While I write this, a kidnapped
mother of two teenaged sons, former school teacher and owner of a small
business, Philippa Talma is still with her captors (The seventh victim this
Every minute she is held, thousands
of women feel her terror. Our food doesn’t go down...Is she eating?
In these mercilessly hot days, when
the sun bakes and cracks the parched earth, when five minutes outdoors and
we are covered in an uncomfortable film of sweat, when mosquitoes pester,
our mouths go dry thinking of her.
In the bathroom...We think. Does she
have clean water, basics? When we change our clothes, we think of her
Her ordeal is ours. Why? Because
Philippa Talma represents every woman in this country—strong, independent,
the family glue, gleaming with a sense of endless possibilities.
Every woman with a busy life, racing
from home to work, to schools and to activities and staying up till the
children get home; holding it together. Her background is solidly middle
Scholarly parents, good citizens, a
work ethic that doesn’t expect anything for nothing, that understands the
big picture, of living on an island, of living in the world, but mostly
about giving back passionately.
A no-bling family.
When Philippa taught my children,
among hundreds of others in primary school, looking and dressing like a
gangling teenaged fashionista, she covered the globe in her gestures, in her
off-the-wall, out-of-the-box classes.
The sparkle in her big eyes were
matched by 40 pairs of children’s eyes filled with wonder. She singled out
the dull, the lonely, the sad, the insecure children and “bigged” them up.
It’s what mothers instinctively do.
I know there are people who will
steups because this is a middle class kidnapping. There is an awful phrase
we all use—spiteful, insular and dripping with the bitterness of living
lazy, unfulfilled lives—“she look for dat!”
Compassion for women like Philippa
will be stifled under antipathy, for her education and the colour of her
skin, which is viewed as a ticket to privilege.
It is politically incorrect to care
too much about women like her. And if you ask why, some pugnacious person
will tell you “What about the shootings in Laventille, in Central every
Empathy for the victims of horrible
crimes for one segment of society cannot preclude empathy for other
But women like Philippa are
bizarrely made to feel less worthy of citizenship, of protection, of
compassion, precisely because they create humanity in a state that
undermines it daily, that puts buildings and votes before education and
Women throughout this country are a
terrorised species, perpetually on guard. They speak of rapes and attempted
rapes and tell stories of robberies.
An attack on someone like Philippa,
like thousands of ordinary law-abiding women, is similar to women and
children getting caught in gang warfare crossfire in depressed areas.
Both groups are weak,
disenfranchised. It’s not taking away any political points from half-a-dozen
people who rule this country.
It’s not touching the pockets of the
100 or so people, local and foreign top dogs, who run our oil wealth between
them and who think citizens should suck it up.
But the State should know that
indifference is spawning a rot that could eat away at the entire underbelly
of society and create an unstoppable rage that could turn beast.
Journalist Raoul Pantin, a hostage
in 1990, said the attempted coup was an identifiable group insurgency.
Now, insurgents are everywhere. The
entire country is being held hostage.
The backlash will come.