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Of factions, fractures, and injury to the national psyche
In the future, T&T will have to consider a Ministry of Peace and Reconciliation.
Its portfolio would include proven healing and purification practices/professionals from the world’s many regions and teachings. Engendering universal participation, it would employ all the social sciences and religious tenets, which can reverse our self-hatred and halt the odium we’re diffusing in tiny T&T.
I’m no soothsayer nor scholar on these matters. I’m just a concerned citizen who values the quality of life of my country and mental wellbeing of its people. I suggest this development because of the frenzied tenor of the national consciousness and the worsening temperature on conversations of race, politics, crime, and corruption or its perception.
Something accounts for almost everything escalating or rather sinking to incendiary levels in T&T.
Each time certain issues capture national attention I’m traumatised, scandalised even, at the speedy spiral into downright dirty and damning from those whose stature portends respect and other otherwise upright citizens whom we expect to maintain politesse.
Instead, we seem so eager to rush to the inflammatory—as if each is trying to out-nasty the last one—and with shameless vulgarity.
Calling it conversation is really leaning on the side of graciousness.
Among the registered assaults was when last November, Jack Warner looked out at a downtown protest march of an estimated 10,000 people and was struck by the “ethnic imbalance” of the crowd.
The people, from various groupings of civil and political unions were protesting the surreptitious proclamation of Section 34 of the Administration of Justice (Indictable Offences) Act, which many still believe was done to facilitate the court matters of some UNC/Government supporters who are facing criminal charges.
Retaliating, Mr Warner introduced race to dismiss the intent of the sizeable protest.
The CCNTV6 recording says, (and I’ve done my best to decipher Mr Warner’s speech as accurately as possible), “I have look out at the crowd here and have seen only Africans. Tell me if this country is for Africans only. Look at the crowds. Where are the other ethnic groups, eh? Where are they? I cannot understand as a country any leader can represent one ethnic group only.”
Mr Warner’s expressions were very unsettling and resonated as a “cheap racist shot.” That was followed by an increase in the repulsion we’ve begun harbouring for holders of high office.
Former UNC minister Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj—at least one East Indian who participated in the protest—sought to correct the perception, saying, “Section 34 was not a party issue, Indian issue, African, or Chinese issue but a people issue.”
But the intended injury had been inflicted. We’d been made to feel that the protest action was by those who “wanted to bring down the government” and not to do with the seriousness with which we as a society should take our governance and ourselves.
Again, the thing that does not the support the government’s position (in a democracy, eh,) is trivialised and we sink deeper into morass.
Last week, having witnessed an exchange on a well-subscribed free-speech forum between a journalist and an artist, my quietude was assaulted again by the viciousness of the “conversation.”
The thing that crumbled into a flesh feast, with both men vying for the other’s head, started out with a commentary on Hilton Sandy’s “Calcutta ship” statement made while canvassing for the upcoming Tobago House of Assembly elections.
The exchanges were appallingly racist, deprecating, and demeaning. One foresaw a bilious, fatal end. Then in a sharp turn, the former fired his salvo, telling the latter he should consider suicide—so “useless” was the artist in the journalist’s estimation.
An apology for that remark and an admission to crossing the line followed.
But good sirs, there are four things that come not back—“the spoken word, the sped arrow, the past life, and the neglected opportunity.”
And without warning my peace was shattered by the interaction of two learned men, embroiled in a debilitating exchange of little moral value.
I’m always thinking concernedly on these exchanges—whether they are related to the fact that Jack Warner could only see Africans, or Hilton Sandy seeing a Calcutta ship coming, and how they translate into dog-eat-dog among the citizenry. And more so, among people of cultured fabric, whose deportment so quickly wanes, and with no regard to the consequences, they feed off each other’s flesh, in plain view.
This situation of race, to quote John F Kennedy as he spoke of America’s mental health in 1963, “has troubled our national conscience—but only as a problem unpleasant to mention, easy to postpone, and despairing of solution.”
I keep wondering how are we going to return from this precipitous path of annihilation of the other; this unnerving loathing that infects our social space, leaving the citizenry severely alienated?
And then we stand amazed that there are 11 reported murders in 12 days!
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