There was a time when Gary Aboud and Fishermen and Friends of the Sea mounted a spirited and public campaign against the former government giving permission to decimate the mangrove at the end of Wrightson Road for the development of a cineplex and in the beginning, he got some support against the destruction of the natural habitat of the blue hairy crab.
To me the issue was a serious one, and I learnt a lot the day I spent "protesting" with Gary under that white tent he occupied for the duration. Now the complex we were protesting is fully built and is arguably the most successful commercial enterprise in this country's history, spawning further development and expanding throughout both islands and into the wider Caribbean.
And if Gary Aboud sticks to his guns (and knowing him I fully expect him to) and he never goes to that particular complex or any of its spin-offs, chances are he would be the only one in T&T to do so.
Why? Is it because we don't care about the mangrove and the blue hairy crab? No, not particularly. In fact, given the choice, the average good-hearted Trini would hope that both movies and blue hairy crabs could co-exist in fun, loving harmony; but if given the choice of only one, then things are going to have to be tough for that crab.
We are notoriously selfish when it comes to our convenience and our entertainment, and while we Trinis would shake our heads in temporary dismay if (we) found out the very road to our favourite movies was actually paved with the shells of those blue hairy crabs, we would still go, because we have been fed a diet of the price of progress for so long that we have come to terms with it. We are good at rationalising anything.
This is a country that paved its largest natural green city space to allow for a two-day romp, and the most ardent naturalists and every activist of note could be seen on any given Carnival Monday and Tuesday jumping up and down and wining low on that bit of tarmac, not in protest but in celebration, not of the pitch or the blue hairy crab, but in our right to do so.
We protest the hunting of wildlife, but eat more meat than anywhere else in the western world. To us turtles are sacrosanct, sentient beings, while chickens– not so much; we eat them by the ton. Are we hypocrites?
No, but we are a little bored and easily misguided with our good hearts and best intentions. A video of a swimmer saving an errant deer from drowning in Chaguramas goes viral, while the 14 dead dog corpses that one has to pass along the way to the scene of the heroism are all but ignored, no mindshare given to their plight.
Now this same deer seems to have been saved again in another viral video, begging the question: why should we be saving deer that seem intent on drowning themselves?Am I heartless? Far from it. I am the type of person that would fight for the deer and the dogs if you let me, but I know the country I live in.
To get our right to jump in the Savannah, we conveniently ignore the memory of one of the truckloads of gravel used to pave it being dumped on top of a protesting Eden Shand, another environmentalist who will be remembered more for his words and his works, not his successes. This is Trinidad. Convenience and entertainment comes first.
It is the same situation with the disputed Point Fortin Highway. Having spent some time with Dr Wayne Kublalsingh, I want to say that as far as men of conviction go, I stand and applaud him. And while I never really understood the nuts and bolts of his cause, as an activist I supported him in his right to fight for it and made myself available in the struggle. And if Wayne was the lead campaigner against that cineplex, chances are, ten years later his tent might still be there in the middle of the highway.
But there comes a time when you have to face the truth: that if the people want the "progress" that you are protesting against, you are going to have to be prepared to lose. No one understands on whose behalf he is protesting and why; what they know is that they want the convenience of their highway, and it will be built even if it has to built over him.
We are a people who have torn down historic structures with nary a glance back at our history. The hairy blue crab has lost again. Someone needs to tell Wayne that the fight is over, that it is time to dismantle that symbolic tent and move on.
Phillip Edward Alexander