Gorged in oil and blood

 

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Category: Trinidad Society Date: 12 Jun 05

 

Peter Minshall’s mas has stopped. David Rudder has migrated to Canada. Calypso Rose to America. Businessmen have left. Graduates stay away. Students don’t come home on holiday. An entire generation of people have been silenced or removed.

 

The 15-year-old boy now under joint custody with his friends for allegedly shooting two people dead, kidnapping, shooting and leaving a woman for dead after flinging her over a precipice, is a child of 1990. He was born and raised in a country that was suffering from post traumatic stress. Not simply from the attempted coup, the hostage taking, the murders, the burning and looting.

 

No, the infant, who grew up to be a murderer, was born in a country that was pitted post-1990 by a more corrosive fuel which flowed into every crack we ever had. It coiled around a young pregnant woman’s head, telling her that a gun which was shoved into her Prime Minister’s mouth was actually the supreme power.

 

That simple but powerful message that guns silence words in Parliament and television stations, shots can silence thousands, send masses scuttling like no talk can, has permeated our country like nothing else.

 

The cracks, perforated cracks. They were everywhere, ready to lap up the fuel. Don’t you remember the years around 1990? Before and after? Then, we were talking about the high level of poverty—it was 30 per cent of a one million and something population. Remember the images of babies with distended bellies, the prostitute mothers, the unregistered children, the non-people in the Beetham? We were going to sort that out.

 

Then, after tightening and loosening our belts several times, depending on the flow of oil, we were talking about not depending on the oil. We had the Frank Rampersad plan for diversifying, for giving sugar workers a new start. But they and their leader would have none of it. Oh yes, the people of Caroni have been on our minds for decades.

 

Then, we drove into Laventille and pointed the cameras at young men and women who weren’t going to school, at teenaged mothers, at grandmothers and aunts raising children in broken streets smelling of disappointment, listlessness, which made lives cheap, and actions reckless. They were making their own home-made guns then to survive.

 

Then, we were talking about the sick people who lay untreated, dying on the floors in the General Hospital, of the shortage of doctors, beds, nurses and linens. We were going to get systems, accountability, equipment.

 

By then we were familiar with PNM corruption, and not so long after, with UNC corruption, vote and constituency rigging on both sides, with misdemeanours albeit by leaders on both sides of the House. One taking on a Speaker of the House, another a president. We’ve seen it all. Nothing changed.

 

Now we are a people bowed under siege, scarred by the full-blown respectability crime enjoys, the brazen machismo, strutting pride it confers, from the gang boy who gets shot in the back and shoots because it makes him feel like a man, to the bravado of big men in suits.

 

But our biggest downfall is ennui. Frustrated by lazy, corrupt politicians, we have become too depressed to care ourselves.

 

We’ve allowed the oil, sun, wining profusion of public holidays, politics of race to divert us.

 

We look on warily, disbelievingly, as they draft bills and talk talk. About crime, illiteracy, poverty, 2020, diversification, sustainable jobs, road deaths, prison reform, health, tertiary education and reducing dependency.

 

Action, implementation, time-lines, accountability. That’s too much work. The sun is warm on our backs, the lime with the boys and young things going good, the jamming necessary, the oil money flowing.

 

Divert your people. Give them blood, a hanging spectacle. Look away from the mirror of peoples’ soul—the withering mas and music. Forget education, jobs, health. Watch the illiterate, poor, disenfranchised, frightened, holed-up people clapping and shouting. More blood, please!

 

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur