Tuesday, February 20, 2018

No Sunday morning

 “...And with the declaration of war against them, they too decided to declare war against the police and soldiers.” —A relative after 30 bullets were pumped into Lance Corporal Kayode Thomas. 

Peace can only be personal, internal. The rare individual achieves equanimity in the face of turbulence, that detached compassion and empathy, the yielding to the inexorable flow of life. Most people die without knowing it. So for the collective, the nation with ordinary teeming masses, there is no peace, just modus vivendi among its citizens. 

Therefore don’t long for the placid society, the permanent Sunday morning. The “state of nature” is always present beneath the artificial order of every country, the social earthquake threatening every civilisation. History reveals a permanent turbulence, and eruptions continue in the world today. So those who want a Trinidad and Tobago becalmed had better think again. We had our troubles in 1970 and 1990 and the next instalment promises to be very nasty.

Society is an attempt to still the chaos through collaboration and law, pooling of resources and sacrifice of total freedom to achieve human security and development. But no nation has ever been at peace, even those which never had war. Human desire and striving constitute a cauldron in every country, sometimes ablaze, sometimes dormant, but never dead. 

Also, it seems the more interconnected and interdependent we become, the greater the global chaos. This may seem paradoxical since the expectation has been that the more we know and communicate with one another, the better the chance of peace on earth.

But competition never dies, even in the closest communities. So while globalisation and the information revolution have taken us closer to the mythical global village, in reality it has intensified the race for resources and opportunity, making the world an even fiercer arena for survival. 

We never had an “international community” and that reality is now truly exposed. “International law and norms” have always been a fiction, challenged by the differentials among nations, sovereign rights and interests, and the fig leaf of “non interference in internal affairs” even as despots massacre their own citizens. The emergence of “one world” after the Berlin Wall was not accompanied by any fortified multilateral framework for global governance. So the United Nations remains ineffectual in promoting global peace, and its secretary-general continues his hand-wringing and impotent exhortations to combatants wherever conflict flares.

Trinidad and Tobago must understand today’s world. It is a less secure place than during the Cold War, when paradoxically, the super power arms race ensured peace. Then, “spheres of influence” benefited smaller regions like the Caribbean, ensuring Uncle Sam’s intervention, for example, when Grenada boded Marxism in America’s “back yard”.

Today, a failed state in our region would hardly bestir the US which has virtually ignored the Caribbean for the past 15 years. There are no “vital interests” here. Trinidad and Tobago has ceased to be an attraction for US energy or petrochemical investments. We are increasingly alone in the global village. And with unprecedented absurdity, Caricom now rejects itself.

The growing global disorder portends the gravest danger for nations like ours, which, with weak institutions, are a threat to themselves. For our collapse will not stir concern in any major capital. And this country is becoming completely unmanageable. Independence promoted superficiality instead of responsibility. We did not make the deeper diagnosis to depart the colonial era.

Instead we perpetuated the authoritarian structure that was an anachronistic absurdity at the very start, the ano­maly of a colonial governor reincarnated as Prime Minister, running a diverse democracy, producing the inevitable lack of accountability and representation, and deepening the disaffection with every failed administration.

Today our entire population feels alienated in their own space. And once again, all that stands between us and mayhem are the combined security strength of the police and the army. 

We never established society with institution, culture and tradition to keep the chaos at bay. The evidence of our failure is today more abundant than ever: murders and assassinations with impunity; a choked, clogged judicial system; the pernicious, penetrating drug trade; overcrowded, inhumane prisons; “youth at risk” increasing by the thousands every year; disintegrating family life; a population polarised by politics; growing income inequality; rampant materialism and individualism; lack of inspiring leadership; no sense of society and national purpose; no love of country, especially among the youth; all taking us closer to implosion every day. No Sunday morning in Trinidad and Tobago.