't happen that often. A large amount of the violent crimes committed in many a-developing society are perpetuated by rather idle and uneducated youth.
Now I do concede that some of the real criminals are, in many cases, highly educated, and may be sitting in plain sight in our Parliaments, Congresses, and Assemblies. But have you ever considered the possibility that the more educated and knowledgeable you become, the more capable you would be of fixing the institutions that ought to bring them to justice?
JUST A THOUGHT!
Check out the book coming soon...here: http://www.poorboyspaper.com
He’s forced you to choose a side
President Donald Trump’s strategy appears to be to cause chaos; to be as raucous as possible and assume that everyone thinks he has a grand strategy behind the scenes. That’s not the case. His recent outburst was even too much for me, - a straight down the middle, talk it as you see it observer who actually felt that all things considered, Trump was the better choice than Hillary Clinton. That’s still true though, considering that Hillary Clinton had courted so many "special interests" (political donors, PACs – Political Action Committees etc.) it had become embarrassing. With so many donors making an investment in her, not only would her words have been chosen carefully but her actions would have been too. For anyone hoping on getting anything done on any front: civil rights, foreign policy, health care etc. it would have been like pulling teeth while jumping through land-mines (imagine that!). US policy on almost every front would have at best been stuck within the lines laid out by former President Obama, and directed toward liberal 'safe issues' like: gay rights, abortion, equal pay for women etc. There would have been nothing new. For a candidate whose main talking point was climate change (and re-training workers in coal mining communities…to make SOLAR PANELS!?) she was running a campaign three decades too early, and targeting a constituency that simply doesn't exist yet.
I concede, the masses just won’t get my argument, it’s too nuanced, but it ought to be stated in the interest of those who understand nuance. Trump’s attack on players kneeling for the national anthem before NFL games shows not only his rabble rousing nature (which was bearable) but his conscious effort to distort the issue and to create a divide that wasn't even there. His behavior just doesn't meet the bare minimum standards of someone in such high office.
President Trump is only in his first year of office, but he’s digging a hole for himself that may make it impossible for him to come back. His actions are reinforcing his base, but pushing further away the thin slice of **‘economic’ independents** he was able to capture in 2016.
**Economic independents – Those voters who are neither Republican nor Democrat; they fall right in the middle of the political spectrum but are generally drawn to the political candidate who speaks to their economic interests.
Mikhail E.D. Byng was born in Trinidad. He is the author of Off the Island and a graduate student at the University of Belgrade. He speaks Serbian and English.
Trinbagonian. Traveler. Believer in God. Believer in Creation. Life long Student. Sports enthusiast.