“Trinidad is nice, Trinidad is a paradise.”—Brother Valentino,
Anthony Emrold Phillip
The celebration of the 56th anniversary of our Independence and the approaching 42nd anniversary as a Republic have prompted this reflection on who we are as Trinbagonians, and how we distinguish ourselves to the rest of the world in this era of globalised instantaneous communication and social media.
The melodious chorus of Brother Valentino’s calypso provokes images of palm trees waving in soft breezes along the sun-drenched stretches of sand that ring the coasts of our islands whose fun-loving natives rank high on the happiness index.
However, the bard was quick to dispel those images when he lyrically looked in the proverbial mirror to describe what he saw beneath the beauty of the islands’ skin.
Sadly, his words are even truer today. Trinidad is more paradox than paradise.
We are very good at identifying our societal problems. Yet, while we are good problem-finders, somehow sustained solutions seem to elude us, either because of poor implementation or deliberate rejection.
The Vision 2020 agenda is a case in point. This was a comprehensive plan to forge the development of a unique and noble national identity that would characterise and define us in the rest of the world.
However, this well-intentioned plan fell victim to a politically induced sudden death disorder, and sadly, its noble intent has all but passed out from the national stream of consciousness.
So here we are, a nation adrift in a sea of nondescript identity, with its moral compass visibly broken, leaving some to wonder whether we have all been “zombied” into a cult of moral ambivalence.
There is an obvious increasing tolerance of undesirable behaviours in our country.
We have been unwittingly refining society’s moral slag, as if in a process of reversed refining where what is discarded is the valuable material.
We allow these behaviours to flourish to the point where with each successive generation they are becoming more entrenched in the psyche of our people.
This invasive moral pollution has desensitised us to our social impurities and our youth have come to believe “this is us” or worse, this is who they should be. We have already lost a generation to this trend, some may even say two, and we are on course for losing another.
How long can we continue to ignore the stench of moral decay? Is this really us? Are we seeking to match our happiness rating with equal ratings on disrespect and indiscipline?
Are we aspiring to be in the top ten on the social media verbal abuse and insensitivity index?
Do we want to be infamously known as the crime capital of the Caribbean and the corruption headquarters of the region? Hopefully not!
However, this is what we Trinis will be known for unless we stem the tide of negative behaviours that is flowing through the land. We need to turn on the heat in society’s furnace.
We must begin the task of separating and discarding the moral slag to yield the essence of a more commendatory national identity. To do otherwise would be to prompt another chorus line: Trinidad, it sucks. Trinidad is a paradox.
Trinbagonians, we must get serious and accept the responsibility which falls to every citizen.
From the captain to the cook, all on board the “SS T & T” must be willing participants in the much-needed agenda to pull our beloved country back from becoming a paradox and make it a paradise again, for our children’s sake. Happy anniversaries.
Dr Paula Mark is an independent consultant and teacher development specialist.