It just does not add up

 

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Category: Trinidad Society Date: 28 Nov 04

 

The rain was crashing down and I was parking next to a kerb resembling an overflowing drain, through which I attempted to negotiate, when a man shouted out: “Just a little rain and so much flood.” No point.

 

I shut the door and picked up a newspaper, muttering: “A little rain and I can't get out of my car.”

 

A smooth-faced young man rapped on my window. “Please, miss, I am sick.” He sounded like he’d definitely passed his English CXC.

 

“My parents are dead from HIV/Aids. I lost my job when my employers found out. I have to take care of my younger brother.”

 

“Just ask for the money and spare me the story,” I said, feeling mean for being suspicious, thinking is this a hold-up? I looked in his eyes, and reached for my purse.

 

He was for real. And even if he weren’t, whatever made him rap on my window, uncaring that he was being soaked was something desperate. Some place no one wanted to be.

 

He took the money and disappeared into the rain. I sat in the car, overcome with a sinking inertia. Something doesn’t add up.

 

The rain drummed on. I returned to the newspaper reading of another child dead from a landslide, (didn’t two children die in Tobago recently as well?) and ten million precious dollars going on moulding and renovations in Trinidad’s London Embassy.

 

Doesn’t add up.

 

I picked up The Guardian Weekly that gives me my weekly dose of international news from the US, UK and France, hoping to be diverted.

 

Here, I read something that added up. It came from one of Blair’s most critical of commentators who excoriated him over his foreign policy as poodle to Bush, costing at least 100,000 Iraqis and scores of invading troops’ lives, but had to concede this:

 

That Blair, despite his blunders abroad, had performed spectacularly at home, transforming public health care so every sick person, every person, whether requiring a simple diagnosis, or treatment for chronic illnesses, was being tended to.

 

So much so that private health care practitioners are going out of business. Blair’s beefed up education as well. More people than ever are going to high school and university.

 

He understands that First World status is measured by health care and education, and he’s tackling both.

 

So he’s a poodle, but he’s taking care of his people, has made the lives of millions of Brits better. That adds up.

 

What doesn’t add up is that the petro dollars from Bush’s war and his bloated oil prices aren’t doing anything for us.

 

There’s ten million to fix a house in London. Nothing for the poor here. They drip like little drops of blood onto us “isolated cases”—two young children dead in Tobago from a landslide, one dead in Trinidad, the whispers about the mounting dead from HIV/Aids, half of us walking about illiterate.

 

Forgive me, but did I imagine the funds dedicated to the HIV/Aids two budgets ago?

 

Where is it, dear Minister of Health? Did I miss something? And there was going to be a law, wasn’t there enforcing building standards?

 

Or, are squatters, and those living on hills and perpetually flooding areas, and those already buried from HIV/Aids like Iraqis, non people?

 

And why do we have the tiniest enrolment for university in all of the Caribbean?

 

Something doesn’t add up.

 

The rain drummed on.

 

I re-read an e-mail I’d printed from a reader:

“What is now threatening our community survival is the Cepep. This creature of our present government doing has removed almost two generations of farm workers.

 

I disagree that the body of T&T is rotting. It is changing. What is important is to understand those changes and intervene.”

 

Won’t happen. Something doesn’t add up.

 

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur