Coming out of the closet

 

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Category: Trinidad Politics Date: 16 Oct 05

 

They 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).

 

I have been evasive about my political affiliations and it’s about time I come out of the closet. The way they themselves have.

 

I 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.”

 

The answers are disappointing to my sceptical interlocutors, who don’t buy it. In the past this used to amuse me.

 

Now 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.

 

I 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.

 

One 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.

 

The 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.

 

The 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.

 

The top layers of the mainly rural, mainly Hindu/Muslim/Presbyterian Indo-Trinidadians became businessmen, land owners, second generation professionals.

 

They 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.)

 

The middle layer became small business people, making their living off the land, selling vegetables on the highway and markets, running little establishments.

 

The 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.

 

The 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 in theirs.

 

That’s the shortened story thus far.

 

Out 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 mud-slinging.

 

There 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.

 

Meanwhile, 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.

 

Better to withdraw to the closet.

 

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur