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Friday 13 December 2019
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Turn outrage into action

PAOLO KERNAHAN
PAOLO KERNAHAN

PICTURES OF a fashion show in the aisles of the Holy Trinity Cathedral triggered a conflagration of righteous indignation. Let’s just say the swimsuits were wearing the models.

It was reported that part of the proceeds of the show would go towards the refurbishment of the earthquake-damaged cathedral. That did little to suppress the anger. A public stoning seemed imminent.

Hey, maybe that could be an attention grabber for the next fashion week? A public stoning of the models wearing the latest couture! No, no. That’s sooo old testament.

Anger over the show was vented in a flurry of online posts condemning the impropriety of bikinis among the pews.

We don’t need that kind of skintertainment! That isn’t an actual post, but I don’t know when next I’ll have an opportunity to use the word “skintertainment,” so there you go.

There is blood and rending of flesh between the offended and “offenders” believing this is a storm in a teacup. I know that getting into the gayelle with two fighters with sticks already crossed isn’t a good idea. As such, I offer no opinion on the rights or wrongs of this scenario.

It occurred to me, though, the energy unleashed online by the controversy contained the awesome power of a solar flare.

Imagine what we could accomplish by converting the energy of moral outrage into action. It would have been useful when McLeod House was on the bulldozing block in 2012.

Also know as Friendship Hall, this was one of our most iconic great houses. Formerly located on the Southern Main Road near to St Mary’s junction in Freeport, this architecturally unique building was an eye-catching feature in an otherwise drab landscape.

When the house was levelled, out came the daggers. People with little or no knowledge of the background of the property or owners heaped scorn and damnation upon those they felt responsible for erasing a treasured landmark.

Many of the Facebook mob didn’t know that the Friendship Hall they saw from the Southern Main Road was just a facade. Half the house had fallen away at the back, eroded by decay. Gaping openings were crudely covered up by long, rusted sheets of galvanise. Staircases crumbled, foundation pillars buckled and failed.

I spoke with the owners of the house before its demolition and they complained that they tried desperately to get help from the State to preserve the building.

Unsurprisingly, there was no response as there is no feasible financial mechanism for the protection and maintenance of important architectural treasures. The upkeep of these old buildings can be incredibly costly and difficult to maintain on modest incomes.

Still, the owners of McLeod House weren’t spared the fiery tongues of online commentators. If all that damning the family to hell had instead been converted into a citizen-led effort to save the property from ruin, Friendship Hall might have been spared the bulldozer’s blade. Yet, all we are left with are vague memories of a property that once stood proud and beautiful; memories haunted by echoes of hollow words that cursed its demise.

McLeod House was one of many historical structures I explored for my television programme, The Road Less Travelled. Another one was Hayes Court around the Queen’s Park Savannah.

This property, completed in 1910, was built to serve as the official residence of the Anglican bishop. When I visited the site many years ago, I was told by some administrative types that the building was in desperate need of repairs. As one would expect of any structure built more than 100 years ago, Hayes Court was worse for wear and the cost for the refurbishment was an eye-watering sum.

Can you imagine what it would be like if Hayes Court or any one of the Magnificent Seven had to be demolished (God forbid) owing to a lack of funds for repairs? That would be like a beautiful smile marred by a missing tooth.

You see Trinis love to rant and rave, but just consider how much more effective it would be to take action or put your money where your moral outrage is.

Not keen on scorched-earth bikini lines in church? Get involved and see how you can help raise funds for your house of worship.

There’s no need to pluck out that offending eye, just open them both. Be attuned to what’s happening in your country and do what you can, beyond bellyaching, to achieve the change you want to see.

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