Times flies when you're having fun, everyone knows this adage, we hear it often enough. In reality time goes by at the same rate, it only seems to drag if you are bored and wish for it to go quickly. So far it has been easy to not write about the state of affairs in Trinidad (and Tobago). It is the usual drama that accompanies most things here and it will all be over soon enough, forgotten except to say, remember (insert curfew story here), back to normal. The state of emergency and accompanying curfew declared by the Government of the day have not much changed the way most Trinidadians live. Most of us have self imposed curfews and our rights are usually being infringed by certain elements, now they have legitimacy. For the record, this blog is not about the SOE so you can stop reading here if you were looking for SOE commentary.
Now that I can't venture out past 9 p.m. there is lots of time to do “stuff”. After all, there is only so much Criminal Minds and educational TV one can watch. And so, got to thinking, always dangerous I know, about the difference between HAVING character and BEING a character, because yes, there is a difference. It all started with an email forward sent by a like minded friend. For a long time I've pondered in this space that I'm not like the average Trini and for the most part those things that other trinis consider to be the hallmarks of being a TRINI continue to elude me. Thanks to my friend, I've discovered that in fact, I am Bajan (or Barbadian to you non Caribbean people). Why you might wonder, would someone born, raised and living for most of their lives in one Caribbean island, have so many characteristics of another despite not having spent more than a few days at a time there.
Consider the evidence at hand:
I read, I buy books – like the average Bajan.
The Bajan does not throw KFC boxes out of moving cars but what is more, if they see someone exhibiting classless behaviour, they tend to open their mouths and articulate their discomfort.
The Bajan does not care to elect people who SHOUT on platforms. They don't care for politicians who have soup kitchens and rum and roti. Their politicians speak in a normal tone of voice and the female ones are not trying to be beauty queens. Their media does not care to follow “important people” around and generally focus on issues rather than diatribe.
The Bajan does not have to tell the world, every minute, how dey “love up dey country”. They demonstrate that by educating their families, coexisting peacefully in neighbourhoods, protecting their environment and raising the type of citizen that will not disappoint them at election time.
In the event that a police report is made, the police will actually manage to come. And the police have email addresses that a citizen can use to communicate with a relevant officer.
The above are all characteristics of my non-Trininess and more examples can be found at http://www.unep.org/ourplanet/imgversn/103/05_look.htm. If you have character, all those things above are not alien, you will in reality, find them to be normal every day living. Trinidadians on the one hand take pride in the fact that “we is characters” and yet complain about everything. Sadly, we often mix up reality TV, with real life and unless there is some drama and bacchanal associated we think that order is boring. We love our country so much that we condone illegal vendors on the streets, squatters in the hills, poor and illiterate driving, garbage everywhere, vagrants in our capital city etc. The list is endless. We have blithely accepted that we needed a state of emergency to get the police to do what they should have been doing in the normal course of their work. Because apparently, without the impetus of a false sense of urgency, the majority of our police force would not get the job done.
For some reason we, the general populace, have a sense that it is okay for us to be lawless, rude and inconsiderate because we are not criminals, those are the people with guns living in “hot spots”. We are just “characters”. And so fail to see the correlation, that crime is crime and you don't need a state of emergency to fix that. What you need is to have more character; i.e. backbone, forward innovative thinking, hard working, having a sense of humour without having to reduce everything to humour and less tolerance of those things that we perhaps attribute to “being characters” instead of seeing them for what they really are, a lack of responsibility and real character. Our problems as a nation are not going to be fixed in a day, or in three months even with the suspension of the constitution. First we will have to grow up and accept that 49 years into our independence we have as yet to live up to the late Dr. Eric Williams' Independence Speech :
“What use will you make of your independence? What will you transmit to your children five years from today? Other countries ceased to exist in that period. Some, in much less time, have become totally disorganised, a prey to anarchy and civil war.
The first responsibility that devolves upon you is the protection and promotion of your democracy. Democracy means more, much more, than the right to vote and one vote for every man and every woman of the prescribed age. Democracy means recognition of the rights of others. Democracy means equality of opportunity for all in education, in the public service, and in private employment--I repeat, and in private employment. Democracy means the production of the weak against the strong.”
Or a definition of independence, “ The capacity to manage one's own affairs, make one's own judgement and provide for oneself”.