N Touch
Wednesday 22 January 2020
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Commentary

Playing the blues

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The idea of clutter that I began addressing last week remains at the forefront of my mind. As I design a new living space, the exercise has become more about a way of life than filling cavities with things. It is about how life should look rather than acting on impulse.

Nowadays my Facebook page is being littered with sponsored ads on minimalism. I laugh, thinking, "more clutter." Now, instead of making it simple, the riffs on minimalism have sprouted a variety of combinations.

Such is the human mind, the natural tendency to push. We see it in children, pushing boundaries to see which one works to their own advantage. Given that this minimalism movement is also an income-earner (because this is what people do when a novel idea emerges. Take smoked fish in Mayaro for instance. There isn’t only Duckie’s, though his is the most popular and bigger establishment) it is no surprise that various minimalists are building more and more creative approaches to minimalism, creating another industry which will spawn another movement to counter that movement. It is a song without end.

Luckily, in my case, the attraction to minimalism is innate, in which case, the only things that have changed is that I now have a tag and I have an idea book from which to furnish my already minimalist tendency. Being a sceptic too, means that there will be questions. This affords one the mental clarity to stand back and recognize the various takes on minimalism a branding, as people selling the idea of happiness in different forms.

Happiness is the one commodity that every one of us is searching for and happiness has colours – excitement, contentment/satisfaction, peace of mind. Essentially, you are being sold a colour palette. Confusing again.

One can nevertheless extract the things of value in the given time. That idea book that I mentioned is important and one that I find most useful when confronted with multiple perspectives. Practical ideas like "best storage solutions for small spaces" or "how to use wall space creatively" are ways to simplify the problem of traditional cupboards for instance – we extract the ideas that work for our purposes. Makes no sense reinventing the wheel when the information is readily available.

But it comes down to the question of which ideas work for me, for my way of life, for my interpretation of experiences, for my eye. All to say, it really is a personal issue.

I come to these ideas looking at the fiasco created over the demonetisation. As I looked at the ripple effect of transitioning to a currency that is 1) supposedly safer to use and 2) a means of "catching" the criminal elements with their bags of money, all noble intentions supposedly, I couldn’t shake the thought that this is another example of our colonial legacy.

Trinidad remains a backwater island. We have learnt nothing about transitions. Abolish slavery because it’s an evil system! Rejoice.

Transition through apprenticeship and indentureship because the haves still need to make their money. They are the ones who need the time to transition, not the free slave left to his own devices to try and eke out a living.

But of course, this doesn’t matter, because as long as the landowners are pacified, all is well.

I listen to workmen complain that this decision to demonetise has held back a lot of work because they now have to deposit cash after a day’s work before it is valueless.

Why? Because people are unclear about timelines.

Why? Because all we know is governance by fear. We listen to the stories about elderly people waiting in hours-long lines to deposit cash, because the few hundred dollars they save every month, like my grandmother did, wrapped in a handkerchief to look after her groceries because she still wants to feel independent, or give a little to her grandchildren when they visit, now has to be exchanged in banks in a rush.

This is only a part of the story. This all feels like a more civilized version of looting in the face of a coup.

I can say that this is a case of stupidity, but stupid is too light a judgment. This isn’t stupidity. And if this sounds angry, it is because it is, because uppermost in my mind is what the ripple effect of this decision is, particularly on the elderly people in our society.

We are talking benefits to percentages (because this is how we refer to each other now) all the way through and so, I have no hesitation in saying that either advisers need to be fired or this is another example of self-service, or both. I leave this open to be proven wrong.

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