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Country of the inconsolable

Published: 
Sunday, July 1, 2018

A woman at the hairdresser said her 22-year-old daughter is ‘trying’ to stay in Canada after studying there because as she told her mother, it’s better to freeze for three months than dodge bullets for 12 months.

You can hear a variation of this conversation everywhere. Even die-hard Trini to de bone, cricket, Carnival, rum and roti, chutney and soca, doubles and shark and bake fanatics are quietly selling up, shutting up shop, and getting out of these here islands.

Look, we Trinis can live with failing institutions, landfills that are dumps, business strangling red tape, as long as we don’t see it.

Nothing to do with us as long as our carbon dioxide emissions (among the highest in the world) can’t be directly traced to our ill-health; as long as illiteracy can’t be traced to crime and unemployment. We cool.

But I think, walking around a park in the gloaming hour when the perfectly round moon is suspended low; the sun goes down like fire, and the sea shimmers like a girl covered in Carnival glitter; now as the sun and moon cast a tawny, silvery glow over our land; now, instead of being entranced, we are afraid.

We are afraid as the steadily rising murder rate, the brutal robberies, the brutality of gang culture, the white powder that comes in in the dead of the night, by the light of the moon, like clockwork, all of this has arrived, and facing off with each of us.

Every single one of us in this village country of one point three million people has seen the demonic face of crime and violence. It’s happened to us, or someone we know, robbery, fraud, murder, rape, and assault.

Look, we are not naïve. Every global business writes off a certain percentage of earnings to say, shoplifting. We expect politicians to steal, captains of industry to exploit a small, increasingly dumb developing country, we expect gang members to murder. But somewhere this corrosive acceptance of unconscionable behaviour, sorry to say, has seeped down, like the toxins in the Beetham has run into our river beds, into each of us.

‘Offer a solution’, my dad says.

Everyone offers solutions, political commentators, criminologists, sociologists, economists, mistakenly thinking that ‘somebody in charge’ is waiting for your and my ideas to transform the country to its full potential, make it the Singapore of the Caribbean.Folks, nobody is listening.

In the gloaming hour, I realised that this has gradually turned into a country of the inconsolable.

All we have is ourselves, the selves for whom corruption is the new normal, be it littering, or evading taxes, or simply driving off after hitting a car.

For some, this has become intolerable. That is why you will not only have the dwindling of the multi national crowd, but anyone with any means to get away, be it families abroad, a willingness to work alongside the refugees in a safe country with the rule of law, those who have dual passports, professionals who studied abroad and are looking for ways to stay abroad.

Then there are people like me, my parents, lots of people I know who still feel the magic of that breeze on the shimmering ocean, that low moon, and fiery sun, the branches casting moon and sunshine shadows and who say, we are not leaving, where will we go, this is our life, the islands are now in our bones.

Humankind, in these fragile bodies and tender human hearts can only undergo a limited amount of stress. The state has defected from its duty of care to its citizens, contravening our basic human right to safety.

Citizens choose to stay to dodge bullets are finding it extra difficult to cope in our private lives, struggling with finances, illnesses and deaths—the stuff of being human.

If we are unkind and uncooperative with one another, it’s because we are neglecting healing from private grief, so caught up are we in waiting for someone up there to ‘do something’ to shield us as we dodge bullets for 12 months a year.

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