Every culture is remembered by certain clichés, mottoes or maxims that people remember long after the person who said them or the occasion from which they arose is long past and forgotten.
“Keep calm and carry on” is a maxim of the English even after the bombing of cities in the Second World War and the stoic heroism with which the citizens endured it, happened 75 years ago.
“One from ten leaves nought” has been quoted long after the WI Federation dissolved.
"Take from the rich and give to the poor” said the medieval hero named Robin Hood: a cliché with which gang leaders and mafia lords justify shady activities.
TT, of course, not to be outdone, has dozens of them, “All ah we tief” is one that that lives in infamy. “Politics has a morality of its own” is tossed off by people who are so used to bribes, “commissions” and other forms of political corruption that they no longer cease to expect it.
Perhaps the most classic was the famous “If priest could play mas, who is we?” that gained currency in the 70s, when Fr Winston Joseph, a priest much loved by his parishioners, played mas one year. Fr Joseph was a man of the people, personable, understanding, non-judgemental.
He was the priest women parishioners could go to when they and their children were experiencing the terrorism of domestic abuse without being told that the Christian thing to do was to turn the other cheek. He understood that "till death do us part" also meant the death of a marriage, and was able to conceive of a church service for couples getting a divorce that they and their children could attend without trauma, get closure and go on with their lives with companionship and courtesy.
There was an enormous compassion in this, understanding the suffering both parties undergo in a marital breakup, the children being reassured that both parents would still love them unconditionally and that it was not their fault, which children often do assume – and no one tells them otherwise because it just never occurs to them.
Fifty years ago church politics was far more rigid in TT than it is today, and when the beloved Fr Joseph joined parishioners and ordinary revellers in costume on Carnival Monday and actually was pictured – gasp – going across the stage! it both created a sensation and gave ammunition to the adolescent rebels in society who, batting outside their crease, would defiantly say to aghast parents, “Well, if priest could play mas...”
Another old maxim is: "The devil can quote scriptures" and that mas reference keeps popping up as already angry people view the sheer arrogance of breaches of leadership that have hit the media headlines.
We are not alone. There is international anger over Trump-ish politicians who require citizens to wear facemasks, but refuse to do so themselves. The infamous breach of lockdown protocol in England by Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s chief adviser – who drove his wife and four-year-old son halfway across England to leave the child with his parents when no one else was allowed to travel outside their own district – is another.
"It is one law for Downing Street and another for us," shouted angry people, 200,000 of whom, including clerics, medical and judicial workers and members of the Conservative power elite, signed a petition to have him removed from office.
They had suffered and sacrificed for months, unable to sit with dying parents, or attend a beloved grandmother’s funeral. Stored-up frustration and anger exploded at the man whom many hate as the architect of Brexit for his betrayal of the leadership principles of “unity in adversity” staunchly upheld by the British under lockdown. He is the unrepentant one who has opened floodgates for hundreds of ordinary citizens to say, “Well if he can do it, so will I.”
Dominic Cummings serves Boris Johnson in the same way that Stuart Young, TT’s “minister of everything,” serves Dr Rowley. Hence the current furore over his meeting with Venezuela’s vice president.
People did not care so much about his meeting with her as they bitterly resented being lied to about it. No country in the known universe allows a delegation from a foreign state to meet with their own prime minister without a security clearance detailing who will be in the delegation and what will be on the agenda.
If what Mr Young said was true, both he and the ever-silent Minister of Foreign Affairs should be dismissed for negligence amounting to potentially endangering the PM’s life. If they did know, then there is many a miscreant in society who will follow in their footsteps by saying, "Well, If priest could play...”
Very few people in this country, other than the US ambassador, perhaps, would have cared about who the participants in that meeting were or if they discussed covid19 or oil and gas. Trinis understand that business is business, and to survive we have to sell our oil somewhere.
What people care about is that they were lied to over and over and suspect they no longer can and therefore will be able to trust anything their leadership says after they repeatedly insisted that a lie was the truth and contemptuously expected us to swallow each new version as it was presented.