Burning with rage frozen with incompetence


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Category: Trinidad Society 01 Mar 15

“How could people like these, without words to put to their emotions and passions, manage? They could, at best, only suffer dumbly. Their pains and humiliations would work themselves out in their characters alone: like evil spirits possessing a body, so that the body itself might appear innocent of what it did.” —V S Naipaul, The Enigma of Arrival

The clues are being dropped for us like breadcrumbs every day all the time. A visitor speaks of the beauty of the country but wonders why the service is so “sullen” or as we would say, “sour.” The truth is, in our “callaloo” country we are sour because we are angry and feel picked on. Everyone feels wronged. Hard done-by. Apart from individual lives where people struggle with a country that generally doesn’t work—(a former diplomat told me with an exasperation that he once dialled a government ministry obsessively— like a 100 times, so he began to feel on the border of insanity and still failed to get a simple response from a technocrat). And that frustration comes from a privileged person who doesn’t have to worry about food stamps and waiting for the crazy driving maxi taxi operators.

The average person has two to three hours sliced out of their day in traffic, drive past policemen and women holding guns with terrifying looks on their faces, and read the papers not for news of a nation but the latest bullet-riddled corpse. (Last week’s regular fare—a 19-year-old pregnant woman was shot, a 46-year-old woman shot dead, her daughters bound and gagged).

So what are the people doing? Firstly, lashing out at politicians. With reason. With great reason. We are so traumatised by rising on the corruption index, rising on the global murder rate, with the willy-nilly hiring and firing of incompetent ministers who are genuinely bewildered at their job descriptions. On Facebook, I objected to a particularly nasty but cleverly done meme of the PM with a highly unflattering photograph (demonstrating a constant state of inebriation).

I wrote: “And how does this ridicule help the discussion of how to move the country further. It would have been great if you had used this time and space to give a voice to the voiceless, provide suggestions on how we can deal with poverty, illiteracy and crime or even suggested a good Caribbean book to elevate us. It’s this sort of drivel that keeps us an immature banana republic.”

FB user: “Hun C lightens the moment the Government is ALREADY holding us to ransom. Is either we cry...get ah gun or laugh...we LAUGHING for now !!!”

I wrote back in a kind of desperation: “Yes we could laugh, cry or get a gun or we could even do like most people in developed countries do, work, yes work, study, help the community, be good fathers and mothers, do our best and if we see the Government doing crap become part of lobby groups for change. Yes we could act too.”

The meme Facebooker: “You ever know any injustices that have been dealt with in Trinidad? Calder Hart. Walking free. Anil Roberts free. Volney. Free. Anand. Free Steups get off your f****** high horse and smell your horse s***”

Then on the FB page, people turned on one another based on race.

“Can someone put in a word for the thousands who worked, have worked and are working, but are locked out of the job market because they have the wrong skin colour, wrong kind of hair texture or live on the wrong side of the social divide? Ms Mathur? Anyone?”

Someone posted a Raymond Ramcharitar column where he claimed that the “Dimanche Gras” has a “a strong, noxious racial tinge to its worldview” was “entirely dependent on the State for its sustenance” and concluded that “in effect, the State is keeping hate alive.”

Now I know there are prizes for chutney. And the drivel I hear there, of more broken inchoate songs of rum and private parts, and the sight of prepubescent girls wiggling their hips to entertain lascivious grown men is no better than some other statefunded events like Kiddies Carnival.

I agree that a lot of it is pretty and innocent but in essence, these children are growing up to see culture from the waist down. To his credit, the columnist asked a question I ask almost weekly in this space. “Why is the State starving other arts institutions and new talent of state funding? That I agreed with.

So what are the crumbs? White Trinis complain that they are relentlessly persecuted for being perceived as privileged when often they are not, and work hard or harder than anyone else.

There are other grievances. Everyone sounds like children both in language and in terms of need. None seems to be empowered. People dependent on handouts said food badges were in short supply. Social workers don’t show up. The expression was of hatred but it was also inchoate.

That Alta number of 400,000 functionally illiterate must be much higher. We don’t read. We are burning with rage at one another and frozen with impotence. And because we don’t have the words, we don’t see that we need now more than ever to band together, to pull ourselves out of our lethargy, to reclaim ourselves.

We have misread the problem. It’s not a case of Indian, Chinese, Lebanese, Syrian, French Creole, European and Africans persecuting one another. It’s a case of a battered nation fending off the blows of dependency, illiteracy, corruption, incompetent governance.

We have to recognise that the racial thing is a red herring. Another word for our collective rage. We then have to arm ourselves not with guns but knowledge, training, study, a work ethic, and secondly, collectively, peacefully, say “No” to the horse s*** being fed to us daily by those who govern us.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur