Saturday 30th April, 2005

Attilah Springer
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Out of the box

It is time we as citizens take back our country. An opening statement on an e-mail message that alleged to give the views of expat Trinidadians. Not Trinidadians and Tobagonians, of course, since Tobago hardly ever enters into political discourse about “our” country.

I’ll climb out of my tree-hugging, anti-capitalist box today and try and see it from a capitalist point of view.

Which then motivates me to ask: if we’re speaking in terms of capital, what exactly are we citizens taking back? Did we ever, as citizens, own Trinidad? Well I mean the grassroots people. Jah knows, it’s always been a situation where only a choice few citizens have had any kind of ownership. Of land, of business, of cars and guns and, well the list is inexhaustible.

Do the bandits and the kidnappers and the shoot-outs on the promenade suggest that Trinidadians are inherently bad? That we’re just a bunch of leggo beasts, incapable of civility? We love bacchanal and mayhem at whatever cost?

Wake up, the e-mail says. Wake up, people. Wake up and smell the stink. Of what? Drugs? Crooked politicians? Teenage boys with weapons? These sores do not a stink make.

Are we really seeing things in perspective? On newspapers we get the full frontal assault of criminals doing in the light what has for centuries gone on in the dark or in the guise of indentureship, enslavement, worker exploitation.

Endless reporting, so much reporting, so much death. Little analysis. No sensible solutions. No notion of a national press that exists outside of business interests that has a responsibility like every citizen to be a part of a solution. Which is what? We can’t even begin to discuss what solution is possible since we constantly seek to reinforce the same old barriers.

The e-mail says that the PNM is on a mission to ghettoise Trinidad. But who are we really fooling when west Trinidad looks like Miami and teenage girls wear summer jackets to go see movies on a concrete monstrosity that was once a valuable piece of mangrove.

But that must be progress.

What concerns me more about Trinidad is not the kidnappings. It’s not the showdowns like Port-of-Spain exists in some kind of spaghetti western non-reality.

It’s the endless construction, the reports of million-dollar townhouses, the crowds of people still lining up outside nightclubs hoping to get in to be seen, to be on scenes.

The same neo-colonial us against them. The same poor people having nothing, wanting something. The same rich people having everything and doing nothing.

Everybody, including me. We’re sticking like vinyl on a broken needle. We all keep saying the same things in our own little boxes. But when are we going to get brave and come out and meet up and actually do something, dammit.

I wish I had my own newspaper. Then I would outlaw murders from the front page. Not because I want to deny they take place. But I’m beginning to think that maybe these murderers are developing a kind of star-boy complex.

They see Port-of-Spain, the streets of their neighbourhoods not as a real place perhaps. But as the set of some old-time spaghetti western.

I would make expat Trinis long to come home. To paradise. To a place where life was hard, but no harder than it is in a cold country where people call you alien.

I would fill the pages with images of regular people in T&T, doing what they can to live positive, productive lives.

I’d even give some space to show that not all rich people are self-righteous and self-absorbed.

I would be the counter-criminal element encouraging Trinidadians to define themselves outside of UN statistics and 20-year plans to become developed.

A reader, irate that I do the unmentionable and travel and have the temerity to write about it, challenged me to come home and do something about the things that I have a problem with in Trinidad.

Suggesting in a way that because I’m not in the frying pan I can’t feel the heat. Suggesting that because I’m not there I haven’t the right to wonder aloud what the hell is going on in my home that I’ve run away from.

For the transients, the aliens and wanderers like myself who run away ostensibly at the beginning for a short period of time and watch the years speed alarmingly toward marriage and settling in another place, there must be a place. I must have a claim.

Sooner or later, my sistren says, we will all have to go back and do our part.



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