This week I nearly became immersed in a pointless debate before common sense intervened. A misdirected tirade buoyed by my reckless response spawned a Facebook thread (albeit short-lived). The baseless remarks, however, raised some issues which I thought would be useful for this column.
I propose to demonstrate how a singularly pervasive attitude such as that to which I was exposed this week is a manifestation of the societal inertia that has allowed the criminal elements to prosper, politicians to gleefully betray the populace and has presided over the continued destruction of our limited natural resources.
Shortly after having assumed a position on the board of the Environmental Management Authority, the chorus began: "An' look dem joornaliss only takin' govahment wuk. Pallo Kanaham an' all take ah guvament wuk." Those remarks emanated principally from radio personalities affixed to a particular frequency. In the morning and afternoon they howled bitterly about this "egregious betrayal." My response then was measured; after all, this was ill-informed sputtering from the caverns of those typically not bothered to inform themselves about anything.
It gradually became clear though that these parrots behind the microphones were echoing what is a widely held perception: a board appointment is a "big govahment wuk" This week I was attacked, nay I was mugged, online by someone insistent that "Paolo Kernahan has muzzled himself...since this new Government came into power and he was appointed to the board he get quiet."
I know what you are thinking. If you spare time in your day for the fools you encounter, the only time you will have left is that last fleeting moment when you realise that you have yourself become a fool for having squandered precious time. Yet this individual's zany assertion is important. Indeed, it was his contention that somehow I had abdicated my responsibility as ombudsman, champion of the downtrodden...you get my drift. Naturally, this condemnation hinges on the theory that, in exchange for 30 pieces of silver, I have betrayed the voiceless.
Let me tackle this step by step. If I have indeed been bought by this Government, I would certainly like someone to tell me what I have been bought with. The remuneration for an EMA board member is just over $4,000 a month. For that I have the pleasure of reading reams and reams of documents that give me a head-ache.
As a member of the board I am also obligated to file with the Integrity Commission. For this "big wuk" I have to file all of my personal financial information each year. If I make a mistake or file late I have the honour of having my name placed in the newspapers or, even worse, I can be fined up to $150,000.
If I have been "bought" by the Government it must be that the benefits haven't yet kicked in. Since I left the media I've worked for three years straight with no vacation, seven days a week. A "big gorvahment wuk" sounds great when I get up between 4.30 and five o'clock every morning to crouch in the mangrove in garbage up to my ankles wearing a halo of mosquitoes so that I can get one 30-second shot of a Yellow-Crowned Night Heron.
It's odd that I am supposed to be awash in this largess when "livin' it up" for me means that this week I can buy the Grace corned beef instead of Target. As for my having been "silenced," my record of columns speaks for itself so let those who can read, read and those who can't, sweep. Each week I put a great deal of thought into writing a column which I believe will not only edify but inspire. A column with the Guardian newspaper pays $400, so my motivation for continuing to write should be obvious.
Those who continue to publicly question my integrity knowing that Facebook does not require accuracy or accountability are part of the wider problem. It is easier to target Paolo Kernahan, or the PNM,UNC or COP; it takes little effort to point the finger at the Police Commissioner or the minister because we are a people prepared to do nothing but complain.
The media should "do something" about crime or littering, but if I try to organise a beach cleanup for next weekend, how many of you would show up? If someone in your workplace asked you to take part in an anti-crime rally, would you go? Of course not. As far as you are concerned, it have people dey to do dat.
We have handed the country over to politicians who understand that the people neither want to think nor do for themselves and then we bitch and moan when they lie, steal and disappoint. Writing letters to the editor, calling in to radio stations or bad-mouthing me online is not action. We all know what needs to be done to change our country. We are all just waiting on the other guy to do it.