Sunday, December 17, 2017

Pointing to higher ground


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I disagree with the popular choice for Individual of the Year 2012. To me Wayne Kublalsingh's recent hunger strike outside the Prime Minister's office jolted the conscience of the nation. Therefore, he is my choice of "Person of the Year".

His fast was one of those not-too-pleasant moments in our history, yet it stands as inspirational and, I believe, may have given us a sense of who we are, as a people, after 50 years of Independence.

Trinbago, I see as journeying on a quest for moral values and Dr Kublalsingh's actions may have given us that glimpse of the higher moral ground we should be occupying.

His fast may have captured for us one of those "what is" and "what ought to" moments, which both pose questions and sketch new, imaginative possibilities.

There were genuine contenders. In recent months President Max Richards's open calls for integrity and morality in public affairs—although some of his earlier decisions may have been ill-starred—demonstrated to us that there is potency in the presidency.

There was Dr Keith Rowley, who on many occasions elevated himself to meet the requirements of the title, Leader of the Opposition.

Most notably, Dr Rowley brought together contending forces into a relentless pursuit to determine the Government's real intentions behind Section 34.

Leader of the Movement for Social Justice, David Abdulah's withdrawal from the People's Partnership Government was a demonstration of his movement's integrity. It showed us that the MSJ has sublimated the practice of politics—beyond self-interest, holding of office, and "eating ah food".

Of course there was Olympic Gold medallist, Keshorn Walcott.

But Dr Kublalsingh took an environmental protest to a level unknown to us— that of personal sacrifice and near noble death; yet, he claims, his message has been misunderstood in many quarters.

The Highway Re-route Movement (HRM) is not against the Point Fortin Highway, he explains, but is firmly against the supplementary, or the Debe to Mon Desir by-pass, which extends for 9.1 miles into the Oropouche Lagoon.

It is against the destruction of 13 communities, homes, farms, churches, temples and mosques which do not stand in the way of the highway, and, further, the construction of an eight-to-ten foot embankment in an area prone to flooding.

Then there is the cost. The HRM says there has been no cost-benefit for the supplementary by-pass, and its construction will push costs beyond $10 billion.

Some 180,000 truckloads of aggregate will be required because it is to be built over the lagoon -- a benefit, HRM claims, that will go solely to already-favoured contractors.

Dr Kublalsingh's stand, I sense, may lead us in some measure, to both a crushing realisation, and better understanding of who we are.

I have always advised young persons who are facing life-defining decisions of career-choice, marriage, migration, etc. that they should first ask themselves: Who am I?

With deep inquiry one discovers a path to value and ethical decisions, to one's true nature and the unarticulated truths of one's reality.

It is the same with a nation.

The more we understand those psycho-social elements that have programmed us, our diversity, our various temperaments, and what has made us mix and mingle, we would be better placed to make value choices.

It is in this context that I recognise Dr Kublalsingh and his Highway Re-route Movement. Their stand could be a kind of gauge for our values, and open for us a new path.

In our overheated society I believe there is need for a national pause in 2013, a time-out to reflect deeply on whether we are "one people", or unacknowledged various tribes. And are there signs, since 2010, of rising cults, and regional fiefdoms?

Let us start immediately with a national conversation on race. Let us converse openly on our plurality, its uniqueness, and how we are all shaping up against those transcending values of truth, justice, goodness, individual merit, and order.

Probably, UWI and UTT could lead discussions in the matter, focusing on those rising separatists versus the yearnings in a search for a national wholeness.

A national conversation on race becomes even more critical when one assesses Trinbago's economic prospects in 2013. Historically, the rising expenditure-declining revenue scenario has been a recipe for social conflict.

Internationally, researchers debate the reasons why some nations are rich, while others remain mired in poverty.

They continue to assess the factors that cause rich ones, such as Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal to decline. To date, Trinbago's geography has been its advantage.

But geography, culture, weather and ignorance is just part of the mix; they agree that the real determinant is a government's policy choices.

They agree, too, that economic success is attained and sustained when governments are sensitive, responsive and accountable to their people.

In part, it is the story in China compared to North Korea, India and Bangladesh and Botswana versus Zimbabwe.

In 2013, our challenges demand that every citizen be alert and informed on the Government's policy choices. Note that Wayne Kublalsingh's fast may have pointed us in that direction.

• Keith Subero, a former Express news editor, has since followed

a career in communication

and management.