At 50, our nation faces entrenched economic and social problems. The situation is compounded by our paltry politics that promises no deliverance. Instead, it suffocates thought and creativity.
Oh for liberation from that suffocation, for greater freedom of the mind throughout the nation! More and more must be persuaded to seek the free space, accessible to all, scholar and labourer, through the exercise of reason, that innate and distinguishing human faculty. Here we tame the visceral that clouds clarity and stunts the person.
This is the path to a "democracy of the intellect", that community of intelligence and insight needed to save our nation. Here smallness is an advantage. Therefore we in Trinidad and Tobago can more easily get there. But our diseased divisive politics hobbles our consciousness.
Humanity is helped to intellectual freedom by those who attained the clearing, the best that ever lived: the writers, philosophers and thinkers who have plumbed human existence, shaping thought and civilisation through the ages. To this fountain we must take special care to lead the young for their taste of thought, if we are to save the future from our present predominant shallowness.
For in that space, not shackled by custom and narrowness, we ponder deeply. Here, on our own and with others, in meditation or in conversation, privately or publicly, we strive for depth and discernment. Here in the inner silence, free from party cards, we seek the truth of ourselves and our society. Here in the stillness, we bring spirituality to the politics. In this space reside the genius of our most inspired lights, Naipaul, James and Best, beckoning us to that enlightened state, that "heaven of freedom" for which Tagore prayed with his poetry.
We are moving there. An independent minority has emerged, one of the nation's best assets since independence. It is a critical step forward. Here are thousands, politically unaligned, reducing the influence of race on our politics. As I noted in an earlier column, this group "has contributed significantly to six different results in seven general elections over the last 16 years, preventing our politics from being completely ossified by race". This independent constituency contains the seed of an enlightened democracy. It is a ray of light emanating from the nation's soul, the product of our maturing, the best of the nation's character, shaped by education, time and experience, liberated from the political tribalism that has kept our society in semi-darkness for over 50 years.
this is progress more important than skyscrapers or new oil and gas finds. For it points within, to growth of the nation's mind, a spreading dawn, increasing habitation of that spiritual space, enlarging of the national clearing for more and more to enter without baggage. Let this constituency grow to become the most potent force in this country, greater than any "morgue" of a political party. Here will the people become paramount. Here, committed to truth, justice, transparency and accountability, will the people become powerful enough to protect themselves from evil, within and without. From here will emerge the leadership, of and for the people.
So liberated, discerning citizens, know your duty. And your power. Without your support, no political party can gain or retain office. Today, none inspires you. But you can drive them to transformation or oblivion. So keep all on their toes. Strip them bare when they come before you, that they eventually become worthy of the power they seek from you.
Therefore, tell the Congress of the People, particularly its parliamentary arm, it stands revealed and shamed. It pretended to bring "new politics", but turned out to be mere hitch-hikers to power; concerned only with Cabinet positions while poor governance threatens the foundation and fabric of the society. Let it know that new politics requires courage of conviction and that it is a most insidious corruption to pretend to be lions, while knowing the gutlessness at your core.
And don't let the Movement For Social Justice escape scrutiny. It can't be a party through press releases. The people must know more. What are the basic principles and philosophy driving MSJ politics? Does the party have a constitution and structure? Who is the executive? How is it going to penetrate the communities where the two major race-based parties are entrenched? Is it dealing with these issues, or just waiting again at the coalition bus stop for another short drop to Parliament?
And, independent constituency, inform the People's National Movement that while you recognise its efforts to resurface, you are not overly excited. The political leader's sometimes penetrating exposure of the Government is good; public meetings energising the base are fine. But nothing gripping has emerged from the party; no new, meaty ideas for the future. A sameness pervades, as from a faded, back-in-times melody.
And let the United National Congress know it is in its worst state ever, naked in its incompetence, superficiality and deception, made even worse by the actions and character of the Chairman and Political Leader. With those two at the helm, the UNC cannot win an election. The rank and file must know. The more they defend the indefensible, the dimmer their future prospects.
With such fearlessness are free minds already speaking out. The independent is the protector of the nation. Therefore on every major issue, let your voices be heard. Create intellectual ferment, let perceptivity and awareness grow, every day. Let the conversation never end. This is the path beyond elections, to experience the purity of politics, to make it permanent in our lives so that none in public office will ever escape the eternal vigilance of the people.
This is your duty, independent constituency of Trinidad and Tobago. En garde!
• Ralph Maraj is a former