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Thursday 18 July 2019
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Commentary

Don’t worry, be proactive!

PAOLO KERNAHAN
PAOLO KERNAHAN

LAST WEEK’S column focused on the surge of fretting among locals unleashed by the Venezuelan migrant crisis. With the gathering numbers of immigrantes picantes at the registration centres, Trinis convulsed at the prospect of our already stretched resources being further exhausted by these intruders.

“They will bring more crime!” people complained. Although with reports of a police officer charged recently for the rape of a Venezuelan woman these migrants may have more to fear from us than us from them.

The fear that was vocalised the loudest was, perhaps, that these migrants are coming to take jobs from Trinis already stricken with unemployment. Employers, people predicted, would send home their committed, punctual local workers in favour of migrants. Fuelled by desperation, these socio-economic exiles would provide an inexhaustible pool of cheap labour free of NIS obligations.

It’s an idea that found fertile soil among many members of the public. Let’s set aside our paranoia about the problems Venezuelans “will” cause and examine the problems already here.

What most citizens have yet to appreciate is we are living in a society without a government. We are all in this together...alone. No new “fairy” to fix a purposely broken sea bridge or swimming pool in a sea of economic isolation is going to change that. This doesn’t mean you should stay silent on the injustices of this administration. It just means anchoring yourself with worry won’t help you face any of the economic realities you believe will be worsened by the Venezuelans.

I operate a modest video production business. When economic decline first bared its teeth back in 2014 I knew I was going to be in for a rough ride.

The very first thing that goes as private companies and state agencies batten down the hatches are budgets for advertising and public relations. You may have noticed on many days your newspapers are as thin as a funeral programme. There is something else: a recession is a peculiar beast in that as it destroys businesses, jobs and likelihoods, it also creates new opportunities.

I’m a huge fan of comic books. There is something in DC comic book lore called the Mother Box. This fictional thingamajig destroys whole worlds to create new ones. Just like those mother boxes in this government. Anyway, what the protracted economic stagnation has done is alter the landscape of my industry irrevocably.

Many colleagues have closed up shop entirely. Some switched professions altogether, retooling, retraining and reprogramming their minds to face the grim realities of jobs that have gone but bills and hungry mouths that have stayed.

My video production business has been on life support for the past two years. Yet, I didn’t find myself shouting “send them back!” down at the Queen’s Park Oval.

If every single Venezuelan left tomorrow on the new “fairy,” my economic outlook in the local market would not change one bit. Back when the recession dug its heels in, my partner and I began work on a plan to face a market reshaped by the tectonic forces of prolonged economic stagnation. We had to create a new type of business divorced from the local economy. It has taken some time because innovation under financial constraints is like trying to go on a date with a hundred dollars.

This new business, however, will be launched in a few weeks. I haven’t shared this story to toot my own horn. It was merely used to illustrate a point: had my partner and I simply sat down, complaining and worrying about the failures of the Government to deal with the economic crisis I would be in a very tight spot.

Governments of this country have always been predictable. Expecting the unexpected from our leadership is our failure, not theirs. Even as we hold their feet to the fire, we have a responsibility to our families to confront our circumstances not as we would like them to be, but as they are.

My story of determination isn’t unique, nor is my determination absolute. There are many days I feel like having a cry and a moan. None of that, though, will improve my prospects. Even in my advanced years, I continue to learn as much as I can to adapt to the ground that’s continually shifting beneath my feet.

When you focus on building your own opportunities it’s funny how you tune out the noise, the fear of Venezuelans and the abject uselessness of the political classes.

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