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
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
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.