Politicians turned our faith into fear


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Category: Trinidad Politics 19 Jul 15

Some weeks back, I wrote glowingly about the NHS care I received in London for a debilitating migraine, excruciating pain and dehydration. Recently, researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said one in 28 NHS deaths could be attributed to poor care such as inattentive monitoring of the patient’s condition, doctors making the wrong diagnosis, or patients being prescribed the wrong medicine. This shows me two things. The first is, no matter how many caring, dedicated physicians there are (there are many), if there is a lack of accountability, if health gets mixed up with politics, people die. The second is, we wouldn’t even begin to be able to do a similar study in T&T because we live in a kingdom of fear and lack of accountability.

As in almost every public service in this country: works, housing, gas and oil industries, education, armed services, administration of justice, Cepep, healthcare is run like a mini kingdom. Like every monarchy, the cadre of people rule with an iron hand, with the fist of fear that keeps people ignorant and cowed. Then there are the sycophants who buy their way into favour, and a profusion of jokers.

There is no democracy here. It feels like living in the days of the Raj, where a monarch invests great power into small rulers who do what they want. The serfs (the rest of us) are allowed to make noises at festivals of the flesh—the six-month run-up to Carnival, and the festival of consumption—the three-month runup to Christmas, and murdering one another which is dismissed as ‘gang related’ or ‘domestic’ but never recognised for what it is, a society that is splitting at the seams due to political neglect.

We are given four days off to drug ourselves up with alcohol, sex and freeness. At a price. Our free will has been broken. We are crippled into inaction. Real education is denied us—our teachers are not respected or paid or educated properly. Our children run wild, straight into the spectacle.

Kingdoms like spectacles. As Trotsky told CLR James, we use the spectacle instead of politics. What is politics? It’s about power. Power to do what? Well, outwardly at least, it is the power invested in you by the people who voted for you to run the country on behalf of the people.

Politicians are servants of the people. Do we see it like that? No. We jump in awe as the minister of this or that walks past all the workers in his ministry with his accoutrement that includes bodyguards, entourage, designer shades, a walk of urgency that culminates in a VIP room where he is served salmon sandwiches or if he feels for it, cow heel soup.

The atmosphere is one that is designed to instill fear in the ordinary clerk who looks intently at his computer hoping to avoid scrutiny that may pillory him or her. There is no wonder then, that a column I did on Jack Warner got almost 2,000 likes and my plea for answers in healthcare met by virtual silence.

What does that tell me? This: people are afraid to talk. They are afraid for their jobs. That we are comfortable with a public lynching— not private introspection.

There is no space where people feel free to think. We are not even aware how anxious we are. How careful. The rage comes out on the radio in inchoate, rambling, anxious, hating anxiety, sometimes directed at personalities, sometimes directed at another race. It comes out in our everyday murders. But we dare not come out and ask for redress or accountability.

The best way to keep someone unbalanced is to keep them guessing, to keep them without knowledge, to make us feel too unworthy to ask questions. We have to acknowledge it’s a psychological game. Every time we are afraid, we play that game. I asked some questions last week, starting with, “What is the state of public healthcare in this country?” In private conversations I get regaled, but in public we are fearful.

Why should we speak out? Why care? Everyone should care. If you have dependents, you should care. If you are diabetic, you should care. If you have hypertension, you should care. If you have heart disease, you should care. If you are obese, you should care. If you have cancer, you should care. If you are in line for chemotherapy, a kidney or heart surgery, you should care.

You should care about your life, and your quality of life, and the taxes you pay, and the returns you get for these taxes. You should care about your children's health, and the health of the elderly in your family.

When you see those politicians on the platform in their bright yellows and reds you shouldn’t think “how can I be diverted from my own life, laugh away my frustration at these performers?”

We should take our heads out of the sand and say damn, it's about me. It's about my heart, my lungs, my diabetes. These people on the podium singing and dancing and hiring calypsonians to make us all laugh and jeer at another section of the population aren’t doing their jobs. It's hard to keep your eye on the ball. Reality is hard. It's lonely, this talking about issues in the run-up to the September 7 election, when the juice is in the politics. Despite Trostskys warning that spectator sports is a substitute to politics, I plod on hoping people will care about the issues in T&T, and ultimately reclaim our power over our servants, the politicians who took our faith and turned it into fear.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur