I’m in London doing a course on creative
writing. It’s bizarre, this student life after all this time. I am
meeting old friends and making new ones. I never thought I would
describe a big city as “gentle,” but that’s how it feels in the way
people, strangers, faceless people in a ticket office on the other end
of the line, the “sorry” of a woman jostling you on the Tube with a
genuine smile, the eagerness of an assistant in a bookshop to find an
But there is another burden. The guilt
of the exiled—of not being physically present to share in the collective
relentless grieving for our dead. We are, remember, counted among the 12
most murderous countries in the world, according to the UN.
The numbing of the unrelenting grief
with soca parang, chutney, etc, takes up so much space that we remain
intellectually and emotionally frozen, even stunted in our small space.
This is tragic in a globalised world where our people are wealthy enough
to travel and be internet-savvy.
So, what’s the news from home? More
murders. I can hardly keep track. Each has its own flavour. Always
gravelly. This is one carried by the Reuters News Agency (November 23).
“Police are investigating the murder of
an elderly German couple found hacked to death on a beach near their
home in the southern Caribbean island of Tobago on Saturday.
“Hubertus Keil, 74, and his wife Birgid,
71, had been visiting Tobago, part of the twin-island nation of T&T, for
the last 15 years and were well known locally, the Tobago House of
Assembly said in a statement published in local media on Sunday.”
What’s interesting now is not the
murders (give us this day our daily bread) but our response to them.
This is one by a writer, Amanda Smyth, living in England:
“I’m half-Trinidadian and lived in
Trinidad on and off. I’ve spent a lot of happy times in Tobago staying
in my cousin’s house, near to where my grandmother lived.
“FB is a great way to keep on top of
what’s going on in T&T; there’s hundreds of postings about all kinds of
local news— Harts band launch, recipes, wildlife pics, art exhibitions,
book/film recommendations, hurricanes, floods, some bullying, yes, sadly
so; family photos, pictures of historical buildings, Caribbean film
festivals. All this is good—and my Trini FB ‘friends’ are active—jumping
in with lively, bold communication, expressing their views.
“But last week, I posted a link to a UK
newspaper reporting on the horrific murder of a German couple in Tobago.
Why did I post it? I wanted to find out how Trinidadians felt about it;
I wanted to hear what they had to say. To my astonishment no one from
Trinidad responded. No one.
Not a ‘like,” not a comment.
And no Trinidadian FB friends mentioned
the shocking brutal murder in their status updates. This big piece of
news that will have enormous repercussions on tourism. Nothing. It was
as if it had never happened. It seems there are some things Trinidadians
are unwilling to discuss. So what’s that about? I am curious.
“When the Greens were attacked, we were
in Tobago, less than ten miles from where the attack took place, and my
mother tried to hide the gruesome cover of the newspaper in case it put
me off visiting. But she needn’t have bothered: the battered faces of
Murium and Peter Green were all over the press in England, too. Just as
the Germans are.”
I know the response was that of a small
island. They are white people. White people have a lot. Every day our
brown and black people die. So why make a big deal if a few white people
die? Eventually some people did respond to Smyth. Here is a response
that tells us a lot about ourselves.
“I have been told...by those who are
supposedly ‘in the know’ that there is a hatred of Germans (by some
Tobagonians) who believe that since Germans have bought land in Tobago,
they have somehow disenfranchised the natives...stolen their right to
own land and houses. The ignorance is hard to believe but the savagery
is even harder.”
There was the other murder of a
28-year-old woman being stabbed 16 times, several of them in the neck,
and almost decapitated in a home invasion in Chase Village.
My comment on this: We hate anyone who
tells us we are ragefilled— we think pastelles, parang, cricket and
Carnival make us who we are. We have failed to even begin the
conversation of how wounded we are as a new world society on the heels
of indentureship and slavery; or how the oil cash instead of allowing us
to invest in our education, our health and our very sense of
civilisation has turned us into brutes.
This is the price of living unexamined
lives, of not educating our people, of voting in poseurs and
exhibitionists otherwise known as our politicians. Mind you, we all love
entertainment but sometimes even the show has to end even if it is to
bury our dead with remorse that drives change and redemption.
Without it we remain
shells of ourselves.