Neutral Realist


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Category: Trinidad Politics 04 Nov 07

Christmas-type breezes and early darkening skies mingle with election excitement. At one level we are like old and wise people who have seen it all and can predict, given our country’s racial split, that this three-way race will end in tears for one courageous leader, in happy opposition for two jet-setters and a soaring victory for the fourth who is set to snuggle down comfortably in the prime minister’s house in the small hours of November 6.

At another level we are still children, wondering if there is a wild card, a secret somewhere amidst ourselves that will be revealed on November 5.

I still feel uncomfortable that the results are so obvious. I predicted the exact results suggested by the Nacta poll to an angry COP supporter and I am not a political analyst. Just a neutral realist.

I realise that cynicism is death to idealism and if everyone thought like me there would be no change, no hope and no new movement. Sometimes you need to bury your head in the sand to burrow for change from below.

In the glory days of Selby Wilson (one of our best finance ministers in the NAR, a truly golden era when people everywhere demonstrated the might of the vote, rejected tribalism and united for change) we knew that it didn’t matter which government came into power they were going to have to do as the IMF told them to do in return for lending us money.

Our politics were not of the left, or the right, not liberal or conservative, or labour. Our politics were “Conditionalities” of the IMF.

I feel sorry for our politicians and I feel sorrier for the electorate.

Weepy nostalgia

The NAR phenomenon apart, our politicians never matured. They led like children gone mad in a free sweet shop with one eye on controlling and stealing the goodies and the other on keeping the hoards who elected them tame (quiet and unquestioning) with freebies from make-work programmes.

Like abandoned semi-literate children, we were never given a chance to see what sort of politics suited us. We were never educated about what we should look for in a representative. The representative was never educated about what he should do for his constituency.

We were taught to aspire for material gains in the west, but didn’t know how to work for it, or agitate for a government that was going to allow us to get there.

One thing kept the wheels oiled and rolling. Race. Politicians found it easy and voters found it easy. We never moved beyond the ABC of politics.

We voted like sheep then, for people of our own race, and we are going to vote like sheep again.

But one area where the world hasn’t been able to touch us is our tolerance. Despite the damage politicians have done with racial politics we have had six free and fair elections. Given our demographic racial split it is astonishing how free we are of violence in crowds of thousands, whether we are voting or drinking.

Apart from our young boys killing one another for drugs or “make work” turf, the high functional illiteracy and lack of sustainable jobs, which impoverishes people mentally as well as materially, we are an incredible twin nation.

At this time of year, our country is particularly beautiful. Soft light, cool breezes—our hills, coastline, lush foliage, elicit the kind of weepy nostalgia only a lost love can.

I already know the outcome of the elections. Yet, I am watching. Hoping we will respect one another as we always have done and keep the peace rising as we always have, above “the thugs” and “the politics.”


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur