Trinidad and Tobago 'wars' that we must remember

Police officers recover the body of Kezia Jeneka Guerra in a forested area in Maracas St Joseph on November 5. Guerra was reported missing on October 31. FILE PHOTO -
Police officers recover the body of Kezia Jeneka Guerra in a forested area in Maracas St Joseph on November 5. Guerra was reported missing on October 31. FILE PHOTO -

With all the uncomfortable socio/politico/economic changes we are going through, November 11 is celebrated throughout the Commonwealth by those who remember as Remembrance Day.

World War II ended 76 years ago. In schools around the Commonwealth a siren would sound at 11 am, and in schools for decades afterward, school children would stand beside their desks, heads bowed in silence for three minutes.

In business organisations and professional offices employees wearing red poppies in their lapels would also stand silent for three minutes, and in smaller towns and villages, a police or fire siren would sound at 11 to remind everyone that war was over.

Few people even remember that ritual any more, and no one believes that, in the words of the old African-American spiritual Down by the Riverside, “I ain’t going to study war no more.”

It can still be found via Google, where you can find most things, and it brings back a wash of nostalgia for a world that still believed those words expressed the possible. Now the words remind us that there are 20 active armed conflicts going on, new ones this year in Mozambique, Tanzania, Rwanda and Botswana, Tigray, Yemen, and the campaign against the Rohingya of Myanmar.

According to global press reports, trauma faced by any of the major world/trading powers affects us intimately. This is not just because Trinis are among the most dispersed people in the world. Being island people, we are conditioned to wander. There is scarcely any country in the world, including those listed above, in which you will not find a Trini-born resident. Nor can you find any country where people are not affected one way or the other by armed conflicts in others.

I thought, as I considered the implications of Remembrance Day, how fortunate we are in Trinidad and Tobago, to be without such armed conflict.

Then I stood in my shoes and I wondered. Are we?

What about the armed conflict between neighbourhood gangs under the guidance of government-recognised community leaders? What about the dozens of deaths this year by “drive-by shootings”? What about the war on young women, who have become an endangered species?

And the war on those who block access to essential medications here? Is that different from what is done in most of the countries involved in armed conflict listed earlier? People die here too as a result.

We ignore damage to business connections as a result of transport problems in the south China seas, piracy off the coast of Croatia and the ever-increasing number of supply chain links broken by other countries’ conflicts these days.

Syria is on its knees, as is Afghanistan. They differ from us in quality but we should empathise with some, as the lack of resources to save people’s lives is affecting our tiny nation as well. Already the supply of medicines desperately needed for those suffering with the “comorbidities” that people now die from are missing from hospitals and pharmacies.

It was explained last month by our senior government medical official that damage to organs affected by non-communicable diseases NCDs is accelerated by the covid virus. These are the same comorbidities that used to be called NCDs that they built the hospital in Couva for.

Many NCDs people had been living with for years, and might have lived with for many years to come, if medication that used to be given to the elderly and vulnerable in medical centres was still available. It is no longer available, or, where it is, is no longer affordable by the vulnerable, ill and elderly. So they die.

If they happen to have caught the virus as well, it will be recorded by ministerial order as a “covid death,” so the medics tell us shamefacedly, not as the result of years of suffering from an NCD.

More factual press reports call it “dying
with covid. Less factual call it “dying
of covid.” Sells more papers, I suppose.

Is it because government can no longer afford cancer meds as the funds are going to the contracted covid vaccines? I have no idea, but there are reports I have been unable to verify that vaccines that cost the manufacturers US$2.50-$5 to produce are sold to third-world countries for US$85 a dose. Someone is making billions of dollars in profits. Do we count as a third-world country?

Not all of the shortages of medications here, I suspect, are the result of poor management. Some are the result of the controversial Procurement Act in, was it in 2015? Does anyone remember? Or is that another Remembrance lost to TT?

I believe it exempted government-to-government deals from scrutiny, thus enabling very lucrative side contracts to be struck, and for some inconceivable reason Parliament allowed it to pass.

It reminds one of the exemption all the big drug-manufacturing companies got whereby if anyone sickened and died as a result of their vaccines, which the WHO actually approved, they could not be sued or held responsible in any country by any court.

Now they want to make vaccines tested for only months on a minuscule sample sold to governments for five-year-old children! The polio vaccine had to be tested for ten years before it was approved.

Global business. Lest we forget, as the Remembrance Day poppies used to remind us.

We are entering a new management age, a post-Drucker age where laws, judgments and precedents are ignored, and uncertainty enters calling itself “the new order.” And tries to dominate.

It will lead to change, which as Prof Kubler-Ross taught us, is the end point of the discomfort and frustration of transition.

Logic and reason never entirely leave, though. They just go on observing, receding like the outgoing wave while the new one comes in.

Democracy, however, is a messy business. It does not always result in decisions that benefit the community that practises it. As Winston Churchill once pointed out, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms of government that have been tried from time to time.”

Just because a majority is persuaded by a clever orator, or a clever dictator, as Cicero so ably showed the world (which has never been the same since), as change hammers down on the entire globe, we can survive and overturn it.

The advantage of our messy democracy, however – and ours is messy – is that mistakes once made can be rectified, laws can be changed.

“The old order changeth yielding place to new/And God fulfils himself in many ways/Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.” Words you learned in school. Or should have.

Whether the mistakes made by well-meaning people were made in procuring medication at inflated prices, if they did, as was reported, or by people believing global propaganda paid for by the global one per cent, or the new order, has been accepted by just following the crowd, because it is easier than doing the research, that is how change takes place.

The hardliners tell you that “the voice of the people is the voice of God.” You can’t fight it.

However, those who quote it seem not to know that the quotation originated with the seventh-century sage Alcuin, who said: “And those people should not be listened to who keep saying, ‘The voice of the people is the voice of God’ since the riotousness of the crowd is always very close to madness.”


"Trinidad and Tobago 'wars' that we must remember"

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