On a day twinned by both possibility and pain, Keshorn Walcott lifted his nation on the point of a javelin and carried us over a golden moon. It was pure metaphor in motion.
With hopes of gold beginning to fade under rising images of unfolding tragedy in flood-hit West Trinidad, the teenager from Toco came racing in to our consciousness, lifting our spirits and bringing a sharp reminder of what we can be at our very best.
Nothing so fixes the mind as the extreme event.
Concrete reality cuts a clean path straight through our jagged abstractions to pose the questions of what, how, why?
"Of all things, javelin!", I hear my friend Keith Smith say as he roars his Hallelujahs from across the other side. Keith, who took holidays every time the Olympics came around, never leaving his TV set, feeding himself silly, without a single idea of what he'd eaten, phone at hand, dialing up every friend who came to mind to compound his joy and celebrate his wonder, talking so loudly you'd wonder why he needed a phone at all.
Yes, Keith, we did it again.
Finally, Crawfie has company.
How sad that yesterday, so many were not there to share this moment, their homes flooded out, battling blackout and lost phone service, trying to keep their heads above flood water.
As the images of flooding disaster in west Trinidad replay themselves across the landscape of our minds, we sense that the real tragedy of modern Trinidad and Tobago is that we can see almost every tragedy coming and yet be impotent to stop it. And yet, we can't spot our points of success. They seem to exist in places unseen, unknown, uncelebrated, residing outside the line of vision until they appear, dramatic and almost by magic.
What does it do to the collective psyche that the more predictable outcome to life is unsolvable problem and dysfunction? How do we summon our energy for the future when each new day sees us on a path to the same old problem we saw yesterday as we knowingly walk into predictable trouble with our eyes wide open? Does it not breed fatalism, disincentive to hope and a fear of dreaming of success?
In the extreme case, this is the mindset of the young men who choose the brave´ dange´ option of walking into funeral parlours to select their coffins in their panicked bid to retain some semblance of control over an ending beyond their control.
But yesterday, Keshorn Walcott showed them another face of possibility, turning up as the poster child for optimism, his javelin piercing the bubble of national despair and demonstrating what might be possible if we could believe that tomorrow will be what we choose to make of it.
In 1990, that was the question facing South Africa.
What if, on release in 1990, Nelson Mandela had turned to his people and declared, "Is we time now?"
Given South Africa's brutal history of apartheid, and Mandela's personal loss to 27 years of prison time, who would have denied him an iota of justification?
In rejecting the option—some might even say the entitlement—to retribution, Mandela instead chose to invest his towering moral authority in the herculean project of changing the course of post-apartheid South Africa, thereby steering it away from the cataclysmic outcome predicted by so many.
Mandela's career in politics has been a supremely played hand. For what is the function of politics but to create the moral space for effecting change? And what else is political leadership than the embodiment of such authority in persuading others to commit to a process of change, whether in or out of the electoral sphere?
By this argument, corruption is merely a symptom—not cause—of the absence of moral authority in the politics of Trinidad and Tobago. Without the moral capacity to win public commitment to change, we see no option but to try to buy it like fish in the market on Sunday.
This is the debasement that has thrown our politics into the downward-spiralling trap where more and more money effects less and less change. It is a vicious cycle which is pushing us inexorably to the precipice of danger.
For as the power of money to buy changes lips past the point of diminishing returns, the next best option becomes force.
In the foreboding of the beckoning future, with the political leadership in surrender mode, we cannot escape the Gandhian responsibility to, indeed, be the change that each of us seeks.
As we amble towards the finish line of the first 50 years of Independence, truth requires our acknowledgement that the promise remains unfulfilled. The fact that our athletes have rescued the moment by dipping us, first in the warm glow of bronze and then gilding us in gold, just adds to the poignancy of our still latent possibilities, waiting to be released by our own personal investment in breaking the cycle and stemming the rot in turning this place around.
For what does it say about our individual moral authority if our representative system of politics keeps throwing up leaders chronically unable to lead the charge for change until, defeated by our hands, they concede to the cynical policy of government by bribery?
Is it too much to ask that, on an individual level, we should set the standards by which we will agree to be governed, thereby managing our leaders from below?
Must we bow before tainted office? Should we take the money and complete the transaction in bribery? Do we accept the offer of unfair advantage? Will we embrace the invitation to squander and grasp the opportunity to share in the spoils of victory? If someone is willing to buy, will we agree to be up for sale?
In the context of our history, breaking the cycle requires a dramatic shift in the old habits of power and the creation of space for negotiation between competing interests. It is only by doing so that we will distill the shared values to underpin the standards of the society we seek to create in these two islands of the world.
This is the process of genuine national dialogue which has been repeatedly sabotaged, not only by the politicians, but by us.
But we can change all this by drawing a firm line between money and morality. On which side will we stand?
The answer will determine whether the Keshorn Walcotts become the norm of our world.