A restless dying future


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Category: Trinidad Society Date: 27 Feb 05


Itís not fair. I thought at least in my bed I would be safe. From Government. And here they are, ruling and opposition parties, getting into bed with me, keeping me up, wide-eyed, till the small hours of the morning.


Itís not just the murders every 30 hours, or the kidnappings, the way we all, pastor and student, housewife, and businessman/woman, professional and pundit live in self-imposed curfews. Looking over our shoulders. Itís not just the shadow of menace, although you know we all need that multiple police and motorcycle protection detail assigned to the Prime Minister just as much as he does. We all need to drive through red lights in the dark like he does. Perhaps more. Thatís just a given.


To be honest, at this late hour, itís not even the thought of 500,000 people who live below the poverty line, who donít have a roof over their heads. I have told countless politicians: ďYou know, more than 40 per cent of our population live on less than two us dollars a day.Ē They always look surprised and quickly attend to the pleasanter perks of politics, the next FTAA meeting in Miami, or lunch with energy investors from Europe or America in a plush high-rise room with leather chairs, tinkling ice, the thought of big bucks, and a view of the ocean. Itís such a bore to them when they have reached so far in life, sitting in their fancy suits to hear about the Aids-riddled woman selling her body by the Beetham to feed the baby with the distended stomach. So, that too, the poverty of hundreds of thousands of our people, the cheapness with which they view their own lives and that of others after living in the streets, forcefully cleaning windshields, begging in corners, languishing in shacks, crouching and hustling on busy streets, stealing, pimping, touting, drinking, buggering their sons, and molesting their daughters, making handmade guns, robbing pastors, murdering businessmen for cars, pushing drugs, being absorbed into gangs, that too, has become a given.


Iím not lying awake thinking of the runaway HIV/Aids on this tiny island, now second after Sub Saharan Africa or wondering where that money that was put aside in successive budgets to deal with Aids education went. Anyone seen a billboard on the highway?


Right now, Iím too tired to think of the hundreds of people who have died under an unaccountable medical fraternity, who donít get decent health care unless they sell the clothes off their back to private institutions. Like the rest of us, I, too, am resigned to that.


In this late hour when a car roars into the road with a grating angry sound, I can even accept that 50 per cent of our population is functionally illiterate, that 30 per cent of us, thatís 300,000 people canít read or write. I can even accept that we have the lowest rate of tertiary education in the Caribbean. I can accept that the present is dead but there is still enough blood coursing my veins to protest a dead future.


I write an impotent letter in my sleepless tortured head to Important People like Minister Hazel Manning. I canít accept the fact that every year over 15,000 people emerge illiterate from our schools.


Please help us. Our sons and daughters, even those who have passed for prestige schools, donít have regular teachers. Teaching is no longer a profession that requires special training or passes.


Examination papers arenít given out. Neither are syllabuses. No child can pass exams without attending extra lessons by the very teachers who teach them in the day. Today as the Government gets into my bed they are telling me to also accept that our children will emerge from schoolrooms blank with no knowledge, no future, to join the rest of the living dead.


Look at the people in power. With important faces, and nice suits, speeding to a meeting. And all over the country thousands of lights are going out signifying the young face a dying future. Can you sleep easy knowing this?


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur