Time for a collective vision


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Category: Trinidad Politics Date: 17 Feb 02

I am neither Christian nor heathen, but in our tropical islands of alternating wet and dry seasons, I never fail to marvel at this little space before Carnival and Easter as a rite of spring, of spiritual and physical renewal.


There is, in this sliver of time, something of an anniversary - of all passion spent, the ‘farewell to the flesh’, giving way to a deep, quiet, a feeling of smoke spiralling up from a cluster of candles in a dark church, or the sight of the sloping beam, fine moving gold dust filtering in skylight through stained glass windows.


The fragmented changes in the weather too, are ethereal and mercurial as if nature herself is trying on dresses to see which ones suits her best - sudden showers, swift breezes creating petticoats of pink and yellow on pavements and hills, scattering buds on tops of cars, hot sunshine on wet grass, white dust, cool nights.


Linking the human spirit with the seasons, gives man a sense of perpetual rhythm, by which to live, a reminder, too, that our time on earth is a short, transient, cycle between the eternity of past and present. We are here, simply for a season.


Our ‘seasons’ may appear interminable, monotonous, even to those from cold climates, to our colonisers, but we have found a way of communing with earth and firmament. The pelting rain on galvanised roofs, crash after crash of thunder, lightning, speaks to us in a language we understand.


To us, nature is not a vast lonely space, individually experienced, but because of our smallness, intricately interconnected with one another. The wet season brings us huddling, glad to be together, close, while the elements rage or an occasion for exuberance, as children float paper boats in drains, as we raise our faces towards the sky to feel the cleansing thick drops sting our skin, or a time of despair because water overflows, flooding our fields and streets, soaking through homes, makes it impossible for us to move about.


Around Easter, the heat rising off the concrete burns the soles of our feet, asphalt melts, dry grass crinkles underfoot. Bougainvillaeas bloom, absorbing the heat, in crimson, yellow, shocking pink. Smoke billows from hills, over flaming orange red fires. The frantic energy of Carnival gives way to enervation and regrouping. Now that the dust has settled in the Savannah, it’s time for shedding useless husk, for stocktaking, planning ahead.


What do we have before us?

We are at a hiatus. In the late 80s and early 90s we put our house in order economically - our Budget deficits were reduced, our dollar was successfully floated, our market liberalised, and now it appears that more of our children will receive secondary school education than ever before.


All our political parties should take credit for this because they all followed a similar economic policy over which there is little disagreement. Even the campaign promises in the last election were virtually the same care for our elderly, spend more on educating our young.


This is why we fall back on the dangerous race card, because there is nothing else to differentiate the parties and explain why we are stuck with politics of personality. This man is better than the other. We will get past that. Whatever it takes, another election, another six months of squabbling.


We are fortunate God became a Trinidadian after 1970 and our natural resources keep our heads above water, prevents us from succumbing to social unrest, racial warring that invariably follows an economic downturn.


Our politicians are politicking, our technocrats continue to negotiate on our behalf. Our artists create a vent for sorrow and madness, bring people together and make them feel good about themselves. Our business community vigilantly monitors the somewhat tremulous international scene, and look for ways to rise above it. Our religious leaders continue to jostle for space, or install this ritual or that value into their tribe.


What we need now, is a collective vision. Where do we want to be in five years?

When we were in trouble, and we had a goal to get out of this rut or that, we did well. We work only under pressure. As soon as the pressure is off, we stop pushing ourselves, relax, and relaxing in this context is dangerous. Because whether we admit to ourselves, if we don’t have a plan, we’re in trouble.


Socially, our young people use knives like pens, our poor are getting poorer, our health sector is crumbling. Economically, the tremors of the world recession, and the aftermath of September 11, 2001 has hit us already this Carnival. Politically, the 18/18 situation has the potentially of getting ugly, especially if we come under some economic pressure.


In our New World islands we have transplanted our various identities, rootless, from old continents, including that of our colonisers, into a national one. When we encountered the unknown, we improvised, in the face of loss we remained resilient. We may have lost the languages, literature and history of our origins, but our human spirit and dignity remained intact.


Our leaders must, before the poui flowers melt like mush under the showers informing us that the season is changing again, fearlessly face the advancing monsters of poverty and unrest, harness our peoples’ strengths, and in this season of new life, allow us to be all we can be. The alternative is too terrible to contemplate.

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur