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IT’S my natural inclination to support Trinidad’s new commissioner of police, Gary Griffith, but the old “Double-G” is himself making it more of an unnatural one: where my gut instinct is to sing his praises lustily from the amen corner, the back of my mind is muttering, “Not so fast: this mofo could be leading us, not to higher ground, but into firetrucking quicksand.”
Our latest new Messiah might be the same old, same old Antichrist – just in camouflage.
On the “natural” or “reflex” or “not thought about too deeply” side, he is the police commissioner, and one ought to support one’s own top cop. Again, he and I could be viewed as sharing tribal loyalties as “short men”, “red men” and “old CIC boys” – although that would also make me a supporter of Finance Minister Colm Imbert, and God knows (and Colm, too, to the extent that there is no redundancy there) that the last thing Colm needs from me – or, indeed, anyone – is encouragement.
There’s a significant part of me, too, that inherently identifies and sides with Gary Griffith as a man who has visibly repeatedly punched above his weight in matters of the heart & lingerie: men like us just shouldn’t get the calibre of chick we have; especially him; and Colm; and me.
I’m also usually automatically for anything that challenges any status quo: give me heresy before orthodoxy any day of the week – especially the firetrucking Sabbath! No matter the sphere, change is the thing that proves to us we are alive and the most important thing we can change is our minds. As Keith Richards said, so well, so long ago, “If you’re going to kick authority in the teeth, you might as well use both feet.”
So, with all that going for him, what does Police Commissioner Gary Griffith have working against him?
The trouble with the self-styled, “Double-G”, is that he is self-styled.
For anyone in the world, fantasy is the first step to a new reality.
The athlete chasing Olympic gold, the footballer taking the decisive penalty at the end of extra time, the billionaire who began by selling sandwiches from the boot of his car all have one thing in common: before they became themselves, they imagined they could be. And, the greater the reality, the more fantastic the dream on which it was founded.
For the Trinidadian, though, the danger is always that the fantasy will supplant the reality.
Everywhere else in the world, e.g., people dream of being president.
In Trinidad, people play at being president.
In this pappyshow land, as David Rudder sang, nearly everything is a pappyshow.
And it has become very difficult not to see the pappyshow, the posturing, the “play yuhself” – the pure, unmitigated gallery of “Double-G”.
To watch his public service announcement and its valediction – “Double-G, out!” – is to cringe deep within.
Elsewhere in the world, people achieve acclaim because they have achieved something; in Trinidad, people fake acclaim so they can pretend to be somebody – and, almost invariably, someone they are not.
Trinidad & Tobago’s problems are not superficial, but really, really deep. They go to the root of who we are and how we see ourselves and one another. They will not be solved by cosmetic touchups. They must be fixed where they arise: at the very firetrucking foundation. Nothing built on a false premise, whether an argument or a police force, will stand.
If, say, there is even a suspicion that the wearing of camouflage in most circumstances by anyone but the army is illegal, the last person who should make a seemingly never-ending show of his “cam-oh” is the commissioner of police!
If, again, well-meaning persons – like, say, the Law Association President or the leader of a citizens group like Fixin’ T&T – make public statements expressing serious concerns, they should not be dismissed, and especially not frivolously. They should be listened to intently, their criticism carefully weighed and, if at all valid, taken on board.
A real leader of anything – a football team, a country, a rock ‘n’ roll band – will be deeply grateful to the coach, the electorate or the drummer who challenged him to be better. Charlie Watts once punched Mick Jagger out for asking, “Where’s my drummer?” “I’m not your drummer,” said Charlie, “You’re my firetrucking singer!”
Someone playing a shallow leadership pretty mas will instantly revert to old mas: constructive critics will reap, not commendation, but condemnation or castigation, as appropriate: reprimand, not respect, for Douglas Mendes, for questioning a “one shot” policy; picong, not praise for Kirk Waithe, for being worried about creeping militarization.
The most dangerous person in the world is not the person who doubts whether he might be wrong; it is the one who is certain he is right.
Trinidad & Tobago faces a real dilemma, and it is not a battle between good and evil, no matter how photogenic Double-G might be and how unflattering a photograph Burkie takes at President’s House.
Our dilemma now, as it has always been, is to discern between fantasy and reality.
And to choose a man of action, not a star boy.
BC Pires is expecting a doubling down