AS TOLD TO BC PIRES
My name is Paolo Kernahan and I’m not sure I’m a Trini to D Bone for the purposes of BC Pires’ Newsday feature.
In my distant lineage there is some Irish influence, along with East Indian and African. An east coast village just before Mayaro bears my last name. Misspelt the same way people mispronounce in in the licensing office, grocery and everywhere really: KernaHAM.
I grew up in but don't really consider myself as “coming from” Diego Martin.
For better or worse, I'm a product of myself and my experiences, not so much where I grew up.
I think of Diego Martin, (not) as a community, mostly as a place where people just live in close proximity.
I can't be sure if everyone kept to themselves or if I kept myself apart from everyone else. The latter is likely truer.
I have absolutely no paternal instinct, so the population was never in any danger of my multiplying.
At any rate, there are more than enough people on this planet to seal its fate.
The most enduring memories of my youth are east coast weekends. When everyone else's parents were taking them to Maracas, my father took my siblings and me to Manzanilla. Long days frolicking in the treacherous, oil-tinged surf and basking on sand smelling like a gas spill. (Or digging) in the sand for chip chip, absolutely fascinating. I spent lots of time chasing mountain crabs in Plum Mitan forests.
Not bad as boy days go.
I went to Fatima College, but I am not a Fatima boy. I'm just me. That's more than enough for most people.
Perhaps it’s mostly (my fault, but) I can't say the school left much of an impression.
The one exception, Mr Romero, came across first as hard-boiled but (was) genuinely interested in students. He seemed to see something in me I couldn't see in myself – I didn't say he was perfect.
As a child raised Catholic, Christmas and Catholicism were inextricably linked.
I've long been untethered from them both.
Now, the obligation to do good where you can and to be kind, considerate, and honourable in all things is all the religion I need.
The current life is enough of a handful without worrying about the afterlife. My main goal is to just get out of this one alive before I die.
Whenever I try to take a weekend off, I spend the time worrying I'm meant to be doing something more consequential.
Of Human Bondage by W Somerset Maugham had an indelible impact.
Beautifully written literature has always been a powerful attraction and few write more beautifully than Naipaul. We have to embrace those stinging truths (he exposes) as a way to improve, rather than process them as a fight-down.
Music is my life. At one point, I determined I would be a musician.
A lack of musical talent, though, scuttled my ambitions.
The Smiths most shaped my outlook on life. Their extraordinary musicianship (and) the maudlin yet relatable lyrics of Morissey had the power to instil pride in being an awkward loser.
It is a bit embarrassing for a hard-back man to admit, but I enjoy superhero films with the Iron Man and the Spider-Man and those types.
Perhaps it has something to do with the idea of being more than you are and more than nature intended; this has always appealed to me.
There were few occupations I imagined myself either capable of doing or interested in enough to tolerate.
Journalism seemed intriguing and doable. Doing something new or entirely unpredictable every day was nourishing and exciting.
In morning television, I tried to inject a bit of humour and personality. Even as the interviews were mostly anchored in serious inquiry. I can't be sure how many people went in for that sort of thing.
Only Gayelle had the stones to put a show like Skews on the air. I will always respect their bravery. It became a massive hit. To this day, people in the street ask, “When Skews comin' back?”
But the story of Skews is the story of TT: it couldn't attract enough advertising to keep it alive. Gayelle funded it for as long as possible but that was unsustainable.
Several companies loved the show, but were afraid that, if they advertised in it, they would be victimised by the government.
We live in fear of the government, when it is the government who should live in fear of us.
I've always seen this T2DB feature as focused on people who love everything about this country.
But I'm outspoken about what's wrong and some people say that makes me unpatriotic.
But say what.
Anyone who does not discern the gradual collapse of this country is blessed with a supernatural ability to warp reality.
My gifts don't include this superpower.
I never imagined myself as the kind of person who would migrate. There is something truly special about this place. All of my professional pursuits were done with a view to building a life here.
That goal seems less practical every day. If TT continues along this trajectory, and all the evidence suggests it will, I won't have any choice but to leave.
With what I do now, I can live anywhere. But it will be sad to leave my homeland.
Politicians are avatars of the avarice, incompetence, and ill will in many of us. They are a huge part of our problem. But they are merely programmed by our apathy that tolerates wrongdoing from one political party but not another because of our tribal fealty.
I'm not worried that we can't change. I'm worried that not enough of us want to change.
I am going to speak a truth many don't want to hear: this country is a mediocracy. We embrace averageness across businesses, state agencies and governance.
The intelligent, competent souls committed to what they do in both public and private sectors flail against a mediocre tide stifling their efforts.
There is little innovation and a great disdain for progressive, results-driven efficiency. We are content with “good enough.”
Because (1) we take constructive criticism personally, and (2) doing better requires more work and thought.
Why would a business invest in change when customers and clients are gobbling up sameness?
Why would a government invest in change when so many people are okay with the status quo?
Early in the pandemic, in videos and articles, I suggested improvements to government’s covid19 public education campaign to increase reach and impact particularly safety protocols.
Well, who tell me do dat? I was bombarded with criticism that I should keep my a--e kwart.
Having a government working to silence the people is one thing. A people working to silence themselves is another kettle of cascadoux altogether.
I'd feel guilty about how I perceive things if I didn’t have the best interest of TT at heart. I want my homeland to be a country where things work. TT still has tremendous potential. To sit back and watch all that potential destroyed, that is where the true culpability lies.
I'm never away from TT long enough to miss anything. Other than my own bed and commode.
To me, a real Trini is someone who, beyond revelling in all that's beautiful about this place, will fight tooth and nail to protect it. And will not defend those bent on destroying it to meet their own narrow interests.
Trinidad and Tobago, to me, is the report card on which the teacher writes in the notes section: “A student with immense potential; if only they'd stop f--ting around."
Read the full version of this feature on Friday evening at www.BCPires.com