LAST WEEK I posted a vaguely facetious commentary on the Venezuelan migrant crisis on Facebook. It was inspired by a torrent of worry and predictions over the impact the Venezuelan influx will have on our clearly idyllic way of life in TT. There was a serious subtext to the overall jokey post. Some got it. Others, in a more exaggerated fashion, didn’t.
“How you could tell us we don’t have a right to worry!” “Laugh now, you will see what will happen!” “Are you retarded?” That last one was shockingly puerile, even by Trini standards.
These were some of the comments suggesting that, in some way, I was trying to minimise concerns over a surging tide of Venezuelan migration. Amazingly, quite a few people interpreted my statement as an open endorsement of unchecked migration into this country.
Now, far be it from me to rob anyone of the right to worry. It is the one right that any government of this great nation will defend on behalf of its people at all cost...which is none. The central point of the post was simple – all of this fulmination over Venezuelans coming to take jobs, clog up the healthcare system and exacerbate crime and all else is essentially pointless.
The plain truth is worrywarts will have to travel far and wide to find anyone who thinks unchecked illegal migration into this country is a good thing.
This Government bungled the entire Venezuelan migrant crisis predictably and spectacularly. Consequently, we are gathering the harvest of that incompetence. With that said, life often demands of us the grace and wisdom to face situations as they are, not as we would like them to be.
Confronting this unprecedented deluge of Venezuelans requires perspective, planning, mitigation, community outreach, intelligence gathering, sound management and so on.
Worry and 24/7 bellyaching, on the other hand, are like offerings of the subjugated to our autocratic governing apparatus. It keeps people powerless and dependent on state institutions that aren’t obligated or even designed to deliver. The Government of TT is engineered to frustrate any lingering ambitions of fools who think they have any power beyond voting for their own enslavement.
Did we call on the Government to account for the migrant crisis that moved in slow motion for at least two years while ministers denied its existence? No. Instead, a rabble was roused to go down to the Queen’s Park Oval and shout, “Close the borders now!” at people who have no control over the borders and patently vested interests in crossing them.
Many citizens believe the State is going to give priority to Venezuelans for housing, education, healthcare and employment. Even now, these worrier warriors fail to see this Government has demonstrated time and again it will only ever give priority to its members. It calls to mind a song by Simply Red: “If you don’t know me by now...you will never never know me.” Trinis don’t burn to learn, they yearn to burn.
While the citizenry wails about all the Venezuelans would (future tense) take from them, the Government is busy fixing itself up with pension increases. Ministers regaled the Parliament and public with sob stories about retired politicians and judges living in penury. Our leaders are so out of touch they can’t see they are describing normal life for tens of thousands of citizens in this country. You weren’t paying attention, though, because they told you: “the wider society is not the priority at this time.” But hey, you have your worry and they’ve got their pensions.
Sending the Venezuelans back won’t give you jobs that aren’t there. Economic decline and abysmal governance destroyed thousands of jobs before the Venezuelans were even a trickle. Don’t even get me started on healthcare. Earlier this year, I spent 24 hours straight at the Mt Hope Hospital trying to get a patient admitted. The place was packed with Trinidadians. Protesters, though, went to the Oval. They didn’t go to demonstrate around Terrence Deyalsingh’s Ford Mustang.
The bullhorn posse didn’t carry their grievances to the Office of the Prime Minister at the Moka Golf Course (OPMM).
Venezuelan migrants or Guyanese, Nigerian or Cuban migrants for that matter aren’t the problem.
They are symptoms of incompetent governance both in their countries and TT. Worrying won’t change their circumstances or ours because it isn’t an action.
But don’t worry, next week’s column will take a look at some specific actions and shifts in mindset to counteract all the conditions for which we hold Venezuelans responsible.