An old friend arrived from England this week, it is his third trip here in as many months. He is not here to visit with family, or see friends, nor is he here for a relaxing vacation. Sadly, he's had to make multiple visits because of attempts by a stranger to fraudulently sell a property that belongs to him. His journey navigating through the waters of bureaucracy has been an education for us all.
The first salvo started late last year, the phone rang and his voice which had been a daily part of life for many years before he left, crackled across the miles. It was a long, convoluted story that stood out for the bold facedness of the perpetrator and the incompetence in the existing system that makes it easy for this type of crime to occur. He'd called me because he needed information and having to call long distance, was racking up huge phone bills with little to show for it. I won't go into the details, they are long and painful involving many trips to government offices, the police, the court etc. He has once again had to take time off from work to come here and sit and wait while his court dates are moved arbitrarily. His employer, though understanding, is getting less tolerant.
Listening to him there is a sense of shame. For what seems like a lifetime I worked in an organisation that had responsibility for engineering change in the Public Service. In the end, my reason for leaving was that we were committed to talking about change, writing many papers on change management but we didn't in fact want to change anything. A former boss, one day in frustration said to me, to change things, you have to change things. He too, was defeated by the prevailing attitudes and now lives outside of this country. Several of my thinking colleagues, in the end also ground down by the effort and seeing first hand what was possible if someone only had the balls to try, have also fled to places where they feel their contributions would be better appreciated. And lately, I've been understanding that axiom more and more.
It makes my friend's antipathy to living here real. He asks every time we speak why I live here and do I really think that I can change anything. And the answer is, no.
One consistent irritation in my long working career has been long it takes to get things done, get information or even get someone to answer the phone. Having spent a week trying to get through to a government agency, where the phone just rings until the system cuts you off, there is a sense that several generations will have to die before any meaningful change occurs. My friend's trip yesterday underlines the sense of frustration, he had to go to four offices to get one transaction complete. None of the offices were located close to each other requiring driving from one town to another. All I can do is listen and buy him another drink.
Because as long as we believe that: God is a Trini, that we have oil and gas money flowing, that we can continue throw our hands in the air and say "what yuh go do" while continuing to accept the status quo, we as a country will be stuck right where we are.