Living in a fog

 

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Category: Reflections 01 Jun 14

 

If it be your will If there is a choice

Let the rivers fill Let the hills rejoice

Let your mercy spill On all these burning hearts in hell

If it be your will To make us well

And draw us near And bind us tight

All your children here In their rags of light

In our rags of light All dressed to kill

And end this night If it be your will.

Leonard Norman Cohen

 

We think in images and speak with our bodies mostly because we are a visual people, a people of the senses. Our men laugh with their bellies and woo us with sounds like “oohmmmmm.” We are sartorial, our humour effortless, without saying much...from “ooo kayy” (which means, you are out of your firetrucking mind to borrow a great word from my fellow writer BC) to the sound effects in conversations, “and just so, she fall down, bradaap.” We point with our lips and talk with our hips. We give inanimate objects like floors that we slip on, doors that slam shut on our arm injured accusatory looks because we need them to know they caused us pain. A tilt of our head upwards with lowered eyes can bring our hubris-fed bravado to a screeching halt. “I is a king. I is a minister. I is a celebrity.” “Really? You really feel you are all that?” or “Go ahead and feel so.”

When we are away from Trinidad, there is an indescribable ache. As the plane hovers mid-air before its decent, our hearts lurch to the joy of the familiarity of our hills. Lately, I’ve begun to notice something else. Listlessness. The generous and soft-hearted are now considered strange. We are becoming crustacean crabs in a barrel and pulling our own hair out, ripping out beauty. People are beginning to look like they are in a fog.

Young women working in shops, already padded with middle-age fat, don’t meet your eyes while they cash. They look startled at a request for service. Orders have to be repeated at eating places. Getting a coffee in an empty coffee shop can be more stressful than a deadline. More and more, people are saying their hobby is “sleeping” on a Sunday and a Saturday.

People act like they have “nothing to do, and whole day to do it.” The rage is still active on the roads, a battleground to vent, to show off, to win, to shoot, to butcher. Recently, I went to a therapist. She told me that after a traumatic event in my life I lived in a fog. She discovered I didn’t want to engage. I didn’t want to learn anything new. I didn’t want to push my boundaries. I didn’t care about achieving. I didn’t give a damn, yet felt like a victim. A touch was a blow. The world was against me (even when it wasn’t). I was easily moved to extremes, tears or rage. Kindness could make me sob. There was no in-between before I began the road to healing.

This made me think of us all, of each of you reading this. We are, us all, a grieving nation. A frozen country. A therapist could ask us, you and me, “What happened? Where is your promise? Where is your lively curiosity? Where is your passion for work, beauty? Do you love yourself?” We could answer collectively. No, we don’t love ourselves because we are mad as hell. Our parents, Mr and Mrs Government crippled us by throwing free meals and Carnival parties for us, but withheld the tools that would allow us to thrive. They spend billions on laptops, but not on training schools or increased salaries for our teachers. So 400,000 of us in this oil rich country still can't read properly doc. Functionally illiterate. We are disabled dependents.

Transparency International tells us we don’t know where the money is going. Institutions without integrity are crumbling. That makes us angry. That’s why our newspapers have become obituaries, from cover to cover, of suicides, road deaths, gang killings, multiple stabbings, rounds of bullets making us among the top murderous states in a non-warring country.

To forget the trauma, we eat. We eat to forget, so now we are the seventh most obese country in the world with its attendant illnesses of heart disease, diabetes and hypertension. We are neglected. Our parents squander our money on new buildings and contracts, while our hospitals are understaffed and overrun with rats.

Our police force is feared rather than respected, and the judiciary weighed down, so justice is rarely served. With that there is a sense of menace, of deadly splintering of our islands symptomised by the cold-blooded assassination of Dana Seetahal, a strong advocate for criminal justice reform, by the death threat to a journalist who has gone into hiding, and anonymous people walking with racist placards. We are grieving, increasingly illiterate, unsafe, ill and powerless.

So yes, we sleep, we kill, and we live in a fog. And no, doc, we will not give up. We have buckled, but we know that what Rumi said is right, the wound is where the light enters us. We’ve acknowledged it. So as a step towards healing, we the children of this country, rags of light, are acknowledging the wound waiting for the hills to rejoice. Waiting for the light.

 

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur