A curious foreign-based academic recently asked me what "eating ah food" meant. Why, he wished to know, was Aloes criticised for having "eaten ah food" because he accepted an invitation to sing a particular song on a particular platform of a particular political party with which he was not previously associated?
Was it an activity that was invented by Trinis who, as we know, loved being salacious? Was it a bad word used to describe activity that was corrupt and reprehensible? My answer was somehow extended, but I eventually explained that it could well mean any of the following: "Man (used in a genetic sense to include woman) must of necessity eat in order to survive physically"; or "Man had a right to secure food notwithstanding his beliefs since he must eat in order to live and survive."
Implied in the notion was that man cannot be expected to remain without food even if he was doing so when it was not really the "turn" of his group to do so.
In sum, "must eat at all", even if by doing so, he compromised his soul or his integrity, particularly his political integrity.
It was further indicated that while the biblical injunction was that man should not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the word of God, was pie in the sky idealism.
Most men, whatever their faith, all get hungry sooner or later, and must eat in order to prolong life, at least on earth.
In sum, all men and women have a price.
The only question to be determined was the figure at which the negotiation would be settled.
My own view is that Aloes did what he had to do especially, if as Cro Cro reports, perhaps maliciously, he had 24 mouths to feed. I hope Aloes bargained well, because he had a valuable and perishable commodity to sell—his reputation as a pillar of the PNM fraternity.
The UNC, for its part, must also have recognised that getting Aloes to sing that song on their platform had great surprise value, and constituted a political coup against the PNM that was of immense significance.
Even Mr Panday was stunned.
The former UNC leader reacted by raising the banner of ethnic morality and judgment.
He wondered about the appropriateness of having on a UNC platform someone who had abused their leaders and supporters in the past. Had they no shame? he moaned.
Mr Panday, of all people, was however not free to complain against the Partnership, since it was he who popularised Machiavelli's mantra that "politics had its own morality".
I would assume that the PNM was also stunned and remains stunned, denials to the contrary. Aloes' symbolic crossing of the ethnic bridge was a bitter pill to swallow.
With respect to Eintou Springer's response to the use of the song, my first reaction was to dismiss it as being silly. I, however tried to put myself in her moccasin.
She must have concluded that the choice of song was provocative and politically inspired. I understood her political grief, but think that it would have been better if both she and Panday had borne their grief in silence. More damage was in fact done to the cause of ethnic mainstreaming to which many of us subscribe. Aloes was however brutal.
"Let her eat her heart out," he advised dismissively.
Returning to the "eat ah food" issue, one should make a distinction between this and the universal "right to food". The formal recognition of that "right" is to be found in the International Covenant of Economic, Social, and Cultural rights which was given the status of an international law in January 1976. Ninety states are parties to the covenant.
The relevant provisions of the covenant read as follows: "The parties to the present covenant recognise the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions.
The parties will take appropriate steps to ensure the realisation of this right, recognising to this effect the essential importance of international co-operation based on free consent."
Some argue that men do not merely have a right to food, etc but an "inalienable right" to it.
Its "inalienability" gives it greater legitimacy and therefore priority over other rights.
The right of every man woman and child to food is seen as a basic need. The right is also enshrined in the Declaration on the "Right to Development" adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1986 which provides that: "The right to development is an inalienable human right by virtue of which every human person and all peoples are entitled to participate in, contribute to, and enjoy economic, social and cultural and political development, in which all human rights and fundamentals freedoms can be fully realised."
There has been a great deal of justified controversy as to the meaning and source of those rights. Who determines what is development? Who is the "duty bearer"? Who has the obligation to police and enforce these entitlements?
Which international court, if any, has the obligation and the power to determine whether any state is meeting the obligation, and has the power to meet its obligations on a non-discriminatory basis?
Do states have an obligation to intervene if internal conflicts within its borders inhibit its ability to feed its citizens? Are all states "entitled " to receive food aid, or must entitlement be constrained by social and economic realities and practical availability?
Clearly, these issues are ideological and in the final analysis would be determined by state power and not on the basis of idealist considerations.
Ironically, the right to food is very often used by cynical elites to mask failures to govern fairly and responsibly and to depend on aid from others who manage their economies well.
Similarly, the anxiety to "eat ah food", taken to extremes, could provide excuses for the greedy to claim impunity in the "all ah we thief" scramble at the trough that obtains in countries such as ours.