Time to take up the hammer


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Category: Trinidad Society Date: 12 Mar 06


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.


He wrote:


“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 works.


“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 writings.


“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!”


E-mail letter


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 free.


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 difficult questions.


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 stops.


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 our souls.


It’s time to take up the hammers.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur