The beginning of a year offers hope and possibilities for positive change. Many people write resolutions and set themselves goals; I tend to label my new year with a theme that comes to me intuitively on January 1. That theme serves as a point of focus and awareness for me for action throughout the year.
The model used by the UN in designating the theme for specific years (as stated on its website as “occasions to mark particular events or topics in order to promote, through awareness and action, the objectives of the organisation”) serves as the model I use in labelling mine.
For example, it lists 2022 as the International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development, International Year of Glass and International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture.
In reflecting on this I thought it would be beneficial if in Trinidad and Tobago a national theme for each new year were chosen as a point of focus on aspects of national improvement that are beneficial to all, to guide the decisions and actions of both the leaders and populace.
In this light, I asked several people what they would like to see this year be "The National Year of ..." for TT.
1. Retired teacher:
"The national year of recognition of animals as sentient beings.
“Domestic and wild animals, even birds are sentient. We have such beautiful birds here and people are killing them. We should love all living things. They all have a purpose. Even the bats that make such a mess on the walls have a purpose.”
2. Visitor to Tobago:
"The national year of equality, diversity and inclusion.
"This is for everybody...celebrating people’s differences, rather than trying to eradicate discrimination of any kind. In the world in which we live, people discriminate all the time, rather than celebrate each other’s differences.”
3. Female grocery shopper/concerned citizen:
"The national year of attention to child abuse.
“Lately, since covid, not only domestic violence, but child abuse has been on the rise. We kind of don’t like to take it on, but we need to educate on the associated mental abuse and mental illness.
“Frustrated parents take it out on children who are at home, shouting and slapping. Children shout back at parents and they go to school, even online, and do the same through bullying. We need to address it, as this is our future. They will take this behaviour out into the world and do the same to others.
“Educate on healthy ways of speaking to each other and healthy ways of addressing difficult situations. Children have different ways of showing their deep pain and frustration. Some show it in loud, emotional ways. Some are silent about it...and sometimes the silent ones take it out on pets. I know a quiet child who beats her dog, then hugs it...which is what her parents do to her.”
4. Caring citizen:
"The national year of empathy for animals.
“The obvious answer, of course, would be the international year of animals, homeless animals, in particular, defenceless animals...
But I'd also want to add education to this, nurturing, empathy, because we can build shelters or homes for them, but if we don’t start from the core, teach and change a culture that believes animals have no rights, that they are owned and can be used to guard property, etc...if we start seeing them from a place where we feel their pain...”
5. Mother of three:
"The national year of love.
“It has to be love. There will be healing once there is love. Love is the underlying force for healing on all levels.”
Having a "National Year of..." is likely to involve lots of money being spent on expensive promotion of the theme: billboards, posters, full-page, full-colour newspaper advertisements, fancy videos featuring smiling people and impressive motion graphics, workshops with handouts and logos printed on tote bags...etc.
However, this may well be money wasted, as the public in general is so saturated by the media onslaught that the intent of the message is often lost. How many are really listening, understanding and responding to calls for change?
We need a new level of communication that truly comes from, goes to and is received by the heart.
In light of this need, I hereby declare this year for TT: "The national year of compassionate communication and action."