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Black Hole of Cut Corners

NOT SO LONG ago, you woke up some August mornings and you didn’t even have to look out your window, you could feel the rain that would soon be upon you in the air all around your bed. Mornings like that, if you could, you rearranged your schedule early and fast, to avoid going into Town at all, or to be sure you would be out of it before midday.

Because, you knew, those mornings, that the skies would open by lunchtime and it would be weather-for-leather for everybody already at home and bull-pistle in they backside for those bad-lucky or dotish enough to sit at their desks instead of running for higher ground. The most disciplined, productive and tolerant of us, on days like that, would have to abandon ship by 2pm, and paddle their own canoe through Port of Spain’s streets that would look more like rivers. You would hear stories, for the rest of the month, about people taking five hours to get from the lighthouse to Valsayn.

In the worst rainy seasons, that kind of dread day of thundershowers and floods might come three times in the month of August, and once or twice each in July and September.

Now you get flooded streets all year long, after only ten minutes of moderate rain.

Every year, Trinis complain more bitterly about the floods.

And, every year, rich Trinis build houses higher up the mountains, escalating the rainwater runoff, and poor Trinis throw their old car tyres in the nearest ravine, blocking its escape.

And every-man-Jack is shocked when their chickens come home to roost as floods.

What can you say about a people determined to overlook the plain and predictable consequences of their choices?

And, as sure as the rain will fall in August, Trinis are setting themselves up for social disorder that will send Venezuelans in Port of Spain scampering back to the peace and quiet of Caracas.

The nought-point-eight per cent of the population Mario Sabga-Aboud, in his wisdom and/or his cups, saw fit to boast about on American television as being Trinidad’s ‘smallest but most powerful ethnic group’ may be the spark, perhaps, but, when the whole place burns down, all-o’-we-will-be-one in truth: in the firetrucking ashes.

Then you will see the real modern Trinidad.

And it will look like a whole heap of death and suffering, almost exclusively for the poor, a little bit of personal harm and a lot of anxiety and lost profit for the rich, and a fair smattering of both for what’s left of the middle-class, whose only function, in “business leader” Peter George’s eyes, is that of a bumper on an S550 Mercedes-Benz rear-ended by a Nissan B14.

The call, by one trade unionist, for the boycott of Syrian businesses (for that is what it is, as my pardner Wesley Gibbings pointed out yesterday) is snatching the headlines, perhaps, but anyone who paid attention to the live television coverage of the trade union rally in Port of Spain last Friday would have realized that the Syrians are just a red herring.

The real unifying cry, last Friday, was not anti-Arab but pro-African. A single trade unionist might have identified the Syrians in sly, but all of them that I saw on TV openly appealed to black, as distinct from working, people. A couple even employed the same ‘one per cent’ style-innuendo to point fingers at ‘them” Indians, who are responsible for all the bad that is happening to and ‘don’t care’ about any of ‘us’.

Whether it happens in a small Caribbean island or across a country big enough to cover half-a-continent, once you’ve picked sides, the only thing left to do is fight.

It happened on a world scale twice in the last century.

And it began happening live on TV at the Brian Lara Promenade Downtown last Friday.

Unlike all our Caribbean siblings, Trinidad & Tobago has been unlucky enough to have had huge amounts of money come our way without us lifting a finger to earn it. For the last ten years, our national budgets have topped TT$50Bn.

And we’re all but penniless today.

Everybody and his dog in Trinidad today understands that ours is a crisis of leadership and responsibility: because we have none of either.

But nobody will do anything more than wear a red jersey or turn on their car headlights in daytime.

For the 55 years since so-called Independence, we have been happy to pillage, for personal advantage, everything at our disposal, whether that has been the treasury, the white-people energy industry or the population itself. Even our coup-makers have looked for what was in it for them as much as what was in it for Allah.

Our trade union leaders are no exception.

And the only difference between them and our business leaders, give or take one or two individuals, is that business people drive more expensive cars.

Both happily bleed the country if they need a pint of their own blood type.

And it would be all right to divide-and-conquer if there were a great principle involved, or if our people could see the big picture: that this is not about Syrians, Africans and Indians, but about all of us.

But it’s only about big screen TVs for the big shots we all want to be, and ‘firetruck ‘way with everybody else’.

Ten minutes of rain any day of the year and Port of Spain floods.

And Trinis still don’t make the connection between electing ringmasters and allowing the whole population to behave like clowns and the whole place being a firetrucking circus.

BC Pires is Potogee oppressor who take advantage of poor readers for too long and he will surely be boycotted

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