are what I really need
I'll rob a store
live in Italy
my luck has been so bad
know the roulette wheels
losing all I have
I slowly slip away
all the dull routine
with me every day
fantasy will come to me"
from Supertramp, 70s rock band.
is difficult not to feel a sense of generalised anxiety while a
ten-year-old kidnapped boy remains missing. When a young man remains
missing. Why? Because it's not just about the boy or the young man,
however traumatic it is. It's about what we've turned into. It's about
what's happening to us.
Hitler-and this is an extreme example-but writers take that liberty-gassed
the Jews, everybody, even historians, took the view that this systematic
murder of six million people was the act of a deranged vile creature. I
believe Hitler was the symptom of an already sick country. Thousands of
bigoted people in their own way contributed to the holocaust.
the same in our country. We have created a country in which kidnapping is
seen as an opportunity rather than a heinous crime.
almost every level, from the thousands of illiterate unemployed stomping
around our country and the small time hustlers, to the small businessmen,
to the young executives, the big businessmen, we've turned into a
drowning, myopic people who are beginning to believe that "grabbing''
will rescue us.
the people who grabbed little Vijay felt that way -that grabbing him would
bring them security. Would save them from their own drowning.
rare now to come across anyone who doesn't want something. Liaisons -you
can hardly call them friendships anymore- are shrewd, calculated
investments. The casual conversation in which neither party wants anything
from the other except for a little bit of human contact is almost extinct.
ex-government official wants a contract. The hairdresser wants a cheap
rental. The public servant wants more money, more time off. The
calypsonian wants more air time. The contractor wants a gratuity. Nothing
wrong with that. A man's gotta live. A man's gotta eat. A woman's got to
live. A woman's got to feed her children.
it capitalism, call it globalisation-it's a hustle to survive, whether
you're living in the slums in Calcutta or you're one of the people working
in the Algico building in Trinidad.
alone is not enough for man. Pleasure is the real quest. Avoiding pain is
another. So we combine the two with narcotics, generally-music, alcohol,
food, sex, mindless films, videos, television. Money buys it all.
hitting the mid-life crisis seek young flesh; women gravitate towards
comfort food to escape.
is there anything else? I mean apart from the other narcotic of religious
dogma? Of ritual and chanting and rosaries and dunking to get us through
we simply treading water to survive and are we panting so hard we can't
see the ocean around us?
suppose my main question is, looking around at the increasingly
tight-lipped, angry people - myself included-at times in this land where
savagery is difficult to escape, where photos of pre-pubescent
girls-little children really-dolled up in an obscene burlesque parade of
"beauty competitions" are printed alongside news of yet another
rape of a minor by a big hardback man; where government ministers promote
an atmosphere of vague religious superstition by building a chapel at the
airport to counter a spate of "mishaps'' instead of putting systems
into place so they won't happen.
is good. Sport is good. Beauty contests are ridiculous but if the idea of
a mincing woman with paint on her face and a bikini on her bottom gives us
a sense of pride so be it.
folks, fellow citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, look up from treading water
for an instant and see the ocean around you. Look at our sinking ship
have streets to clean, boulevards to create, dumps to sort out, adults to
educate-not just to learn to read and write, but about HIV/Aids, about
nutrition, the fried chicken and chips-the fat and sugar and flour, the
soft drinks that inject our bodies with the poison of cancer, heart
disease, diabetes, high blood pressure. We need to stop our people from
falling into the misery of preventable illnesses by selling them on
exercise, which allows them to be exuberant, alert, young and productive
for decades. There is other work to do. We have medical and police systems
to sort out. We need computer specialists, health care specialists, law
have to saturate ourselves with education-all sorts. There are hundreds of
thousands of our people wandering around with all these latent talents and
skills- people who want to be all they can be, who can build rather than
pull down this country. We need to get them before they turn into the
more importantly, even before we tear our eyes away from the nubile
dancing girls, and switch off the music that dulls our brains, before we
put the hustle in its place, we need to reclaim something. Our fading
sense of wonder about the world. Do whatever it takes. Hike in the
forests, wade in rivers, read great literature, look outward beyond the
blue, to the curve of the world, sit quietly and pick at the grass
childishly, trusting that the world is on our side, that ten-year-old boys
will be not be grabbed, will be brought home safely.