Saturday, 25 June, 2022 Filed in: TGIF
ON TUESDAY, the day before Sri Lanka’s president announced his country’s economic collapse, the same day British railway workers started their first national strike in 30 years (over a lower-than-inflation pay rise), British PM Boris Johnson began encouraging Tory MPs to support eliminating caps on City executive pay and bonuses.
To encourage the world’s ultra-rich to create zero-hour, minimum wage McJobs in London.
Even as they watched the rest of the world teeter on the edge – and Sri Lanka actually topple over it – the world’s richest people were poised to have their conspicuous consumption underwritten by the people most likely to get consumption.
By the eager order of Her Majesty’s Vote Leave Government (before it loses its 80-seat majority).
It was a very Trinidadian move, best expressed by the axiom, “When you hold them, is to wine on them!”
Almost one-third of British workers today are permanently one paycheque away from financial ruin. One-third of British households were forced to choose between heating and eating this winter. Desperately poor people in England leave potatoes on food bank shelves – because they can’t afford to cook them!
And everything is going to get progressively worse all over the world the longer Vodka Hitler’s sin in Ukraine goes on.
And the mega-rich will care less about the pesky poor even as – or perhaps because – there will be more and more of them.
If Marie Antoinette flew in on a private jet today and was told the sufferers had no bread, she would clutch her pearls and her brioche and declare, “Let them eat merde!”
So this week is the first in a long time I’ve felt good about Trinidad and Tobago.
Because we’ve been accustomed to making something out of nothing for as long as the place has been around. It will be in our muscle memory when our own economy collapses.
And we’re more adaptable than a conspiracy theory junkie. We will drink only Johnny Blue.
Unless all you have is Black Label.
We are a people who make style, even if we are making do; we make a joyful noise even if we are only making as eef.
I can’t remember whether I read it in VS Naipaul’s A Way in the World or Bridget Brereton’s A History of Modern Trinidad (or both) and I can’t remember whether he was Spanish, French or English but the aspect of the tale of the arrival of the new governor from Europe in Trinidad that stands out in my memory – all right, the only thing that does – is that the gentlemen of Port of Spain had to pool their sartorial resources to come up with a single complete set of formal clothes to allow one of them to officially greet the governor on the dock.
And I do remember it was Derek Walcott, in his poem Laventille, who wrote the definitive verse of the people who have voted for the PNM since 1956 without interruption: “we climbed where lank electric/ lines and tension cables linked its raw brick/ hovels like a complex feud/ where the inheritors of the middle passage stewed/ five to a room, still clamped below their hatch/ breeding like felonies/ whose lives revolve round prison, graveyard, church… To go downhill from here/ was to ascend.”
In London this week, BoJo the Clown made a very Trinidadian move and declared that the railway strikes were a preview of what it would be like if the Brits were foolish enough to elect Labour.
By the time you read this, by-election results may have proved that not even people who voted for Brexit are dumb enough to think that the crisis precipitated by a dozen years of Tory governments were caused by British Opposition Leader Keir Starmer.
In Trinidad, in the Black Power Riots/February Revolution of 1970, people committed to making the society more equal (whether misguided or not) threw molotov cocktails through the windows of the elite.
In Trinidad, in the 1990 coup attempt, with the country itself in jeopardy, we threw curfew fetes.
The Muslimeen coup attempt was powered by WWII rifles.
Today, little boys in Laventille may still be five-to-a-room but the TEC-9s they play with have 22 bullets-a-magazine.
And one in the chamber.
And the difference between BoJo the Clown’s UK and our own TT is that we have no mega-rich to bring their money in.
Because our mega-rich only ever take their money out.
And the energy companies we have fleeced forever have moved south.
I hope you like guava.
BC Pires is preparing for industrial inaction