For two days last week the residents of Sea Lots spontaneously combusted. In paroxysms of rage they blocked the highway with debris and burnt tyres and caused a massive gridlock on the East-West Corridor. Later, according to the report on the front page of the Express, they admitted that "their decision to block the Beetham Highway, ...was their only means to plead for a fair investigation and a walkover in the aftermath of Sunday's triple fatality."
If you believe that then I would like to offer you that same walkover for sale at a bargain price. Perhaps we forget or perhaps we are afraid to connect the dots. But what happened on the Beetham Highway last week has happened before, many times, in many different areas of the country and for many, apparently different, reasons.
So today my friends, in an effort to connect the dots, I would like to reproduce most of another article written in this space in August 2011. The faces and the location are changed but it has nothing to do with protecting those who wish to remain innocent of the reality that surrounds them. That article was entitled "Sitting on a tinder keg."
"The one-word headline in the Express last Thursday said it all. 'Rage'. No additional commentary was really necessary. The pictures of the Moruga residents who came out to protest outside the St Mary's Village police post, incensed by the police shooting last Friday night of three youths from the area, were commentary enough.
The story which those pictures told was not just of rage but of an incoherent, almost mindless rage fuelled by a sense of utter frustration and impotence. The residents who protested last week really did not care if the three youths were involved in criminal activity. To them, both their criminal activity (if such there was) and their deaths were consequences of the same cause; a futile, marginalised existence in the fetid underbelly of a society which simply does not seem to care.
'They have we living in shit already and now they killing we too.' That statement may well be the manifesto of the protesters. But incapable of articulating a manifesto, and in any case certain that no one would listen even if they did, they let their actions and expressions speak for them.
Moruga is not a special case. In villages and communities all over the country the impulse to protest is there. Whether the proximate cause is stated as lack of water, or poor roads, or the scarcity of jobs or housing; whatever the immediate reason which brings people out to burn and block and shout; the underlying cause is the hopeless futility of their existence."
That article in August 2011 went on:
"The explosions of rage which are manifesting themselves so vividly today have been a long time in the making. As every succeeding administration has failed to address the core problems of the economy, as our politics has become more vacuous and vile, as our elites have become more distinguished only for their corruption and venality, so too have the ranks of a permanent underclass grown and its denizens recognise only the law of necessity and the morality of brute survival.
"Today we should not even be speaking of one society. For, truth to tell, there are now two societies in our country. Never before has the chasm between the 'haves' and the 'have-nots' been so vast and, seemingly, so unbridgeable. Never before have the opportunities for upward mobility of those born into conditions of poverty been so narrowly circumscribed. Never before have the obligations of those blessed with means, to extend a helping hand to the less fortunate, been so routinely and disdainfully ignored.
"These two societies now intersect only at a nexus of suspicion, fear, resentment and rage. This is the true provenance of our escalating and intractable crime wave. We shall not solve our crime until we change those garrisons of rage into communities of hope. We shall not change those garrisons of rage until we fix our economy. We shall not fix our economy until we fix our politics and we shall not fix our politics until we recognise that the prime imperative is to emancipate our people; all our people; from the prison of dependency.
"The roiling passions of rage which exist within that parallel society and which erupt in different communities from time to time are at their tipping point, awaiting only the right precipitant and the right accelerant to ignite and blow our country to kingdom come."
Last week it was in Sea Lots, in July 2011 it was in Moruga and in between it has been in villages and communities up and down the land. Indeed it is really a landscape dotted with numerous of these violent explosions, each of which is a warning and a harbinger of things to come, awaiting only a spark.
And I end this article with the same words I used to end the article from which I have so liberally quoted. "Time grows short."
The Michael Harris column
returns on March 18
• Michael Harris has been for many years a writer and commentator on
politics and society in Trinidad
and the wider Caribbean