I will be glad to see the back of 2017. If there is one image that is
emblematic of last year itís my husband and I holding on to one another
for our dear lives during an earthquake. As our building swayed it felt
like forever. I thought this was it. It was really one of those moments
when your life, knowledge, reckonings flash in front of you. If you are
ever unsure about anything, try thinking about it when you think your
life hangs in the balance.
This man in front of you. Your husband.
Youíll keep him. This is the last face you want to see before you die,
whenever you die. The faces of love. Your parents and childrenís faces.
The faces of the dead who live within you. The faces of everyone youíve
loved and lost.
Then there are things you know, in a
flash. The knowledge of rot in foundations of almost every home, a
country without a building code. The knowledge that this rot is a
symptom of a larger rot. Every system in failure and interconnected.
Pan out to the Caribbean; ravaged by
hurricanes, the destroyed jewel that is Dominica.
Last year, we were hopelessly unprepared,
even for flash flooding that followed a non storm. Our collapsed ODPM.
Itís a symptom of a general torpor of neglect in every aspect of
A reminder of the vulnerability of small
island states like ours and how ill-prepared we are for natural
Stay in the region. The crisis in
Venezuela, so close to us, we can see its outline with a naked eye on
clear days. Chilling to think this nation may simply be further along
than us with the diseases of poor economic policy, crime, corruption,
shortages and political conflict. We know that, like us, Venezuela is a
politically divided society, oil accounts for 95 percent of its export
revenues. Like us, oil financed governmentís generous social programmes,
providing one million poor Venezuelans with homes. As oil revenue dried
up, the currency went berserk; with hyperinflation of almost 2,000 per
cent, grocery shelves emptied out of even basics, and pro and
anti-government protesters took to the streets. In Venezuela, the
dispossessed march. Here, they brutalise and murder women and children."
Pan out further. The Islamic State was
everywhere, taking responsibility for attacks globally in London, New
York, Barcelona. But more importantly, with the highest per capita
recruits in Trinidad. Itís as if 1990, which we failed to grapple with,
stayed with us and grew a monster of lawlessness that terrorizes us.
Pan out to America, the land of our
dreams. 2017, never had the political become more personal. When Donald
Trump, a reality star and dodgy businessman, a man who has divided the
world, like an anti-Moses to the water, became President. He touched all
our lives because like a grotesque giant baby monarch, he played with
the world as if it were a giant flower, mingling, nomadic people, and
began ripping apart the stem and petals. Many Trinidadians have close
ties to the US, with family members living there, with children studying
there. We fretted over the travel bans, the racially motivated killings,
trigger-happy gun nation, over Trump goading North Korea to an all out
nuclear war which will affect us all.
There can be no escape to America.
What is our silver lining? First, after
tonight, stop partying like passengers on the Titanic. Then we can stop
wasting a recession and what weíve been talking about forever and ever:
diversify away from oil, adapt to a changing work environment, adapt a
serious work ethic, retool, learn new skills, save, look after our
health knowing we will probably have to pay for treatment of chronic
illnesses from lifestyle choices, look squarely at the wasteland, wade
in, engage, help the dispossessed, be civic citizens. Because there is
no escape. Itís no longer every man for himself in these local and
global tremors. If we want to survive we have to help clear the rot
around us, and that means pulling up the fallen, standing shoulder to
shoulder and facing our reckoning together.
Happy New Year.