an island people, we’ve discovered the sand is a convenient place to
hide, a safe place to bury our heads not just from other people, but from
can’t bear too much reality, as a poet once said.
Burying our heads in the sand is often our only option. Clarity can be ruthless, intolerable, pointless.
instance, just this morning I buried my head in the sand, with the
morning’s papers. Like a
puppet, my mouth opened disbelievingly, not knowing what to make of a
second kidnapping in as many weeks, of missiles and cocaine being found in
an Ex-Minister’s home.
eyes glazed over as I read of the soap opera of the investigation into the
airport and more on the million-pound bank account; on the tennis ball
salvos of voter padding being hit back and forth between our two main
events with their panoramic impact - voter padding, an over-priced
airport, unnaturally rich public officials - are everybody business, since
these funds and freedoms, if they have been appropriated, belong to the
kidnappings and drug-related crimes send warning flashes to us as they
always have, that our economy is partially run by the underworld.
That ordinary people are emulating the new (anti) heroes of our
time, smart men, politicians and businessmen who would be insulted at the
thought of actually having to work for their money, since slick talk and
subterfuge is macho, does the trick in no time.
consequence of a non-functioning Parliament, a government gearing up for
the inevitable election, our country
being run as carelessly as the garbage that flies from trucks onto
our weed and grass boulevards.
took an 11 year old boy whose questions, while we were driving on the
highway from Port-of-Spain to San Fernando, caused me to briefly pull my
own head out of the comfortable darkness into the blinding glare of our
world, and take note: “Why,” he asked “do we have such a ugly
harbor?” Why do we have to
have a dump on what was formerly an eco-tourist site, and that, too, up
wind, so at any given point Port-of-Spain stinks? “Why?” he asked as
we drove, “is our highway strewn with garbage, untidy bush and grass?”
he asked, “can’t we landscape the way they do in Barbados?”
“Why,” he asked “are our beaches so dirty?”
had to tell him the truth, “Because nobody gives a damn.
Anyway, for decades, the money required for that has been stolen
I pulled my head out of the sand. I
saw, the highway with its garbage, scattered, ugly bush, its smell of the
dump and desolate buildings. Shabby
Government Offices, where we sort out our taxes, certificates, driver’s
permits (some condemned, all needing urgent refurbishment) where the air
is stale and the workers so neglected and dissolute, that they appear to
be in a semi-stupor, barely able to nod their heads when interfacing with
Ministers’ Offices are plush, of course, with their leather chairs and
their mini-bars. They’ve
given themselves the vote to fix themselves up nicely, thank you very
hospitals, with their sad equipment, their terrible systems for
out-patients, their lack of bed-space for seriously ill people, their long
waiting lists where people die waiting for surgery.
crumbling schools, absent teachers, foul toilets which children train
themselves not to use.
people who, because they don’t read, are inarticulate and ignorant of
the world they live in, who, because their minds are fed with a diet of
video games, television and bad-john stories (where its macho to be a
thug), are without humanity.
was not just the boy who made me see.
It was a nun. Improbable,
but true, for a cynic like me. In
responding to one of my columns, this nun pulled my head out of the sand,
and forced me to look at the reality of a country where girls are willing
to sell their bodies for a box of KFC, of incest victims, of teenage
pregnancies that mean dropping out of school, continuing a cycle of
poverty, illiteracy, dependency on exploitative men, producing more
glare is blinding.
now my head out of the sand, I see on one end of the specter, people
drinking the blue label scotch off the fat of the land on their leather
chairs, on the other, the underworld, who (unlike pretending politicians
and businessmen, are at least open with their demands of wanting something
for nothing), and sandwiched between them, us.
vast majority of ordinary people who work to pay their mortgages and keep
their jobs, whose eyes are daily assaulted with garbage on the road, who
are held up, mugged, raped, whose time is daily wasted by slow Government
offices, who are afraid of public hospitals, who wonder when will have a
properly functioning Government.
easier to shove our heads back in the sand, where we try not to worry
about things we can’t do anything about.
how far we’ve come? A limp democracy, a powerless people living from
diversion to diversion.