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Monday 23 October 2017
Commentary

Running on empty

“…in Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”

I couldn’t resist laughter when I came across this quotation by Orson Welles that I first encountered a few years ago. Ironically, this week, it popped up arbitrarily (perhaps because I had been searching out Da Vinci coming to think of it).

In times like these, it is the only possible explanation I can give for Trinidadians having not yet revolted against the rising cost of living and crime. It must be that people have decided that this can only make us stronger and more progressive.

So, after reviewing the budget and realising that things could be worse than they already are (we could have bombs arbitrarily exploding down town or crazy gunmen shooting at people over at Jean Pierre), I decided to thank the universe for little blessings. We live on a strip of mercy–a little island– where our geographical location has protected us, thus far, from the impact of severe hurricanes. And so, we make merry here every day. It isn’t too much of a bad place to be is it?

It is clear that citizens are not going to make any significant impact on the cost of living or the, now, high levels of crime. We are not going to be doing anything about businesses that will be taking advantage of rising fuel prices as an excuse to raise prices of their goods. And we’re not going to be saying that we are in control and we must, therefore, teach the government how to treat us. Speaking or commenting on the budget at this point is useless and irrelevant.

This time, in the face of a problem to which I have no solution, I decided that I should buy another pair of running shoes. It’s the right thing to do. It’s the Trinidadian thing to do. Spend and be merry. I particularly love those lightweight, minimally padded running shoes. Not only do they feel good but nowadays “minimal” is trendy, fashionable, the in-thing.

On Monday evening I had a strong urge to lace up my sneakers and take a long run. So I did just that. The lack of a ceiling over one’s head for an hour or so is a liberating feeling. Of course such liberation is time dependent, especially for us females.

(As I write this I feel like going out for a midday run but that would be dangerous. I would probably be the only person or maybe one out of three persons on the large open field. So scrap that and maybe do some planks or lunges inside the house instead. There are always options you see. There’s a difference between feeling like a victim and being downright stupid).

My freedom had been curtailed by thoughts of the “Mighty Pouncer” lurking the field for an unsuspecting victim. It’s not, however, a time to be annoyed. I cannot be angry. I’m privileged. I have a new vision of life. I feel more Trinidadian now. In keeping with my new patriotic motto, “I’ll let this fall.” And as the elders would say “if you have nothing good to say, don’t open your mouth.”

I shall heed the advice, pick up my shoes and head to some stairs and run like a hamster on an exercise wheel, joining other hamsters on their stationary vehicles. Stationary runners, stationary bikers, running on wheels, peddling away into the nowhere: a place that can only take us inside our imaginations. But, that’s a good enough case for the exercise of the imagination and this is why, perhaps, one should embrace the recession. There seems to be no better situation for creative energy to find a place.

“Steve Jobs was a known minimalist” the story goes–a Zen Buddhism practitioner–who held an obsession for simplicity. Perhaps that’s the lesson of the budget – an administration in pursuit of Zen. Simplify, simplify. Go local. Stop buying imported goods. Stop patronising those unhealthy fast foods, those MSG-filled vegetables and noodles. Stop buying US dollars.

Go local. Go strong. Simplify.

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