say, “Great article” and add, “You must take a stand.” They mean,
“When are you coming out of the closet? Why don’t you just say you are
PNM/UNC/NAR/other new party?” (depending on who they themselves are).
have been evasive about my political affiliations and it’s about time I
come out of the closet. The way they themselves have.
reply variously: “I don’t vote. Never have. I don’t have any
affiliations. I have no agenda. I’m a journalist. An observer. Pushed in
this crumbling state, like many fellow journalists in the absence of an
effective Opposition to take on the role of a self-appointed watchdog to
the State on behalf of the people.”
answers are disappointing to my sceptical interlocutors, who don’t buy
it. In the past this used to amuse me.
I smell rot that’s eating its way to the top. It’s spread to liberal,
progressive people of all races—business people, academics,
professionals, who previously at least paid lip service to the concept of
voting in competent politicians who put the country first. Tribalism.
don’t know how or when the cancer of tribe happened exactly. Some blame
the original Father of the Nation, the brilliant, charismatic leader Eric
Williams (not the current self-proclaimed one) who with one famous phrase,
“massa day done,” neatly split the country like a watermelon into two
main tribes, parted us better than Moses could the Red Sea.
tribe was sent in droves to a heaving, overweight Public Service in towns
and the other to sugar estates. The psychological weight of that one
stroke of genius, which allowed him to be the Great Maximum Leader was so
enormous that it took on a life and momentum of its own, that has spanned
four decades and created sub-cultures in both tribes.
top layers of the mainly urban, mainly Christian Afro-Trinidadians became
our intellectuals, our technocrats, our writers. The middle layer became
the perpetual beneficiaries with jobs-for-life for pushing paper.
last layer was squashed under the first two. Poor, uneducated, deprived of
housing, infrastructure and jobs, these people became hopelessly dependent
on the State for generations, with ten-day jobs that cut off their hands
in return for a vote.
top layers of the mainly rural, mainly Hindu/Muslim/Presbyterian
Indo-Trinidadians became businessmen, land owners, second generation
prospered but remained strangely raw, which meant that they never really
had a wide voice. (Intellectuals and writers were rare in this tribe,
which didn’t have the time to read, unless it was a manual.)
middle layer became small business people, making their living off the
land, selling vegetables on the highway and markets, running little
last layer, physically removed from the State, remote, dispensable voters,
turned into the most wretched of T&T. Government statistics tell us
that rural Indo-Trinidadians are the poorest, the most illiterate among
us. They are invisible unless you look for them. Children in rags who have
never seen a toothbrush.
lawlessness that is crushing us, the murders, the bombings are emanating
from the squashed third layer of both tribes who know no other way to
live. They don’t value other people’s lives because they see no value
the shortened story thus far.
of the closet, I can say I am disgusted at the Opposition UNC party for
failing to take care of their constituents. Appalled to witness their
internal, very public scramble for personal power involving lawsuits and
is adequate evidence to see there is no unity in that family. With the
exception perhaps of Winston Dookeran, the ragged child in Couva is the
last thing on their ambitious minds.
the reigning party with this jokey Opposition is wining at their carnival,
throwing coins at their dependent urban subjects, not caring about the
flight of capital and people, not caring that illiteracy is rising, that
infrastructure is falling apart, nor that oil will stop flowing.
to withdraw to the closet.