I find myself trying not to let our societal failings depress me.
I really do not want to sink into any form of depression over our society’s failings. For these are quite consciously deliberate and not the results of natural disasters or man-made cataclysms like wars and civil unrest. Indeed, conversely, we suffer almost no natural disasters, are blessed with resources which could support us all very well and have the capability and opportunity to develop a just, caring and progressive society.
Over the Republic Day weekend I took another escape to tiny Brasso Seco in the Northern Range. I go there so I do not have to follow the quarrels and the breaking news of murders, malfeasance, corruption and incompetence, or the fact that all of these are just more reasons to fete down the place. Indeed, new neighbours moved into our relatively quiet part of Cascade and threw a large “all-inclusive” fete on the hillside, to the distress of all residents there.
This don’t-care behaviour is symptomatic of what we are becoming, or indeed, have become: A people who care nothing for anyone’s feelings or customs as long as we are bold enough and selfish enough to do just as we please. And we will soon learn that a society cannot continue to survive, far less progress, while embracing traits of indifference, selfishness and a total lack of any desire to advance or improve the society. And our status quo is stuck back in pre-Independence and even Victorian times.
We retain, as a matter of policy, all the ancient and archaic rules of legislation and governance that the British imposed upon us in Queen Victoria’s time. We remain blissfully unaware that Britain, and indeed our fellow Caribbean ex-colonies have long moved on and modernised their laws and their procedures to keep up with a changing world. Not us though. All of our enabling institutions are still bound under the dead hand of stultifying “procedures” which prevent anything from going forward. Cabinet must delay, review, amend, send-to-a-special-committee-for-recommendation every idea and proposal which could take us one step forward.
We cannot step out of mental slavery far less mental colonialism. Yes, we changed some symbols—our own President instead of the Queen’s Governor General—but we remain ponderously tied to the colonial paths to progress, and these are long overgrown and impassable. The overriding ambition for position, rather than effective leadership for the benefit of all, keeps our feet stuck in mud and filth as we raise our champagne glasses to toast ourselves.
The steep ladder to success, respect and wealth has long been replaced with a wide, fast escalator upon which many can jump and suddenly find themselves in penthouses and exotic gated communities. And it seems that many who hop on this quick ride have nothing to offer their country any more. Their riches, other than the homes they build, are invested elsewhere, “just to be safe, you understand,” and for every fast-food franchise, and every cup of Starbucks sold, the local “entrepreneurs” must send money back to America.
It is our middle class and our poor who support these non-productive enterprises, their money flies away and it shows in the rot of our country. It shows in crime, in faltering education, in collapsing infrastructure, in failing health care, in every single administrative duty of governance, the things we cannot fix. For there is no will to fix or improve anything. Our will, if it was ever there, is smothered by the documentation, delays and permissions required before one can plant an ochre or start a business. It is the system we have to obey. And notwithstanding a sort of off-the-field feeling that we need to fix this system, it will not happen. Because once you get into the system, it infects you and you become committed to its endurance. And there is also a financial benefit to this inefficiency. It is the bribes you can collect all along the way, for “clearing problems” for friends and wealthy operators.
This is why competent, career-oriented Trinis leave our shores to work and advance in North America or Europe, where they succeed because of professional competence and no corrupt restraint. Their departure is a significant loss to our ability—if we even have the desire?—to take corrective action to halt our economic slide.
It is against these stark realities that our Prime Minister hurriedly summoned the estates to a “consultation” last Wednesday to try to soften the inevitable crash which is coming. Labour decided to stay away from the session, probably realising that this was a defensive “take-in-front” play to prepare us for the bad news which the Finance Minister will deliver tomorrow.
And as is customary with these consultations, not one of the recommendations offered will be implemented. We know that.