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​We Jammin’ Still

55 YEARS of so-called Independence and I wouldn’t mind us not being able to do even the most basic stuff for ourselves that minor cities all over the world have mastered, like running a ferry service between two small islands, paving a road properly (with a firetrucking Pitch Lake!) or appointing a judge or Cabinet minister, if we could at least think for our firetucking selves.

If we thought for ourselves, we would, in time, find ways of overcoming, or at least facing, our challenges.

But we don’t think for ourselves: our mental activity peaks at making either excuses for or whipping-boys of ourselves. The Catholics – Devil bless ‘em – invented two complementary ‘sins against hope’: the sin of despair and the sin of presumption. The sinner in despair loses all hope of God’s forgiveness or his help in getting to heaven while the sinner in presumption trusts in his own power to save himself or presumes God will forgive him without any repentance or good works on his own part.

Newspaper columns and social media posts, in the run-up to today's Independence holiday came in two broad stripes: one cheering and one jeering section. The jeering section, the sinners against hope, with their litanies of woe about Trinidad & Tobago, are at least closer to the reality: that we have almost terminally firetrucked up our own place.

The sinners in presumption – the people who strut about the place in their jackets-and-ties and talk about “de institution and dem” and “the kol-chur and t’ing’ – might need to be institutionalized themselves. They live in an imaginary land, where you don’t take the risk of being shot for not handing over the keys to your B-12 at gunpoint at once – God help you if you go into shock, take a bullet in the thigh for that firetrucking presumption – and the holders of the highest elective and appointed offices in the ‘nation’ have not declared that the other must be a liar.

Every occasion that presents an opportunity for reflection – Independence, New Year’s Day, one of our many public holidays given in obeisance to one or our many Gods – we divide ourselves into two camps, one that boasts about our imaginary achievements and another that points the accusing finger; one camp of sinners in presumption, another of sinners in despair, all of us sinners against hope.

Or, put another way, the sinners in Opposition and the sinners in Government.

But even that would be okay if we thought for – and about – ourselves enough to discern that it makes no difference which brand of sinner or pack of jokers is put in charge.

If you mistake lording it over people for governing them, you’re going to find, sooner or later, that what you have below you is not a people but a mob; and a mob can do only one of two things: demand bread or run riot.

Nor will dealing a new joker-king from a new pack help you: writing a slick slogan and choosing a T-shirt colour does not turn a Facebook page into a political party.

It makes no difference whatever whether the field or the house slaves take it over, because none of us are heirs to the Great House.

We have to build our own house – but, before we can do that, we have to make our own way.

The Road March this year, Mx Prime and the Ultimate Rejects’, “Full Extreme (We Jammin’ Still)” made nearly everybody jump up wild on Carnival Day – it was played seven times more than it’s nearest competition – but it rubbed a lot of people the wrong way.

And yet it is the right way forward, for us.

A lot of very smart people whom I respect were very unhappy about the song’s success. They saw it as the source of our problem: that the city could burn down and we wouldn’t care as long as we could party.

The song’s supporters tilted their head the opposite way and saw, not irresponsibility and nihilism, but resilience and fortitude.

One camp sees despair, the other presumes an optimism it probably itself injects.

But both commit the sin against hope.

And yet, the reverse of the political situation above, the sinners in presumption are closer to the reality than those in despair.

“We jammin’ still” is the right place to start our voyage of self-discovery, as individuals tied to this place, whether by navel-string or heartbeat. It is also the only place that we all can start, as tribes, as communities, as interest groups – even as self-interested groups. If we become a people, if we are to have a hope of building a nation, we must start with closest thing we have to a potentially unifying reality, as opposed to the ironic disunity of “all o’ we is one family”: we jammin’ still.

This is the best place to start.

But it is the worst place to stop.

Our mistake, so far, has been Bestian: to fail to discern the opportunity of ourselves.

The sinners against despair will crush it into nothingness.

The sinners against presumption will elevate it to everything.

But we jammin’ still is a seed from which, with care, thought, love, nourishment and protection, we may yet grow as one people.

To whom Independence will mean something more than a public holiday and mind-numbing drunken revelry.

BC Pires is jumping up but winding down

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