"IF YOU know how I can't stand Paolo Kernahan, eh! He always writing foolishness. He have an agenda. And he calls himself ah big journalist?"
If you're a masochist or need to keep runaway self-esteem in check, all you have to do is offer suggestions on ways this country can be better, smarter, or more efficient.
Trinis are heavily invested in maintaining the status quo. Any admission that we're in the soup challenges their prostrate devotion to their political party/race. In TT ’tis nobler to sink in ignorance than rise in erudition.
My character is savaged every week by political piranhas when this column appears. I'm in good company too – Mariano Browne, Ralph Maraj, Indera Sagewan-Alli, Dennise Demming, Garvin Nicholas, Marla Dukharan; they also get licks for pointing out where we're going wrong.
Why would people flip out hearing others talk about paths to becoming a stronger, more progressive nation? In TT we're addicted to excuses. That dependency further binds us in the comforting embrace of mediocrity. Perhaps we want TT to be preserved as it was 50 years ago; a living time capsule of all that was and forever shall be.
This week, I, along with my partner, will be speaking at European Digital Week. It's a global digital forum and I'll be participating in the Video and Social Media Marketing International Conference. This sprawling online event will be covering practically everything with a technological tie-in. Other conferences within EDW include robotics, automation, AI systems, smart infrastructures and buildings, crypto finance, and blockchain technologies.
What comes to mind when seeing these topics? Probably nothing, unless you're already immersed in them. That's because they aren't registering even a modest blip on our radar. They're of little to zero interest in our media coverage because the national psyche is several decades behind many other countries.
Full disclosure, I am not now nor have I ever been remotely comfortable with technology in all it's infuriating permutations. Back when international travel was routine, I visited New York. On arrival, I immediately felt like a man from an ancient realm – an outdated specie of human blindly groping around in an environment long since reshaped by technology. In the famous Apple Store, the one with the garish glass cube, everyone was from the future – I was the only relic there; a bemused travelling tribesman.
There were no cash registers, no display cabinets, and very few products in sight. The store is built for buyers, not browsers. A man dressed in white (people from the future often are) caught my confused look. He approached and asked whether he could help. "I just want a phone, man!" This future dude pulled out a device that looked like a wireless handset from 2039. It gave him access to everything in the store. My request was processed within minutes without copious paperwork or DNA sample. A woman, or cyborg (they're so lifelike now!), appeared seemingly out of a nearby wall with my phone.
In other countries, they're using tech to track covid19 patients through apps. You can transact a variety of functions through your phone without ever leaving your home, from paying or depositing cheques to buying a whole car. In TT we talk smack about a “digital economy” with a glaring ignorance among our leadership of what that means.
Ministries and state agencies pretend at adopting technology but it's largely artifice, like giant CPU with men turning gears on the inside. Making online payments and conducting other transactions is frustratingly difficult in many cases, if not impossible in others. Ours is still, largely, a paper-based society.
The private sector isn't furlongs ahead either. At this rate we'll only ever become a cashless society when we actually run out of cash. Online banking is needlessly complicated and unreliable, consuming unreasonable amounts of time. People are always venting on Facebook about trying to reach a bank by phone for days, even weeks.
Moreover, there's a niggling feeling that we, as a nation, are outdated. We are the jungle-cloaked tribes shooting arrows at aircraft. Trinis stubbornly resist the inevitability of change. Through our inability to admit we may be travelling down the wrong path, we fail to see there's a better path to our goals; a path illuminated by technology.
There's little point in being so proud of who we are (unjustifiably so) if it blinds us to who we could become. Why are we happy marching in place in a living time capsule, trapped in the amber of ignorance and hubris?