Living in a wounded new world


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Category: Trinidad Society 07 Dec 14


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 obscure title.

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 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.

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur