eulogy for the demise of an obscenely expensive blimp, now limp on the
ground. It had a short, unremarkable career in the air, failed to stop a
single crime, prevent an arms or drug shipment, detect a single kidnapper
or murderer, and justify its pointless existence in the air.
another on the way to repeat the failure of its predecessor, something
strange happened to me. I began seeing blimps all around me. They were not
always in that ghostly, spacey form of the blimp we saw floating aimlessly
in the skies, but took the shape of groups of humans. I was afraid. You
should be, too. Before you think me mad, let me explain.
unique thing about Trinidad is our mobility. How we can be sitting
chatting with a couple in a palatial home one day, breaking bread with a
family living in government housing the next, and hanging out buying
doubles, hearing the stories from boys on the street the third? That
allows us a perspective from the sky of Blimp groups on the ground.
this one. Consider the openly ostentatious people. When you talk to this
group, you often find that the whole point of their lives is not the
pursuit of pleasure or comfort but of self-importance, of a sense of self,
their homes you see marble toilets but no book unless it’s a manual. You
see imported rugs, gilded furniture but little evidence of travel. You
hear a lot of talk of their own harsh, poor childhoods, their struggle to
“make it” but now they openly, sadistically flaunt their wealth to
over 400,000 people in this country who live below the poverty line, on
less than $2 a day, people who choose between Crix and sardines.
that’s a Blimp. Full of hot air, full of its own self- importance, but
irrelevant, even damaging, in a developing country that requires a huge
degree of awareness of the widening gap between the rich and poor.
this Blimp: gangs of young men who, in the absence of real education
(denied to them by another Blimp, a government that splurges on sports
stadiums rather than teaching colleges and, as a result, sends forth
10,000 illiterate youth into our already dangerous streets every year),
are, upon being handed guns and drugs, immediately puffed out into Blimps.
Blimps, filled with nothing but hot air (no thought, no ambition, no
education, no curiosity, no invention, no humanity, a legacy of
gimme-gimme, bling bling) are frequently burst as they kill one another
Power Blimps: We rarely meet the manufacturers of Blimps, politicians, big
businessmen, but hear their verbiage, empty promises—free tertiary
education (yet to materialise), health care (where’s the HIV/Aids
hospital?), decent terms for employees (who’s checking in our lawless
state?). Poke them. Nothing there. Only hot air.
is another Blimp, better camouflaged than the rest. It’s the NGO Blimp.
We’ve lost count of how many Non-Governmental Organisations we have in
this country. But look closely and see how “aid” that is that is
regularly granted from international organisations for “projects” on
poverty, literacy, the homeless, is redirected into the pockets of those
running them, swindled under “administration costs” in these
are many decent NGOs but there is still too much hot air in the NGO
Blimps, which can easily be punctured by an independent audit.
Blimps would have collapsed if it weren’t for ordinary citizens who keep
this country going—non-Blimps who stand for something, who understand
the context in which we live, a developing country with 40 per cent living
under the poverty line, 30 per cent functionally literate, among the
highest incidence of HIV/Aids after Sub-Saharan Africa, and among the
lowest expenditure on health and education in the region.
foot soldiers: mothers who guide, fathers who stick around, teachers who
passionately teach, professionals committed to above-board excellence,
police we can trust, watch dogs, journalists, politicians, citizens who
monitor the use of government resources, whistleblowers on wheeling
dealing boys’ clubs. Those are our tools.