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.
Ill 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 were 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, its 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
Do the bandits and the kidnappers and the shoot-outs on the
promenade suggest that Trinidadians are inherently bad? That
were 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 cant 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.
Its not the showdowns like Port-of-Spain exists in some
kind of spaghetti western non-reality.
Its 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. Were 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 Im 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
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.
Id 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 Im not in the frying
pan I cant feel the heat. Suggesting that because Im
not there I havent the right to wonder aloud what the
hell is going on in my home that Ive 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.