Last Wednesday, my neighbourhood was literally under assault for an hour. The source was an Independence concert in the Aranjuez Savannah that erupted into an ear-splitting fireworks display.
My roof was vibrating; it felt like missiles were landing on it, and it shook out every particle of dust that had ever settled there, so that in no time my kitchen counters were covered. It went on and on, the loudest, most violent sounds I have ever heard. Six days later, my ears still hurt and I cannot hear properly. I can only imagine what my dogs feel. They were so terrified they sought refuge under my car.
It drove me so mad that I understood something about the feeling of powerlessness and helplessness under such assaults that make people do crazy things. We have become a country where all celebrations have to have big trucks and fireworks, and it is striking that the sound of fireworks exploding is akin to being in a war zone. Plain and simple, no matter what beauty people find in the skyscraping bursts of colour, the soundtrack is one of violence.
After the fireworks bombardment stopped, a steelband began to play and although my ears were hurting like hell, it was such a reprieve to hear music. Why was this hour-long blitz necessary? From the sheer scale of the exercise, in this small community on the Wednesday before Independence, I imagined what the rest of the country was in for.
All the complaints about the noise we are compelled to endure at the whims of neighbours and strangers fall on deaf ears. There is no respect for people's rights to peace and quiet. National celebrations have become loud, crass displays of ostentation. The people selling these fireworks must be making a fortune as they have a captive market for useless and wasteful merchandise. Will they pay for the damage to people's hearing?
Who will protect us?
On Independence morning, walking through the Croisee I observed a banner hanging in front of the police sub-station. To my astonishment, it was advertising the Wednesday event, which had been hosted by the Police Youth Club. It boggled my mind. Where did they get the money for the fireworks? How much did it cost? Did the EMA permit this? Aren't they the ones supposed to be protecting us from this kind of assault?
In my neighbourhood where I have mostly lived since childhood, the appalling noise often makes me ready to pack up and leave. The sounds of traffic from the Priority Bus Route have become incessant, starting around 4 a.m. and not ending till late night, with regularly blaring sirens to add to the sense of being under siege. I've resigned myself to this.
A welder grinds and drills at all hours, and though I am sympathetic to his need to earn an income, it is a terrible discomfort. A young man across the road drives a car that idles at the loudest you can imagine, and this is compounded by his sound system which rattles the burglar bars even though my house is well back from the road. On Maloney Street, a bar has a karaoke night on Fridays, and their music is so loud, two streets away you can't hear yourself in your own house. Ask them to turn it down please, and they say they have a bar licence. Write to the EMA, no response. Call the police, the polite officer tells me that there really is nothing they can do, and I should talk to the EMA (despite EMA ads saying the police do have the power to intervene).
Who will protect us?
A lot of land midway on our street, has been vacant and overgrown with bushes for years. Recently it was fenced, and three weeks ago, enormous hills of foul-scented dirt were piled up inside. It smells like sewage, and with the rains leaving large pools of water between the heaps, it is like living in an overflowing cesspool. My neighbour has complained to the Regional Corporation with no luck. The people dumping their waste there, some of which has entered his property because of the rain, told him they rented the spot specifically for that purpose. He is planning to write to the MP for the area, Herbert Volney and the EMA.
Will they protect us?
On this hapless Hollis Street, a car has been abandoned for years. At the corner with Bushe Street, a major thoroughfare for those going to the Bus Route and the Aranjuez Savannah, another lot of land has been left to become a garbage dump overgrown with bushes. One day as I passed, I saw that someone had dropped off four toilet bowls, lined them up like thrones looking out at passersby, jeering it seemed, at the crap we have to take.
This is my street, a place I have known all my life. I accept that things change, but I feel dismay and anger and a swelling sense of helplessness at what it has become. It wasn't like this; but bit by bit with no one willing to stand up for our rights, it has become just another vulnerable backwater, left to go down the drain.