Saturday, December 16, 2017

From this soapbox: A summing up


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By the third Christmas under the People's Partnership, the miracle that never was going to happen remained a non-starter. The miracle was summarised as a desideratum called "change", a consummation so comprehensive as to qualify as revolution.

The May 2010 election exalted a formation that had been jerry-built for campaigning toward a polling day four weeks later.  Following long internal faction and ruction, and the unseating of patriarch Basdeo Panday, the UNC, clear-cut mainstay force of this alliance, was on the hopeful rebound.

Political forces at various stages on the make—COP, MSJ, TOP—constituted the Partners, in addition to the heritage entity, the NJAC. Suffering traumatic years in opposition, and in some disarray, the UNC, as it entered this latest alliance, was a party notably shorn of capacity for planning and policy development.

 Basdeo Panday's good-riddance dismissal of them had irresponsibly devalued and disregarded the potential subsumed under what he called "knife and fork Indians". Winston Dookeran would lead critical elements with planning and policy interest and competence out of the party and eventually into the COP.

Thus deprived of inspiration, and diminished in self-confidence, the UNC, central entity of the alliance, in which resided much of the experience of power, was likely as unready for government as its partners.

Fate and fortune played the hand. Supposedly in full mind of the prospective limitations, people voted for the Partnership, when expectations of that lot should prudently have been low.

Well, my own expectations were low. Even as I voted, as beckoned by history among other things, to "stain a finger" for Makandal Daaga.

But then my expectations of the Patrick Manning PNM reset were even lower.

Still, I have no regrets. It was a matter of playing with the cards we were dealt. As an option, "None Of The Above" was available nowhere outside seminar rooms. It was my first vote cast since 1976, when I had voted for Ishmael Samad, then running for the Tapia House Movement.

By Christmas 2012, I had spent another year marvelling aloud at what people supposed could have been wrought by the magic of their vote or their support in cash or kind. The earliest signs of political winging-it by the Partnership showed in the choices (conspicuously, Herbert Volney) of those selected for office.

As if it were a constitutional requirement, the new government at once adopted the post-Cabinet news conference which had been devised in 2002 by the Manning PNM to meet the circumstances of the 18-18 hung Parliament. The rest of the PNM template was attractively available to be carried forward as needed.

Indeed, after eight years of the Manning PNM, T&T was in a state. Responses to the new government had been programmed by attitudes toward the old. I called it bad mood and bad mind, which especially showed in a newly volatile predisposition, conditioned to expect the worst, and to default to presumption that somebody tief.

Such characteristics especially marked a segment, never really measured for size, but decisively in possession of the means to represent itself as a self-regarding commentariat presiding over "public opinion". Having voted and paid their dues, as it were, they could see only the gains of beneficiaries but no benefits.

All this has been the stuff of hard sayings. These sentiments became only harder to take after the earliest disenchantments. The word "deceit", increasingly and resonatingly heard as a missile targeting the administration, both startled and educated me. The bigger story than what came out of post-Cabinet announcements and other pronouncements and actions big and small was how it was all received.

The people, who trustingly had delivered their votes, now saw themselves as innocent "marks" of a political Ponzi scheme. It's the T&T way: to impute skullduggery as a first resort. In this, what escapes blame is the unknowing, unwitting indifference to due diligence shown by those who had been "skulled".

Some skullduggery is surely always taking place. But is that all that is going on in a T&T under unending draconian rule of the Murphy's law proposition that if anything can go wrong it will?

It takes faith and hope, both hard to come by, to imagine that if, say, procurement had been fixed beyond prospect of corruption, the State's machinery would work better.

Look, the state is a dud, and its political managers are subject to the principle that power reduces rather than enhances innate capacities.

By Section 34 time, at least the more excitable of the commentariat had persuaded themselves of the Partnership regime's capability to pull off a diabolical scheme when nobody was looking, all to repay political creditors.

In T&T, facts and information are ever in crisis. As I have noticed, not only in T&T. A Washington Post commentary last week offered the intriguing term, "narrative fulfilment", a label for "incorrect facts that fit the story people wanted to tell".

It was a reference to the proliferation of false reports after the infant-school massacre in Connecticut. In time, the errors on the public record were expunged by authoritative fact-finding.

But that is the US; and this is T&T.

Best regards, and more next year.