“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
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
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.