annual saturnalia this February did not succeed in doing what most of us
hoped for desperately. By Ash Wednesday, neither were we distracted from
the unsightly sight of our two leaders locking horns, nor did our
long-festering rot, manifested now in our mass production of stupidly
violent vacuous young men, disappear magically like a piece of tinsel in
the Savannah dust.
have been left in the lurch, living with the spectre of a country that is
slowly unravelling, looking on helplessly at the wooly heap of our
haemorrhaging potential. In this tangle, where colours run into one
another haphazardly, we see the hope, literacy, productivity and
innovation of our young people crumple up into young people behind barbed
wires, preparing to use their cutlasses on fellow human beings as
carelessly as they would split a coconut, sitting in jails or tawdry
rooms, devoid of soul, consumed by rage and greed.
another little heap, just as messy, we watch with growing dismay and
disbelief at the utter lack of social conscience with which our leaders
and those to whom we entrusted our taxes, our future, our lives, have
misused our precious Treasury (which treasury in the developing world
isn’t precious?) which they have pocketed, wasted, poured, pillaged and
literally poured down drains.
to this corrupt heap, we see the victims - a parched, collapsed and
damaged people who, with just a portion of those funds, would have been
able to exercise basic human rights: Clean water, nourishing food, health
care, long-term jobs. With just a portion of pillaged/wasted funds,
politicians could have exercised their responsibilities; facilitated
students to go on to secondary and tertiary education, thus ensuring our
human capital, without which we all fall down like a house of cards, is
could have ensured that our young women are educated, so instead of
depending on a man by getting pregnant for him, they can fulfill their
potential as human beings, become economically self-sufficient, and
contribute to the world, rather than forage from its garbage dumps.
could have provided single, working mothers access to crèches and day
care centres for their children so they don’t hurtle into the void
unsupervised, and have an equal opportunity to make something of
a portion of those misused funds could have done that.
all Carnival did was toll alarm bells in the midst of crowds flowing like
rivers down our streets, telling people to keep their guard up from
murderous knives. The rot has seeped into our celebration.
Anaconda sounds great, but until Parliament is reconvened, until there is
a budget for the measures suggested, from increasing police presence to
building communities, it will remain a band aid on crime.
I have always maintained that all darkness carries its own diamond,
flashing points of light out of which human hope is fashioned.
One such flash came in the form of a town meeting I attended at the
Chinese Association by the Cascade/St Ann’s, community. It was their
second such meeting.
residents of this community had enough. They could no longer look on
helplessly as their community haemorrhaged, unravelled. Their
‘protection committee’ mobilised its residents and got the MP for the
area, Agriculture Minister John Rahael, to listen to their concerns
first-hand. It was an explosion of democracy at its best. A solid, unified
unit of more than 400 people speaking out.
woman spoke of the unsanitary cemetery opposite her home that resembled a
dump, hadn’t been cleaned for months and reeked with the stench of dead
bodies dug only two or three feet. Young men repeatedly told their elders
they don’t want to be criminals, and hate been looked at with suspicion.
They pointed fingers at the business community, at the politicians on the
podium, saying that by failing to create long-term jobs, they were
creating the “demons of crime”.
woman spoke of a street written off the maps, isolated, riddled with
potholes, plagued with flooding, devoid of drains. Another spoke of an
overflowing drain swarming with mosquitoes, breeding disease.
older, articulate man, who had been unemployed for almost a decade,
demonstrated the fight not to go over the edge: Become a tout, or vagrant.
Women and men spoke of inadequate lighting, power cuts, congested
roadways, broken pavements, crime and unemployment.
man spoke of the enormous role Servol had played in taking thousands of
youth off the streets, teaching them skills and integrating them into
society. He urged politicians to pour funds into existing institutions to
solve social problems, rather than attempting to score political points
with new, unworkable ideas.
everyone at that town meeting spoke of their disillusion with politics and
politicians - of the fact that they no longer felt politics had anything
to do with the people of this country at all. It made you think - multiply
these problems with every community across the country - of how deep the
rot has gone, how removed politicians are from reality.
in these residents’ fight to reclaim their community - in their hands
reaching out to one another, businessmen calling for the creation of a
skills bank, women calling for mobile medical facilities for the elderly,
the strong speaking on behalf of the vulnerable - I witnessed hope out of
little stitches of purl and plain we can knit together a country, empower
ourselves, and demand change and accountability the way the Cascade/St
Ann’s residents did that day.
points of a diamond in the dark.