As I begin to draft this commentary, Hurricane Irma is bearing down upon the Leeward Islands, and with our son and his young family living in St Kitts, where we visited in late August, we share a deep concern for all the people who live in Antigua/ Barbuda, St Kitts/ Nevis and the “non-US” Virgin Islands, and for what they would have faced from Tuesday evening.
The United States media has already been expressing their concerns for the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Florida, in other words—the United States citizens who may be in Irma’s path. Sadly, natural disasters do not have passports, and no president nor army could stave off Harvey last week nor Irma this week.
By the time Irma arrives in Florida, probably as you read these words this Sunday morning, destruction and death would have been wrought in the tiny Leeward Islands, and through the too easily dismissed Hispaniola and Cuba. My heart is heavy for all who suffered and will suffer from these two back-to-back super storms. I spent three wonderful years in Houston way back in the 1960s and am still in touch with friends from those times. And which Trini does not have friends and family all through Florida?
But we have long become accustomed to the fact that certain lives matter less than others. Lives like those of Haitians, Cubans and “small islanders”, so we need not look to the United States for rescue or assistance for Irma’s wrath. I say this not with bitterness, but as a statement of fact.
The US currently has its own problems, caused by nature and caused by their current politics. Storms created in the Atlantic Ocean are sweeping ashore, bringing wind and flood devastation. But storms created in Washington are sweeping outward across the globe, and these are potentially far more destructive than the benignly-named Harvey and Irma. And even here in our two small islands, we find ourselves drowning in failure of every aspect of our own governance and administration.
Neither the world, nor certainly Trinidad and Tobago can look forward to the next few months with any feeling of comfort or solace of any kind. The current aggravated tensions coming out of North Korea have an essence of dreadful finality about them. We are actually looking at the possibility of mass nuclear conflagration and there is absolutely nothing we here can do about it. And even if the world, or Trump and Kim manage to avoid this catastrophe, there are still the ongoing dangers of ISIS and terrorism which also have the possibility to create mass destruction throughout the world.
And there is absolutely nothing that we in TT can do about all of these dreadful matters. Nothing we can do about the storms, one day we will experience one ourselves, and nothing we can do about the state of world politics and wars.
However, it will not be storm or natural disaster, nor even ISIS or Trump that will cause us to collapse into the heap of incompetence and failure which we so assiduously have been courting. We still have all the natural and physical assets with which to lift our country, our failing society, from its self-inflicted collapse.
Our people, from doctors through scientists, to skilled engineers and builders, all trades and capabilities, can go anywhere in the world and excel and lead. But not here at home. We strive to fail in all that we do except in corruption. Nothing but corruption is working properly in our country anymore. And as the various investigations into the failings of our ferry operations are showing, our two political parties are only there to blame each other while the people suffer. Neither party has any solution to bring to the table. And they never will. Tobago, take my advice of some weeks ago and secede with your own surrounding oil and gas reserves, and develop your country without the handicap of Trinidad.
We see no potential for enlightened and hard-working leadership any where among us—not in governance, business, labour, the professions or among the political pretenders. And the true tragedy with this is that we are a land, and a people blessed and bountiful with talent and amazing natural assets. Other people with so much less have done so much more with their societies and for their futures.
Of all the storms raging, in the Caribbean and around the world, the most dangerous to us is the storm we have allowed to build within our society. Slackness, indifference, abuse of everything, disobedience and a commitment to filth and failure has brought our society to its knees—and not to pray, but to prey, prey upon each other until we have nothing left to save. So sad!