Finding the real enemy

 

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Category: Trinidad Society Date: 27 Mar 05

A writer, if s/he has an ear to the ground, is not that different from a drummer passing on the mood of the people. In these past few weeks I’ve passed on the fear, anger and helplessness, and self-imposed curfew of communities who’ve been victimised, traumatised by kidnapping. But that’s just a partial image of a country. A snapshot.

 

As a complex people in a many-layered society we are made of many moods, many communities, colours running into one another, that it’s inaccurate yet, anyway, to say definitively we are this or that.

 

Easter Sunday is, after all, followed by the Hindu spring festival of Phagwa, people congregating in churches, and grounds, marking renewal in their own ways.

 

You say we descendants of five continents have become an increasingly divided society, carving little spaces for ourselves, ever shrinking worlds that rarely interact. You say that that even before a person in this country opens his mouth to speak you know his position on any issue because it will be in absolute correlation with their race, religion and socio economic background.

 

I say that kind of knee-jerk opinion says more about our own insecurities than about anyone else or reality. It’s easy when faced with complexity to run home to our own corners, and shelter with our crowd, join in popular slogans that drown out objectivity. You know what they are, you say them in private, in your porches, and living rooms, in your offices, and over the phone. You know what you think of the other side.

 

But if our renewal lies in watching the clarity in this lovely and destructive dry hot season, as flames rip through crackling dry grass in hills and along highways, as pink, lilac, orange blossoms flare up to counteract fire, we, too, must acknowledge that somewhere, smoke, worse than smoke, acid got into our eyes and hearts.

 

Our vision got so muddy that even good men and women on “the other side” morphed into murderers, and our own murderers took on the look of saints. All along it was the mud talking, not us. It was false. Along the way we lost the gift that all religions say separate humans from animals, that of reason and empathy. We became mindless hordes.

 

That, too, is not the whole truth about us. It’s just another snapshot. The process of putting them together is our panacea, our way back to 20/20 vision.

 

There are millions of snaps of our daily multiracial intermingling, affectionate, respectful, loving, loyal, between us all, teachers and students, professionals and clients, workers and employees, lovers, and friends, scrabble clubs and run clubs, women and men. There are people who come together for births, weddings and deaths. There are friends who grew up together.

 

Faced with this truth, the monster, the “other” race, the “other” party, the “other” leader disappears.

 

It’s just people we are looking at—and like people everywhere, in every race they are good and bad, ugly and lovely. Surely we are big enough to acknowledge that?

 

If you still believe the other side is monstrous, we can stay with this atavistic tugging of rope heaving forwards and back, flinging tea and court cases and invectives at one another, suspicious and paranoid about “hidden agendas,” or we can take one day, like today, like this hiatus given to us by old religions, and nature herself and look at one another.

 

We can allow the monsters which are not outside but in our own eyes to melt so we can see the real human beings opposite us. We can see that the real monster is the senseless gunning down of innocent women, a respected prison official.

 

The real enemy is a trend of flight of capital, professionals and business people. The real enemy is the sight of that lone barefoot man holding the hands of two ragged barefoot children crossing a busy highway, that woman lying half dead under the midday sun. They are descendants of separate continents, but now they are they same.

 

Watch those colours run into one another. That’s real.

 

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur