bloodthirsty words emerge... out of the mouths of cold blood snake skinned
inhuman criminals. They are coming out of the mouths of that respectable
church going man...pundit in a dhoti, of that sweet-faced young mother, of
that young pretty girl.
realised that all of us crying out for blood had in us, the same bloody
vein of barbarism that made those men kill. We were, and are the same!
They killed a family. We kill them.
was difficult to hear with the layers of noise: the talking, drinking,
dancing, gesticulating, smoking people jammed in a small pub on a street
side. But we were able to see, past the smoke, on the overhead television
the mute footage of two condemned men stretched to slow motion being led
to a police van. And then we saw this lovely girl from Botswana being
crowned Miss Universe. The disbelief, the wide eyes, the stunned-with-joy
walk to the throne.
that kind of fodder, the Trinis were in fine form, and I strained to catch
snatches of conversations which swung from Miss this, Miss that to Chadee
this, Ramiah that.
1: “I meet a man who say he slept with all the Miss Universe
contestants. He put four sashes on his wife every night until he went
through them all.”
1: “Why don’t they just hang the nine men in the middle of the
Savannah and have the 84 delegates for the Miss Universe contest watch
them for cheap entertainment. I mean the foreign media are here and we may
as well live up to our reputation as the Wild West.”
pairs of eyes stared at her. Three bodies swung towards here. Something
clicked. There is a connection between the contest and the hangings. Six
brows closed down in concentration, one hand scratched behind an ear,
another mouth opened. We looked at her in admiration. Of course! How
clever. Both events collect crowds, get the pulse racing, bring out a kind
of collective fever. Beauty pageants want flesh and hangings want blood.
They have done for centuries in coliseums and harems. Men in Germany have
been let down to boiling cauldrons of water bit by bit and boiled till
their flesh pealed. Men in Rome have been fed to the lions while a crowd
in the coliseum roared. It’s part of in-built atavistic human instinct
women have always been objects first created to be repository of male
desire. The fashion, cosmetic, fitness, health have made millions off what
appears to be vanity, but is in fact a desire to be accepted, even loved
by men. It’s very rare that they love us for our minds. At least if they
do, we’ve got to catch them with our body and face first. Every woman
made sense then, that day when I watched the bathing suit part of the
contest and every time I blinked I saw, in place of the contestants,
finely bred fillies. The strange sensation of waiting for the bidding to
begin also made sense. Apart from five seconds for the final ten, they
weren’t really allowed to talk. It was a competition of bodies, and
eyes, and hair, and face. It was on a stage. The girls were on sale. Buy
me they screamed, I will be a good model. Take me to LA, Milan, London,
Paris. I’ll trade my physical commodities for a career, for glamour, for
money. In return, I will show you my cleavage, my backside, my hair. In
return I will parade and let you feast on me. Beauty I love, but as a
moving, living thing, the way the sunlight and trees play with shadow.
Beauty of men, women, children, art, music, nature I can understand dying
for, but beauty as barter is something else altogether. But even if a
beauty pageant is somehow as primitive as hanging, it is not as bad. At
least it doesn’t physically harm anyone.
support for hangings say more about us than about the murderers on death
row. I am surprised at my own volt face. I, like all or most of you
reading this, am a law-abiding citizen. I have small children. I too
believe in making my way in the world by working hard. I try not to harm
anyone. I am faced with men who can kill an entire family in cold blood.
My first, second and third instinct is the desire for revenge. I too gave
a whoop of joy when the Privy Council removed the stay of execution. I was
as frantic as all of us, simply wanting these men annihilated. Thinking
that if their lives were snuffed out, justice would be done, my children,
all our children, would be safer.
had begun writing a column in favour of the hangings when I got a call
from a foreign paper. The editor was saying, “I know it’s rather
gruesome, but could you watch them, do an eye-witness report?” The word
“gruesome” jump-started my imagination - a noose, a chair being
kicked, a full minute ticking by until the men were unconscious, another
six while the hands and legs of the men, clinically dead, continued their
involuntary jerking movements. Like dead chickens.
I heard everywhere, the crowd roar for their blood and I was part of that
crowd. Then to my horror I realised that all of us crying out for blood
had in us the same bloody vein of barbarism that made those men kill. We
were and are the same! They killed a family. We kill them. Listen to the
crowds roar, ladies and gentlemen. Join the chorus. Hang them! Hang them
high! Hang them now! The
frightening thing is these bloodthirsty words emerge not out of the mouths
of cold-blood, snake-skinned, inhuman criminals. They are coming out of
the mouths of that respectable church-going man in a suit, of that pundit
in a dhoti, of that sweet-faced young mother, of that young pretty girl.
down. I know you’re afraid for your children, for your safety, for your
country. Let’s think this through. Revenge is sweet but hanging nine
men, and then the 50 others on death row, isn’t going to solve the
problem of angry young men with no hope. Hang 50 today and 100 others will
come crawling out from the back streets, men who’ve grown up without
fathers, haven’t had money to get uniforms and books for school, got
kicked out of the school system at 11, abandoned by their parents, boys,
men who have no skills and no money.
see the people with the big cars, and they’ll look at their own streets
and they’ll have nothing to lose. They will continue to peddle drugs and
rob and kill if they have to. Besides, the whole country is so
bloodthirsty anyway that they will just join everyone else, except they
will take the law in their own hands.
don’t know if three will hang tomorrow, three will hang Monday and three
on Tuesday. I don’t know if men like Donald Trump and gullible girls are
holding back women’s struggle to be recognised as human beings first,
bodies after. What I do know is that the clock can be turned back, is
being turned back. Even as we stare the millennium in the face, we are
returning to the age of barbarism. Look at ourselves in this mirror. There
we are, an entire country waving flags. We want flesh! We want blood!
Bravo! Bravo! Or can we be still and listen to the far-away voice of
Mahatma Gandhi saying an eye for eye makes the world blind.