They say writing is like sending out a fish line and this one pulled in
a gem. Last week, my column was a satire, in a voice of the carefree
Trinidadian but it elicited an earnest response.
It was so good that I was glad this reader took me literally.
“Trinidad does not need any more rivers of music and song. It does not
require any more drunken wining and pornographic public displays in the
streets. It needs strong, mature and accountable leadership just to keep the
country afloat, without even beginning to address the requirements for a
successful future. The country desperately needs safe homes free from home
invasions and kidnappings. It needs functioning schools and a judiciary that
“It needs an environmental miracle and open park spaces to soothe the frayed
nerves of the commuting and stressed-out population. The only river that
Trinidad & Tobago needs is one that will wash away the acceptance by its
people of the abject failure of their ability to properly govern themselves.
“My Dear Ira, sadly, if only momentarily, you have allowed yourself to
succumb to a Third World Mentality. I do hope this is not the beginning of
your lapse into the morass that surrounds you. I hope it does not represent
the tamping down of the critical fires that have burned so fiercely in your
“Yes, I and others say many things about you the people of T&T. But in my
case, they are said with an eye on hope not hopelessness for the nation.
After the euphoria of blind love has come and gone, we are forced to wake up
and confront the one we have chosen to lay down with.
“Hopefully, it is not the devil looking back at us with contempt, loathing
and scorn. I wish you well, Madam. I hope your recovery is a speedy one!”
It’s the journalist’s job to mirror our society; bring you stories from the
bowels of humanity; to give a voice to the ragged children who haven’t been
registered in school; to air the plight of neglected teenagers whose fathers
abscond; to tell the story of the 12-year-old boys who were buggered and
killed by bestial adults. Why? To bring wrongs to the light of day, so those
in power can deal with them.
But it’s not working. I read someone at the Oscars said that we who document
our times can no longer simply mirror society. We need to pound it into
shape with a hammer. That hammer does not represent a violent act. That
hammer is called taking a stand and not budging from it. It is asking the
same question week after week until it gets answered.
We can no longer stand by and objectively report on another road death
without commenting on the police who never enforce laws about driving under
the influence, speeding and breaking lights.
We can no longer comment on a woman who has been killed in a domestic
dispute and say the law has taken its course when her perpetrator is set
Because every time we do that, we deny our own humanity. We mutate into
predating animals, wolves, hyenas, vultures. We erode everything that takes
our breath away about humanity, invention, love, laughter, curiosity. That’s
what we are. Or what we were.
To restore ourselves, we have to make our pens, cameras, paintbrushes, and
lyrics do the talking. Our position in society, our finances our medical
teaching, accountant and engineering skills must be put to use to ask
As teachers, we must ask if the children are getting proper care and
attention at home and hold parents accountable. As parents, we hold children
and teachers accountable. As doctors, we need to pry behind that bruise on
the woman’s face, find out who has hurt her and testify in court till he
As patients, we demand the health care due to us. As businessmen, we ask for
the best out of our employees and in turn pay them what they deserve. As
lawyers, we take our role in promoting justice seriously rather than seeing
each case as a wad of cash.
It will be uncomfortable. We won’t get as rich as fast as we would like. We
will be unpopular. People will say we are being cantankerous. But if I were
to judge by the many letters I get from the people I speak to, our souls are
septic. Each time we act like a predator rather than a human, we are eroding
It’s time to take up the hammers.