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Thursday 22 August 2019
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Commentary

Who are these elites anyway?

PAOLO KERNAHAN
PAOLO KERNAHAN

RECENTLY businessman Gregory Aboud penned a thought-provoking letter to the editor peering into the silence of the elites. In it Mr Aboud lamented the abdication of the so-called elites in society. His words seemed to chastise them for cowardly stoicism (my words, not his) in the face of a crumbling society.

In his letter, he wrote, “We believe that because we are running legitimate businesses and living orderly lives that situations that cause 50 murders per month are not our responsibility.”

Mr Aboud should be praised for opening a discussion on the question of responsibility. His letter, unfortunately, is likely to be embraced as an excoriation of the one per cent by one of its own. That’s a convenient narrative for simpletons in need of a simple villain for complex societal problems.

The elites in TT aren’t just the well-to-do and business owners. Our elites are also the 41 Members of Parliament living gloriously detached lives. If you listen to politicians on either side of the aisle/canal it’s clear they haven’t a clue about the challenges confronting ordinary people on the ground. Theirs is a halcyon existence of denial in which public healthcare is the best in the Commonwealth, the economy is on the mend and violent crime is falling.

All governments step into a socialist state apparatus that pretends at equality but is more concerned with equilibrium. Give poor people just enough to buy silence and compliance at the polls. Baby grant, food card, funeral grant; from the cradle to the grave the less fortunate are led to believe these are privileges when they’ve paid for them with tax dollars.

The elites are also those in society who boast they no longer read the papers or watch the news. All these goings-on are far too depressing to contemplate. Mini-empires in TT have been built on people’s determination to forget. Our obsession with feteing is an outward, lucrative manifestation of the urge to bury our fears and concerns. This is precisely why the season of Carnival parties has become more important than the two-day street parade.

If you can’t fete away your problems, you can eat them. On any given day there are long lines at fast food outlets. It seems practically any foreign franchise could shoot their shot and get through in this country. Chick-fil-A, where you at?

Additionally, there has been an explosion of mega shopping centres across the land. These cathedrals of consumerism were built for the devout elites keen to numb themselves to the destruction of our society with the opiate of the masses: conspicuous consumption. The bitter irony is the blame then heaped upon the “one percenters” and their insatiable greed for our distressing state of affairs, even as we trip over ourselves to hand them our money.

The elites are also the people who slap me on the back and say, “Keep lashin’ dem Pallo! Keep up the good work!” Not all, but many of these people are too cowardly or self-interested to stand up against corruption, environmental destruction, incompetence and nepotism. That’s because many citizens are leery of jeopardising their rewarding political relationships and business associations by rocking the boat with the truth.

The elites champion Phillip Edward Alexander of the People’s Empowerment Party because he is filter-free and cusses the Government, the media, the doorbell etc in the way they wish they could.

“We need people like him to make a big stink. Clearly, he is not suitable leadership material and he’ll have to step aside at the appropriate time.” That is an actual quote from a conversation. One wonders whether Alexander is aware of his role as a mere grunt sent to the front to die so “a more suitable” person can step into the shoes cobbled with his vitriol.

Gregory Aboud is quite right to call out the elites in society for playing violins while the ship sinks. The elites, however, aren’t just rich people in the Western Peninsula, or the big sawatees in Palmiste, Lange Park or Valsayn. They aren’t the mocha-skinned in mocha or the good folks with the good hair in Fairways, Maraval. A society doesn’t fail simply because of the parasitism of the upper echelons. TT is in free fall, in part, because everyone is pointing the finger at everyone else. When it comes to denial and deflection, we are all in an elite class.

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