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Out of the pan into the firing line

Published: 
Thursday, January 28, 2016

I’ve never been to Korea, neither south nor north. 

It’s not on my life’s itinerary which as ever begins with Cuba (Santiago de, to be precise) and then heads to world roof Tibet, San Basilio de Palenque, Colombia—along with a literary pilgrimage to Baranquillo—Venice, swing down to West Africa and hit the music in Mali, Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Benin and all the Congos where I want to surfeit on soukous and dance all night. I’m not too sure how popular T&T is in Korea, although I can recommend excellent Korean cuisine to be found at the Golden Bell restaurant on Maraval Road. 

But gastronomy aside (even if you haven’t got belly, much less stones, you must know belly is king, queen and imperial heightation here in sweetmout T&T) I want to propose a joint venture, something like a marriage of inconvenience, between us (Trinis) and them (South Koreans). We’re undervalued, on the brink of devaluation and still mamaguying about divussifikashun. So look mi proposal. It seems that the South Koreans take suicide and stress just as seriously we take feting and liming. Having propelled itself from under to over development in record time, the stress involved in achieving in a hugely competitive society has resulted in an overdeveloped suicide rate: up to 40 not so happy workers kill themselves daily. Here of course we don’t have that problem—we’re so happy not working that work-related stress is never the reason we reach for the weedkiller or the rope. Anybody dotish enough to top themselves will get a much quicker job done by standing outside a bar, or on the wrong block in Laventille.

But back to Korea, where critical thinkers (God bless them) have devised “The Death Experience”, to halt the drain on the labour force. A healthy respect for death (not one of our strongest points) makes us value life—is the logic. Without a lengthy digression, it suddenly occurs to me that my proposal might well work with that grisly mob, who should now be called Daesh rather than Islamic State, which many Moslems object to. Daesh is a loose acronym of al-Dawla al-Islamiya al-Iraq al-Sham (Arabic for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) but sounds like the Arabic words Daes (“one who crushes something underfoot”) and Dahes (“one who sows discord”).

The acronym has even become an Arabic word in its own right, with its plural “daw’aish” meaning “bigots who impose their views on others”. Maybe instead of dropping bombs on Daesh we should be giving them a dose of the Death Experience—which I’ll now clarify for your edification. Candidates are advised to prepare for their own demise; to write letters to their nearest and dearest; to seek forgiveness; to draw up their last will and testament. Then, after a last farewell, they are invited to climb into their coffins. The lids are closed and the sound of nails sealing them into their final resting place is simulated, by tapping the coffin lid. These fresh “corpses” are left to stew for up to 10 minutes, before being released into “rebirth”. Unsurprisingly these survivors are reported to have “ a new lease on life” after their brief brush with the grim reaper. 

Anything is possible in the Kingdom of this World, but I’d really like to know if there are any statistics covering those who didn’t make it out of the coffin, how many have choked on terror, been nailed to the box by cardiac arrest? 

Anyway thank your orsishas you weren’t born in South Korea of a melancholic disposition, a fate worse than death or one which might redefine “thinking outside the box”, which now becomes a matter of life and death rather than a lame critical stinking flop phrase. 

But really we should be on a winner here, one which could highlight our feting in the face of death culture and bring planeloads of misanthropes, bi-polarists, catatonics and plain-old suicides to our shores to dodge bullets and wine, wine, wine. Come on we’re original aren’t we. We invented pan and kaiso and doubles so what’s so hard about turning our total disregard for death into a tourist attraction. I can see Midnight Robber copywriters hard at it; “Tired of life? Come join the danse macabre in deadly T&T.” Or “A brush with death gives a taste for life.” 

If you find this in bad taste or simply offensive maybe I’ve succeeded. My suggestion is of course no more serious than was Jonathan Swift’s in his solution to the famine in Ireland, so brilliantly conceived in his Modest Proposal. 

I’m not trivialising depression, suicide or ultimately death. We all have to go, though some of us may be returning, however unwillingly. Sadly however, our nonchalance about both life and death has now brought us to a condition where the innocent pay the price of our levity on a daily basis. 

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