Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The mirrors we crack

"I am an activist. This is what activists do. It is a duty," was the workmanlike response from Dr Wayne Kublalsingh. It explains a lot about his latest strategy to raise awareness of his current campaign. There is something structured and orderly about the way he escalates things, something that should remind us that it is more than a calling, it is his way of life.

And even if he does not want to associate himself with the P word that has been turned ugly by its sheer abuse, he is a political creature. "I have no political ambitions," he's said. Maybe he has none, but other people do, and so audaciously and calmly has he set about deflating them that they are exposing themselves in the worst way possible.

The contrast in behaviours has been stark. Dr Kublalsingh has chosen to abstain, has chosen to be serene (an objective and fair analysis of his single outburst could easily attribute it to his abstinence), and has chosen to ask for one thing that a promise to do an independent technical review of a part of the highway be kept.

The other side has been vulgar in its pronouncements: every man jack rushing to outdo the other with crass and increasingly tasteless snipes at the man and his method.

They've once again rolled out the heavy machinery: police and barriers, imported protesters, and reckless warnings about violence to come.

"I cannot favour any one group or allow fear to control my actions," said the Prime Minister, causing one to wonder what she could possibly be afraid of. The report that she insists was done, the one whose results she said were rejected by Dr Kublalsingh, has not found its way into the public domain. He has indicated that it was a rehash and not a substantive review. Who can tell?

Given the ease with which documents and files can appear and disappear in this place, it is surprising that nothing has yet emerged. If the report could be seen it would enable more clarity and perhaps encourage appropriate dialogue, and it would defuse the stalemate that has been peeling away layer after layer of our masks.

But the Government has made it clear on more than one occasion that at this point, right or wrong, it has gone too far to turn back.

"Further I am advised that any halting of the project could see the government being sued by the contractors who have contractual obligations to meet," said the Prime Minister, and it has been repeated by Emmanuel George. The cost of stopping or even pausing outweighs the cost presented by the insistence for a review, and that aspect seems to be slipping away from public view as our attention keeps being drawn to invidious distractions.

By now, we have all become familiar with the politics of this scenario (and for that alone Dr Kublalsingh can celebrate the success of his activism); what we should also see is how it has revealed us.

How does one explain the outpouring of nastiness dirtying our space? It is public obscenity. But sometimes people resort to hiding their discomfort behind this kind of behaviour, making light of serious situations; as we say: ting to cry, you laughing. I imagine that some of this has influenced the behaviour, although I suppose a certain amount must be generated by the hysteria invoked by the sight of the classic david and goliath struggle playing out with each side sticking faithfully to the script and we know how that story ends.

It seems to me that the sight of this citizen, unrelenting and uncowed, withering away from a slip of a man to skin and bones has deeply unsettled us in ways we may not yet recognise. For a long time we have entertained ourselves with ideas that we are a pretty people; but so many of the elements that constituted the sweet Trini have slipped out the back door unnoticed. What are we now?

A verse in David Rudder's magnificent study, "Hosay" has been haunting me (take a listen soon), so eerily does it capture the moment.

"Not in this house, not in this

garden of Eden

Oh, how we danced to the beat of

this lovely lie, lovely lie

Until a man opened a door and

showed us our other side

And our Mecca'd illusions walked

right on by

Now Trini know what is UZI diplo-


Now Trini know what is SLR love

In these troubled times under the

stars above."

Like it or not, Dr Kublalsingh has challenged us to look at ourselves, to see how far we are prepared to go to defend a right or a principle. At the heart of this is a demand for transparency, accountability, integrity and consultation: elements of governance that have been missing for so long in these parts that we no longer recognise their absence. Not even within us.

Dr Kublalsingh's commitment to the duty he feels obliged to fill, no matter how extreme its consequence, is one that should make us rethink our own preoccupations. People like him should not be the exception, but they are. Like Angela Cropper, whose parting words encapsulate the spirit.

"Tell my friends I went down fighting."