THE QUEEN’S passing provoked strong reactions, mostly rooted at either end of the spectrum – people were deeply saddened or gladdened.
Quite interesting were the throngs of Trini ill-wishers who vehemently lambasted the Queen, the royal family, Buckingham Palace and her corgis as bejewelled symbols of colonial injustice, oppression and privilege.
Their gilded halls, sprawling estates, convoys of Range Rovers, their diamond-studded entitlement, were all paid for with the torments of slavery and colonialism that cast a long shadow across the Caribbean.
More intriguing in these ongoing conversations is this idea of privilege; upper echelons leading lavish lives at the expense of the exploited.
As we cast our eyes and cusswords to a distant land, there is one thought we might have missed.
In many ways, we replaced the British with our lords.
TT embraced the social architecture that, to this day, mirrors the power and privilege that shaped colonial society. We remain a vassal people, beholden to power-drunk politicians and a corrosive brand of politics that mimics the coloniser’s prerogative.
Everything in this country is built on privilege and connections. Without them you remain without; merit is meaningless. Our governance structures are based on maximum leadership. Favour is hinged on proximity to that leadership. Those on the outside of both cobble together happiness somehow in a broken place of crumbling infrastructure, unchecked lawlessness, deficient public services and general decay; but sure, cuss the Queen and her lot. The royal family is the source of our problems.
We wear the clothes of colonial privilege. Politicians wear three-piece suits to cut ribbons to plaques beneath the wilting Caribbean sun.
Foolish rituals inspired by a dead empire are woven into society. Think about the ridiculous opening of the law term. Traffic is snarled as lawyers parade the streets. They wear ridiculous costumes in homage to a creaky judiciary more enamoured of appearances than justice.
Recently, commuters were frozen in punishing gridlock because of the ceremonial opening of Parliament. This is a conceit of interest only to politicians (and maybe some housebound pensioners). It allows them to celebrate their inflated self-importance in a “hallowed” place where they routinely match witlessness.
If you can’t capture privilege, either through political ascent or birth into money, you can fashion a fiefdom in your mind. In this place, you are lord and master.
Security guards at public offices bark condescension into your face, making the most of the power they’re loaned in a life otherwise powerless. They can do so because of utterly nonsensical rules that hark back to the colonial age; no open-toed shoes, no cap sleeves, no cling wrap! These rules have nothing to do with advancing the quality of public service or the country.
The Office of the President is, perhaps, the most full-throated of our odes to the colonial legacy. Paula-Mae Weekes is probably the most inactive president in the history of that office. The Office of the President is the embodiment of privilege without purpose.
Don’t get me started on Carnival. As it exists today, Carnival is the epitome of privilege. Citizens pay top dollar to go to the most exclusive fetes and jump up in the most exclusive bands so their peers can discern their success and proximity to the moneyed classes.
In TT, we had all the money needed to create an egalitarian society. We had more resources than any other Caribbean country to build a future in which people could rise on their own merits and talents. Instead, that wealth was used to entrench class structures and embed fealty that almost perfectly mimics the colonial hierarchies we despised.
There’s always chatter about reparations, but what do you think would happen if we got that money? Better healthcare? Education? Digitalisation?
No. The Government would put another overpass right up your underpass. Reparations would be funnelled directly into the pockets of the connected classes and the malleable politicians under their spell.
We continue to look over the shoulder of the oppressor in search of another rather than stare them in the face. It’s a discomfiting proposition, because to face our oppressor is to face ourselves.
So go ahead, shake your fist at Old Blighty, the same exploitative nation where you clamour to vacation and educate your children.
Meanwhile, the new lords lather themselves in privilege – tax exemptions, compensation disproportionate to their efforts, countless allowances and special considerations.
And us peasants? We bear the brunt of their indifference and incompetence.