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Category: Trinidad Politics Date: 19 Jun 05


We dread state intrusion. It conjures images of marching feet, force, guns, dictatorships. We agree on that.


The concept of the State as Big Brother, the giant all-knowing, always-watching machine, wired up to the minutiae of our lives, penetrating our psyche, ordering our politics, religion and loves, is abhorrent to us; recognised as the biggest threat to human liberty.


Millions have perished under such regimes, perished for belonging to the wrong religion, race, or political persuasion under the eyes of watchful brutish states.


Think Hitlerís Germany, Mao Zedongís China, Stalinís regime, Rwanda, Khmer Rouge.


But what happens when the State does the opposite? When the whole idea of a nation state dwindles into a glob of men and women who donít give a damn. Abscond. Close up shop. Tell the people that their problem is their problem. Goodbye and thank you.


What happens when a State says, ďYou pay taxes, you voted us in, you live in a democracy but na ne na ne boo boo, now you are helpless, we are in charge.Ē


We will throw crumbs to hungry people, just enough to keep the masses from breaking down our doors, just enough to prevent a revolution, just enough to drug the angry ignorant men who have grown up in an educational system that has failed to educate them so they keep coming back for more, carnival, chutney and hangings to distract them, but we wonít teach them to fish, to read, to work, to study, to become self-reliant.


What happens when the State says health, education, jobs, representation? Your problem.


Thatís when people become preoccupied with the State. Like obsessive, rejected lovers we give up ownership of our lives. We know from the time we wake up, to the curses and shouts of angry men on the streets, to the aggressive driving we encounter on the roads, in the long, airless days we spend in lines like sheep in Government offices waiting our turn, to the sleepy policemen who write our complaints in long hand and languidly, while burping out their lunches, claim that there are no cars to allow them to investigate a break-in, a car theft, an assault, that the State is getting to us.


They simply ignore the children in the country area whoíve never seen a toothbrush, the men who stumble out of bed and head for rum bottles in their villages and towns, unrepresented wastelands with no jobs.


So what are the people to do? We are thrown back on our own resources. We must stop obsessing over this tabanca, this state betrayal by a body of people who are spectacularly adept at forgetting that they are being paid by us the people to serve, to make the lives of the vulnerable better, to push the country forward economically. We have to make it on our own.


On this Labour Day, forget the Nike shoes and shiny and big things we covet out of America. remember how they got it.


The America that was built on the rugged hard-working foundations, the Protestant work ethic of the settlers who broke their backs to create a new world.


A country built from people spat out by the world, by the refugees, the poor, the persecuted, Asians, Africans, Europeans, with empty hands a grim determination which made them do menial work for 16 hours straight, keep shops open for 24 hours, building blocks with education piled on hard work.


Today their children are Americaís sweethearts, doctors, lawyers, scientists, entertainers. Their successes are mirrors going into infinity.


How? Hard work and education.


We are the mimic people. But we canít want Americansí shiny things without working for it. Ours is the bigger challengeóto succeed despite a State that denies us basic rights of health and education. But we are stronger than that. We can do it.


On this Labour Day, donít give up ownership of your lives. Build it. Improvise. Get retired teachers to help. Supervise a child from a broken home. Block by block.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur