“A culture that lacks shame also lacks pride.”
—Ed Latimore @edlatimore Twitter 30/10/19
Back to the grind. The loud music. The bad drives. The grime on the roads. Garbage everywhere, on streets, in rivers, up El Tucuche. The filthy beaches. The foul language. The commess. The lack of courtesy. The sullen, angry faces. The drugs, the crime, the corruption, the grinning politicians. The shame.
There is a savagery inside people now. It was not there a generation ago. It is not confined to the young. It is not confined to men. You see older men, older women filled with pent up aggression, ready to explode at any moment if you deny them what they consider to be their right.
This is life in Trinidad, and Tobago too. All over T&T, life is one stressful event! You have to go away to realise this. Even whilst travelling, one quickly realises the most obnoxious people are Americans and Trinis and, like amoebae, one learns to move away from harmful stimuli.
It’s difficult to visit Barbados and not make comparisons favourable to them. On vacation, relaxed and at ease, one has to take this into account. Still, everything here seems to be done quietly, tastefully and with a certain amount of class.
At one food outlet, I order at 3.30, pick up at 5.30, arrive at 5.40 and the attendant greets me with a smile and gives me my two bags of take away, “no sir, no need to see your receipt, I remember you.” Food is hot and tasty too.
Last week, I had a 9 AM appointment in Bridgetown. We were staying an easy 10-minute drive away. At 8.15 I began to panic, “hurry up, I told my wife, we going to be late.” Of course, it being Barbados, we arrived 30 minutes early. Little traffic. For Trinis, the idea of going somewhere without traffic is like eating chow without pepper.
Look at how we behave on the road, it’s an apt metaphor for life.
It’s so easy to drive in Barbados. People are courteous. They respect the law and each other. Imagine my consternation the first time I arrived at a major intersection and a car stopped to let me in! I had to look around suspiciously and check that nobody was trying to mamaguy me. And it wasn’t my rented car, they do it for my Bajan friends all the time.
They do it for each other. What a quaint notion! Imagine doing something for somebody else! Seeing it as the civilised thing to do. Makes for peaceful driving.
Not here. Not on our poorly maintained roads filled with potholes and swerving cars, aggressive drivers on the wrong side of the road, coming straight for you, causing traffic and too dotish to see the effect.
Where are the traffic police? Where is the traffic plan for the island? Not for two blocks of downtown Port-of-Spain.
Don’t talk about traffic. The hours lost, stuck in a jam. Productivity down. Stress up. The toxic effect on developing children cooped up in cars for three to four hours a day. The effect on family life. On marriages. On prostates and bladders. I am told that elderly gentlemen, ladies and pregnant women, are investing in “pee bottles” to keep in the car.
Where’s the vision?
Mr Manning, at least in the years before he became arrogant and refused to listen to anybody, had his 20:20 fancy. One doubts that any politician since then has anything else in their minds than petty considerations, box drains and the like. The general public continues to fool themselves that we making progress because we have plenty of new cars on the road.
There’s hope. There always is. “That’s why the island hasn’t collapsed,” she said, “because you still have strong families and decent people.”
Bajans complain their way of life is crumbling, that they are only 20 years behind us. Yes, they have their problems. But the way we are going, they will never catch us.