Like every other family, members of the Caribbean community sometimes reach close to hating each other. Scraping and scratching, but never quite getting around to drawing heavy blood.
I don’t know if people here are noticing, but T&T’s bountiful years (and they’re now gone) have left a trail of fraternal, regional wounds whose scabs are increasingly being excavated and left exposed. Because we also appear blissfully unaware of this, many injuries remain largely untreated.
This goes beyond the seemingly minor fact that every time there are high-profile flare-ups between this country and Jamaica, I get my rotis and curry mango taken away from me at the customs gate at Norman Manley Airport.
It is more than the response from one journalism trainee in Saint Lucia responding with the word “arrogant” a split-second after I asked what reminds people there of Trinidad and Tobago.
It is what I was told by a Paramaribo taxi driver who pointed disapprovingly at what seemed to be the largest billboard in the city announcing the presence of a T&T bank there.
All of this has come to mind now that Guyana, whose passport has been long-despised at so many Caribbean ports, approaches its own years of abundance.
For example, one former government minister there has met little resistance to his repeated insistence that experienced T&T energy companies, experts, entrepreneurs and various hustlers, sensing opportunity in Georgetown, are now flocking to a place they once openly despised and should be repelled.
Said Robert Persaud in a recent Demerara Waves news story: Guyana has a had history of being unfairly treated by sister Caricom member states and the latest is the “predatory” approach by T&T companies on Guyana’s emerging oil and gas sector.
The problem with all of this, however, is that in the process of reminding us of our scorn, there is the possibility that mutually-advantageous engagement of our 100-year old skills and resources in this industry can be missed, even as bigger, more sinister (but apparently more attractive) predators abound.
Hopefully, next week when we meet in Bridgetown, single market stakeholders will lift the covers on some of this. Not that we mindlessly kick and cuss one another - we simply don’t have the time for that - but that we nuance the technical discussions against some of these psychic realities.
For, every time I raise the question of our regional descent, I am reminded by somebody of T&T’s past charity. I am told that in the six years of the Caricom Multilateral Clearing Facility, this country was the mechanism’s single most generous benefactor. I am provided with a listing of unpaid or forgiven debts and told of the times when ailing regional institutions were single-handedly rescued.
But there are few better ways to completely miss the point. The current Caribbean queasiness over T&T is much more an affair of the heart than it is a matter of financial balance sheets or international treaty.
For this reason, any effort to restore balance requires the weight of both official and informal intervention.
So, it is good that Barbados prime minister Mia Mottley is vigorously leading the current charge to stimulate greater stakeholder engagement of the CSME process. She has emerged as the project’s most committed advocate at that level in many, many years.
But it is equally important that the main players in the non-governmental sectors adopt a greater leadership role in what is to become of economic integration under these challenging circumstances. We need, for instance, to begin summoning the politicians to our own consultations.
Of course, all of this amounts to nothing if there are those who persist in the belief that our future as sovereign states resides in some form of continental destiny or, more ridiculously, as discrete little entities fooling ourselves. This is a trap about which there is little evident wariness, even when there is studied analysis. It is the point though at which the family begins to dismantle and to eventually disappear.
It’s the point at which the fight becomes bloody and murderous.