Section 34 is receding in the national mind. This is Trinidad and Tobago. Seeds of transformation don't take root here, because there is no collective will to make things right. We have had no great accomplishment together as a people; no common cause or aspiration; no ennobling, binding struggle as a nation. Independence was given, not achieved. Without the experience of oneness, everyone feels alienated, none part of the whole. The whole may not even exist.
So the social conscience is shallow. The main culprit is our primitive, tribal politics which failed to forge a strong nation from diverse peoples. After 50 years, we have made progress materially but have not moved an inch in fundamental ways. Externals or temporal power are not real progress. Gautama Buddha gave up a kingdom to eventually achieve nirvana under a pepal tree and then poured enduring wisdom on humanity. Jesus Christ, of humble birth and upbringing, and with no worldly possessions, has been the most influential force on western civilisation for the past 2000 years. Our evolution will come only from the internalisation of our purpose as individual or nation and from our commitment to pursue our path based on the highest principles of personal and communal conduct.
Section 34 confirmed our condition. Our nationhood is more ceremony than substance. We can put on a good show with military parades and with gowns, robes, wigs and other costume to play "a big mas'' at Independence and at the opening of Parliament and the new law term. But it all collapsed like a house of cards under manipulation by a mere handful of the corrupt. An entire system felled by a few! Our Parliament, mighty law maker and protector, legislative assembly of thunder, was made to subvert law and order by setting free those accused of almost murderous malfeasance.
It stripped the nation bare. But unlike Lear, naked in the storm, we will derive no wisdom from our experience. Our politics is so rotten with race, that though everyone knows the truth, guilty politicians still find protection in the bosom of the tribe. Politics here shrinks the mind, when it should transform it.
The liberating ideas of the Enlightenment inspired both the American and French Revolutions. But in this country, to belong to a political party is to become a zombie, a mindless "party faithful'', a cultist almost; furthering, without even knowing it, the decay of what we seek to protect, our beloved political party that we love so blindly.
We will therefore turn the Section 34 disaster into defeat, not opportunity. It will be almost completely forgotten by Christmas, with a fleeting revival at Carnival when partisan calypsoes will not face the full truth. The manipulators of our Parliament are therefore already laughing with great derision. The nation has earned the scorn of its triumphant thieves. It perverted its own system of justice and cannot remedy the situation because of its diseased politics. This country is so trapped.
Don't blame the politicians only. Hundreds of thousands of citizens bear guilt. They obey the summons, no matter what, to wear jerseys, wave flags and "get in your section'' as we saw in the circus of public rallies recently, where, echoing more thousands at home or elsewhere, they gave adamantine support to their parties, all guilty of maiming the Parliament. This unthinking allegiance has allowed politicians and allies to get away with monumental incompetence, waste and thievery over the years. Not even the crowning corruption of Section 34 could make the people change one bit. Their blind partisanship has therefore left the nation duped and deflated; incapable of taking any action to protect itself. Such is this trapped country that celebrated 50 years with inanities recently. No wonder so many of our best continue to flee, increasing the impoverishment, till all left will be thieves, politicians and partisan fools...
Something is very wrong. Is this the return on our investment of prodigious billions, to produce hundreds of thousands of graduates from our learning institutions; achievers of academic excellence, scholarship winners; lawyers, doctors, teachers, engineers, accountants, managers, business people; the bulk of the middle and upper levels of the society? Are our educated elite purveyors of myopia, mere money-makers, a limited class carrying the seeds of its own ultimate demise, each trapped in their tribe, failing in their responsibility to fashion a moral compass for the society and perpetuating the nation's spiritual undernourishment?
Also, aren't the majority of people, at all levels in this country, "God- fearing citizens''? Don't they, throughout the land, kneel, pray, chant, sing, meditate, confess, fast, baptise, beat drums, ring bells and blow conch shells? And after all this worship, can't these saved and seeking souls put country before race, condemn corruption at all times, demand competence, justice and equality with equal vigour whoever is in power?
How does one worship God and dance in the den of degenerate politics at the same time? Jesus chased the money changers from the temple because they corrupted the purpose of the institution. Shouldn't the party pious do the same for the PNM and the UNC so that truth and inspiration could reign therein?
Gandhi's spirituality drove his politics, freed him from racial and religious prejudice, and made that little man one of the mightiest of the 21st century. Compare him or Mandela with any politician now parading and see if there is even a whiff of either. People get the leaders they deserve.
"The wisdom of our people'' is a naïve myth. The truth must be told. Politicians will never do it. Those not seeking votes must show our citizens how they hurt themselves and their children when they keep our nation trapped.
• Ralph Maraj is a former