An acceptance of self-censorship upholds silence on topics consensually regarded as better left alone. Eventually, curiosity is stifled about why, for example, octogenarian Inez raised her skirts so high as the cameras rolled during the Beetham residents’ confrontation last month with police and soldiers.
Watching Kingston Paradise, a trinidad + tobago film festival entry, last weekend, I started at the moment when, in similarly theatrical defiance of Jamaican police, a slum yardie removed her blouse and looked set to take off more. Director Mary Wells had wanted, she told the Little Carib post-viewing Q&A session, to make a “gritty, urban flick”. She left the exposure at the blouse but nevertheless conveyed to me a gesture belonging to a vocabulary of pub-lic self-expression common to some women in Kingston and Port of Spain.
By otherwise happy chance, I had been listening to Kitchener from the late 1960s. Ears newly attuned, I heard for the first time his calypso capture of a “Miss Tourist”, on being introduced to Jouvert:
“She kick and she raise she dress in the air
Shouting ‘Bacchanal, bacchanal’
I am the queen of the Carnival.”
Well, even for Jouvert that was extreme, and more than my own extensive witness of Carnivals could cor-
roborate. And then, the Grandmaster was entitled to poetic licence for story-telling embellishment.
Lesser men, I know, have worked longer and harder to induce women to undress, and in private. But what do we know of women, who only such women know?
Beetham women, who had mustered in number to stand their ground against police and troops discharging gas and bullets, could spare little time for the relatively unexciting follow-up visit last week of Police Complaints Authority (PCA)officials, who expressed disappointment with the turnout. But chairman Gillian Lucky free-associated with the residents, and the media, about other frustrations. The PCA lacks enough staff; it doesn’t have enough power; and often can’t get enough hard evidence since surveillance cameras are reported by police to be “not working”.
Now, that’s the Trinidad and Tobago I know. Here is a common condition that remains uninterrogated: it’s called “not working”. This is a phenomenon accepted as so predictable that to question “Why?” is readily exposed as superfluous. At some point, at many points, when you unthinkingly expect otherwise, something is “not working”: the equipment, the system, the staff…
At a Digicel mobile kiosk in a busy downtown mall, a uniformed staff person last week shook her head meaningfully. It’s “not working”, she said. “The system is down.”
Hoping to leave town before the rush, I asked: “Is it all of Digicel, or just here?” And at once, as she shrugs wordlessly in reply, I can assess the question as idle, a waste of my time and hers.
It’s what happens. In T&T, you expect that, sometime, somewhere, even often, something needful will be “not working”. That’s how it is—the way it works. “Why?” reliably takes you nowhere.
Always, it could be worse. Had I needed last week to register a new car, I would have found that an exercise normally taking 30 minutes would now call for a week. Something, almost everything, at the Licensing Office is “not working”.
Eighteen months before, Transport Minister Devant Maharaj had reported such a level of vacancies that, out of an establishment of 165, only about 31 officers were daily at work. Last week, enough vacancies remained unfilled to prompt exasperated demands by a car dealers’ association president for the
hiring of “so many young people...out of jobs, some...with bachelor
Here, again, another aspect of T&T’s under-reported big story: the job market describes a pattern of yawning vacancies, evidently unfillable by putative job-seekers out there. From fast food outlets and factories, all the way up to executive suites, T&T endures a perfect storm of misfitted supply and demand.
To the people visiting there, it must be obvious that unfilled vacancies impart a “not working” label to Licencing Office operations. It’s likely less obvious to them how an identical affliction renders the Police Service ineffectual in enforcing law on the roads and highways. The Traffic Branch alone was last year reported short of 250 officers. All perspectives for improvement of policing entail boosting the numbers of boots on the ground, by hiring more regulars, more special reserve police officers, and more municipal police officers.
Last week, too, I once again called my neighbour Robert to ask if half of his Flow cable channels, including all local, were also unviewably fuzzy. Misery loving company, on the weekend before, he had called to ask if I had any Flow service at all.
Just then, principals were urging parents to keep children at home since teachers were attending training courses and “supervision could not be guaranteed”. With disruptive potential for schooling and discipline, no substitutes fall in when teachers must be absent.
That was a minor illustration of how sheer unavailability of working people constitutes at least part of the story why schools, too, are “not working”. It confirmed a recurring jeopardy to good order and satisfactory execution.
But who is noticing this as a T&T reality worth exploring?