Why should I care?

Paolo Kernahan -
Paolo Kernahan -

IT'S A QUESTION occupying far more space in my consciousness than is reasonable: why should I care? Even though this may be hard to believe, I am only human and prone to disillusionment. Has the time come to stop speaking and writing on issues of national importance? Is it now time to concentrate instead on matters of personal importance? I once believed the two were twin objectives.

Why serve as an umpire in possibly the crappiest, longest-running cricket match in Caribbean history, all when the spectators seem happy to keep blowing their conch shells and guzzling frosty beers.

It's an exhausting, protracted internal dialogue: must I do as others have – accept that it's all pointless and, like the politicians, put on my “me first” hat?

Easier said than done. To see a man at the roadside selling these ubiquitous bottles of brilliantly-coloured detergent, some of which even look milk-based, bothers me in my bones. It's distressing because the likelihood of this man making more than $60 a day peddling these products is slim.

I'm haunted by the sight of a woman sitting on the sidewalk selling bottled water for $3. She has to buy maybe three bags of ice per day to chill that water in one of those wheelie coolers. People edge past her like she's a hole in a broken pavement. Broken pavements for broken people.

To see people clinging to life by the fingernails hurts. Although I have it tough, I shudder at the horrors of others who've lost their jobs – and with many dependants tugging at their sleeves.

Every day thousands of us wake up to be promptly donkey-kicked in the teeth by all the worst this country has to offer. Yet, they get dressed and wade out into adversity to stare down hopelessness. What the hell else can they do?

I want to put my head down and see about myself, but how can I? Nursing an indifference in TT is like drawing solace from being draped in a wet towel in a raging inferno.

There may have been a time when it was possible to insulate yourself, even if not entirely, from the effluence of failed politics and feeble governance.

As we face the prospect of a crash, it's doubtful anyone will be spared in the wreckage. The contagion of failure is even-handed in its destructive power. Higher food prices, 24/7 predatory crime, and a complete breakdown in public services – these growing probabilities will equalise the rich, poor, and lower middle class in calamity.

Few remember the recession and vise of hardship of the 1980s. It can be argued that what really hauled us out of that pit of despair was an upswing in oil prices coupled with the growth of the natural gas industry.

TT doesn't have the benefit of an abundance of those resources today. Nor is there evidence of creative thought at work to reimagine a sagging economy seduced by the narcotic effects of petro royalties. Oil dollars were used to create a consumption-based rather than an innovation-led marketplace – a land of import junkies. Now that oil wealth has receded, our “robust” economy is exposed as nothing but a cheap forgery.

We stared so deeply into that oil barrel looking for the last drop we scarcely noticed when it became the barrel of a gun. Still, our political discourse doesn't mirror the urgency of our times. The Opposition makes pathetic political theatre of requesting vaccines from India. Stuart Young comes with more piecemeal anti-crime legislation daring the Opposition to withhold support. Party loyalists bicker as if it were a sport with a prize at the end of play. Round and round we chase our tails as once blustery winds no longer fill our sails.

Nothing changes – there is no critical mass, no tsunami of public activation driven by the inevitability of the abyss. Sure, there are many Trinis trying to challenge the old order. They do so with limited resources and plentiful opposition to their causes. Still, will it ever be enough to counter the ruin of cancerous leadership?

To quote, "There are days in this life when you see the teeth marks of time." Even the most outspoken and steadfast can be rendered inert by the attrition of sameness.

Every day I am nagged by the question, "How can I abandon my country?" Then there's that pesky human side of me that chimes in, "Hasn't my country abandoned me?"


"Why should I care?"

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