Another Trinidadian year drifts to its end, with the ship of state as likely to end up on the rocks as in the harbour, and that outcome a matter entirely of chance because the crew, before and behind the mast, cares more about raiding the cargo than docking the boat; and, if they calculate on the bridge that there will be more bounty to plunder via salvage than safety, all-man-Jack will pop the cork on the Cristal and cheerfully scupper the firetrucker.
“Captain, the ship is sinking/ Captain, the seas are rough/ Sailor, hush, I drinking/ And the curry-duck is warm enough.”
You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows and you don’t need an international body to know your country is collapsing: our judiciary is falling apart openly (and behind closed doors); it’s easier (and cheaper) to buy cocaine outside a Port of Spain bank than US dollars inside; children’s hospitals lie empty in Trinidad and cultural complexes in Tobago will never be filled by “conferencing” foreigners when locals are fighting over every seat on every rare plane; without a ferry bringing Trini groceries, Tobagonians starve because they don’t plant pigeon peas any more, but import lentils from Canada; and, in either T or T, any citizen, regardless of rank, can be murdered anytime, anywhere (especially Morvant-Laventille and Bacolet Gardens) and nothing at all will be done about it in 93 per cent of cases, because, in this pappy-show land, where nearly everything is a pappy-show, the police service is the biggest “make-work” scheme… …But why should the police be singled out for sneering at in a place where everyone does what they like and no one does what they know they ought? Every institution is under fire from the people who are supposed to protect it and no one gives a firetruck, as long as they get their free tickets to the VIP Platinum section of the next big bram paid for with other people’s money.
Trinidad today is like a deflating air mattress, except it would be called a “jump-up-high,” not a “lilo”: you’re afraid to put any pressure on it at all, because the air will run out even faster.
Who, in Trinidad, could have their car break down on the main highway into the capital and nonchalantly read a magazine until their road rescue arrives? Who can see tyres burning on the Beetham and not see Nikki Crosby, that most Trini of Trinis, bawling like a baby? In the Country of the Blind the one-eyed man may indeed be king, but in the Limer’s Republic, anyone with two brain cells to rub together is a pariah.
In the rest of the world, the new year brings with it deep personal reflection and resolutions for positive fundamental change; in Trinidad, at year-end, what is everybody talking about? Rowley Mudda Count. Nirmal “Massive” Gosine’s fairly boring chutney soca song, whose whole point is contained in its title, a pun a secondary schoolboy might reject as unacceptably weak, like its nearest ancestor, the dreadful Catholic/Cat-to-lick.
In the so-called Land of Calypso, where, in poetry, dead calypsonians decompose but compose still, a mediocre ribald song has been raised to treason.
Could we have come so far down from Eric Williams’ “Let the jackass bray”?
Does any office really need to be protected, at the expense of free speech, from a poorly-made, poor-taste joke?
Can the dignity of an office be lowered by toilet humour when the occupant himself threatens to put on his “s--it-kicker” boots for another member of Parliament?
Or compares a golf course to a woman who needs grooming daily to prevent a reversion to pasture?
Can a chutney soca really add insult to an officeholder who has been called a liar by the only officeholder higher than him — and has returned the favour?
But this is the kind of debate Trinidadians love: it gives everyone the chance to gallery in the extreme, to play themselves massive, if you like, but changes nothing at all of substance.
Whether you give or don’t give a firetruck about Rowley’s Mudda Count doesn’t change the reality that you could lose your job, your son, your husband, your wife or your very life at any moment now in Trinidad — and nobody can do anything about it. Happy firetrucking New Year.
BC Pires is singing a song of four-and-twenty blackbirds baked in a Cabinet. Read more of his writing at www.BCPires.com