Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Sink or float


Mark Fraser

One thing that resonates in the issues that have been resoundingly piercing public consciousness over the past few months is that no matter what the subject, no matter what form the protest takes, each response is underlined by a loss of trust.

Among the people who railed vehemently about the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2014, which hurriedly saw its way through the Upper and Lower Houses and is set for a speedy proclamation, many were not particularly informed about what the proposed amendments meant. Some would have been swayed by the promptings of those more opposed to the current administration, rather than the actual content and meaning of the changes.

But strikingly, the alarm and disgust were quite obviously incited by the manner in which the whole thing was presented. Likened to nighttime thievery, the plans were like stealth missiles designed to sneak their way into the legislation before anyone had had a chance to vote once, far less twice.

As a country, we have long been subjected to volumes of Anansi stories, appalling in their flagrant disregard for truth, coherence and common sense. They have been cavalier insults to intelligence and it troubles none of the purveyors when there is a public outcry—I wrote that a year ago.

Again, the population has seen Anansi at work, and it riles them because it has been going on for far too long. Trust has eroded to such a point that people no longer feel anything remains inviolate.

Public and private institutions, the legal system, churches, the police, individuals, politicians, entrepreneurs and artisans—at every junction the rule has to be watch your back. It is now inescapable that we are a corrupt, ruthless and mindless society. But we are full of “smartmen’’—cunning taking wild precedence over wisdom, and every day we forage for ways to beat the system.

Someone tells stories about the operations at the nightclubs that are periodically raided to harvest groups of foreign women. It happens because the police want to increase “protection’’ money. Another tells the story of how many “high’’ officials comport themselves indecorously at joints they consider to be below the public radar. What they never seem to realise is that people run these places, people are employed there—bartenders, cooks, janitors, bouncers, even their own housekeepers, however invisible they might seem—a host of workers who fall beneath their radar, and who see them for what they are, and who relish relating the scandalous behaviour. How can they trust these public paragons when they know their private lives?

When you hear descriptions of the modus operandi for awarding contracts, you realise how complex and sophisticated play at the top has become and you know this did not happen overnight.

We’ve seen the cavalier destruction of civil institutions, watched them debased to mindless caverns—mute, toothless, sightless, deaf and driven to indifference.

Just over 25 years ago, the Mighty Trini had caught the patriotic spirit with his song, “Sailing’’; its lyrics professing to continue to love and support this country, no matter the circumstance. He was sailing with the boat, sink or float:

Stowaways tiefin’ free passage/ Castaways with excess baggage/ Crimson pirates movin’ in to kill/ But ah sailin’ still, ah say, ah sailing still.

This Winston Devine patriotic gem has been adopted and internalised in an unhealthy interpretation of steadfast loyalty.

We seem to have taken it to mean we can just shrug our shoulders, look away and continue to love up the party. We’ve seen too much that is not right to place our trust in the receptacles of voters’ ink; but are we willing to make our marks nonetheless?