About a decade ago, David Rudder and Carl Jacobs released a song entitled "Trini to the Bone", in it, these two veterans of Trinidadian music sang about how they "love up their country". The implication being that they were so marinated in all things Trini that it went to the bone. It is instructive to note that neither of the two are domiciled here, nor have they been for many years. David lives with his wife and children in Canada and Carl has been resident in the US for more than twenty years.
The song however, brought out the closet Trini in everyone who wished to lay claim. Suddenly it was the most patriotic thing in the world. We, the same people who lose our accent by the time we hit Piarco Airport, were suddenly, TRINI TO THE BONE. We are also the same people who in a sea of red supported a football team, jump, wave and wine in the streets for two days and have the best fetes in the world. All very well and good.
Reading the newspapers or watching the media however, you might wonder if it were two different places entirely. Confused yet? Our media constantly point to our murder and crime rate, that nothing seems to work here, every episode is filled with drama, our politicians cannot seem to understand the difference between governance and bacchanal. We, the majority who rave and rhapsodise about all things Trini...usually with emphasis on food, drink and party, are the same people who pollute our environment, flout our laws when it suits us, take a stand only when we can click "like" on Facebook and consider our duty done. For a place where people are so in love with their country, you have to wonder why we seem not to be interested in real issues and finding solutions to the things that are not right.
I have never made any secret of my desire to flee this place, to shake the dust off my feet, and am generally happy when climbing on a plane for parts elsewhere. Because for all the lovely things about Trinidad and Tobago there are a whole lot of maddening, nerve wracking, annoying things to make you question your sanity every single day. But I understand why two expatriate Trinidadians could sing a song like Trini to the Bone with such feeling, such longing. Because living away from here allows you to appreciate the lovely bits and distance tempers the others.
This weekend there are marches planned, against the dog act, against the desecration of the Magnificent Seven, against violence and sexual abuse of children. All noble and worthy, yes, this weekend we'll all be getting our exercise. And we will all go home with a sense of accomplishment secure that we have "done something". Well folks, let me explain a little something, the march is the BEGINNING of the work.
Twenty some odd years ago as a teenager with my older compatriots standing in front of bulldozers to save the George Brown Building. In the intervening years we have: lobbied governments; given our time and expertise for free on committees; we have done countless presentations; chained ourselves to other places; had gravel poured on us; spent endless hours coming up with strategies; run up our phone bills, abandoned our weekend plans - to sit with manatees, visit historical buildings, plant trees, face down slash and burn farmers and then turn around and try to help them find ways to become sustainable and so many other thankless activities in order to preserve those very bits of Trinidad and Tobago that make us so wonderful and unique. This weekend, while dog lovers come out to march against an extremely flawed, ill conceived, knee jerk reaction piece of legislation, a few will understand that they will have to continue to pound pavements, call politicians, agitate and find ways to continue to keep up the pressure. They will be the ones asking how they can help find a solution. No one will know their names or even care.
Twenty some odd years after holding vigil against the bulldozers at George Brown House, my battle scarred colleagues and I will be entreating the public to save the Savannah and the Magnificent Seven as we have done for all these years. Later on, we will also participate in the other marches etc. It is not because we think we are special, or better or that we have some inflated sense of martyrdom, or that we seek recognition, or even thanks. We do it because someone has to, and we chose to live here, so we have a responsibility. That's all there is to it. But the temptation remains, to be a trini to the bone somewhere else.......