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Wednesday 20 November 2019
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State of emergency: On national boredom

Last week’s rant prompted my mother into asking, when I visited the next day, "What was the point of your column?”

“My boredom,” I replied, in a tone that was perhaps both incredulous and bored.

As with many of my rants, a simple answer is never enough. I needed to drive the point home that I was utterly bored, as if it was everyone else’s fault for being boring.

"Oh! Okay, I thought so," came the simple reply and no eye contact.

“Well,” and this is me on second thoughts because short answers make me want to explain more (in some instances), “it was also actually about how we think about home, ideas of home. That whole idea of being unsettled because these are unsettling times. You know? I am so bored of that I want to shout at people to get the ‘f’ on with their lives and stop the old stories!”

Both my parents raised their eyebrows indicating they were not going to contribute to the conversation.

“I’m never really just looking at one thing,” I continued, ignoring them.

But I wondered whether this was really just a figment of my own imagination, that people reading this column really don’t get the other things I am pointing at. Reality is, neither do I sometimes and I suppose this is a way of thinking through the ideas. In this vein, I suppose no taxes and duties on LED bulbs are pretty much a part of this improvised living, a way of thinking through conservation? So be it. Creative thinking allows for the bizarre. But all in all I suppose the budget is, as was described to me, a good election budget.

Despite the budget’s election goodness, I still can’t seem to wrap my head around anything that most politicians do. What seems pretty logical for the average citizen is never that logical for our "leaders." It seems that leadership means hunting for states of newness. I suppose this is a result of our national boredom? And so we dismantle and reconstruct and do it all over again every five years. I question for example, why not fix the existing roads that are in dire need of paving? This is just one example of something that already exists but ignored in order to construct some form of the new. And so, many other systems and structures that can do with a proper power washing and renovations are ignored in this newness venture just to say "We did something 'new.' What did you do?"

In this midst of this destruction/construction theme, I was pondering Jamaica’s success in the arts versus Trinidad and threw the question out to a senior writer. The answer was: it’s not that they are better. It’s that we take everything and thrash it. While Jamaica’s institutions nurture, ours make it difficult for anyone trying to progress.

I can’t say I disagree though I had thought that the answer would have been a little more philosophical than this but sometimes it is just that simple.

The next discussion on the matter began with a humorous memory. I was recalling my younger brother standing in our porch in his diaper shouting to everyone passing on the road, “Vote Winston Dookeran! Vote Sahadeo Basdeo!”

I believe Amitabh Bachchan found a place in this campaign too.

My friend couldn’t stop laughing.

“I really like Dookeran, that’s why I’m laughing,” she said. “But our people aren’t ready for politicians like that. They don’t want honest and cerebral. They like the performance.”

While we crib (to use an Indian English term for complain because I fancy this word), the reality is exactly that. We hoot and catcall to the Hollywood B film, if I may be allowed to lift a snippet of Naipaul’s assessment of our cinema. This is our preference. While we say we want honesty, what we really want is entertainment. The two are poles apart, though we can get into a more intellectual argument about the nature of entertainment and its relationship with honesty.

Regardless of our wealth, we keep dismantling and building. Continuity is a foreign concept except in this endeavour of destroy/rebuild.

And so I am genuinely bored, bored of the tired history, bored with the performances, bored waiting for people to realise that every five years voting resembles the rote learning, an elementary math class that goes: "One plus one equals two. Class, repeat," says the teacher.

And the students repeat in a drawl, "One plus one equals two."

"Everybody understand that?"

"Ye..e..s miss," the class of five-year olds say again in another unifying drawl.

In these hard economic times, this is just my one cent. Nobody can help me if I want to tear my hair out waiting for Godot.

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