Planning for the unexpected and the unknown is a tough call. The Covid-19 disease has forced us to deal with a great deal of uncertainty. In many ways, the health issue, which has morphed into an economic one, represents an existential battle.
The uncertainty and the weight of the expectations of many citizens make our lives—in every sphere—hard. When one does not know whether the future is ‘heaven or hell’, it is hard to concentrate and make wise decisions.
Yet it is incumbent on us all to be able to disagree without becoming disagreeable. We cannot banish ‘others’ into nothingness.
Arguments are healthy and can help us find a way forward. It is the very core of democracy. Arguing gives us all the opportunity to examine different views and to choose which one serves the collective interest best. But there is need for this to be done in a spirit of openness and without vitriol. Shutting down arguments weakens the democratic process and makes it easy for evil to reign.
As imperfect as our country is, it is all that we have. Wherever else we go, we will be second-class citizens. We have to struggle with making our bold aspiration ‘here every creed and race find an equal place’ a reality.
The art of Peter Minshall, the tassa of our Hindu weddings, and the throbbing beat of the drums of Laventille all belong to us, making us Trinidadians and Tobagonians. We are forging our own Independence.
The process may be messy and at times it is exhausting, but eventually we will get to a better place once we keep everyone on board. The shutting down of others and the dismissal of the input of others do not help us to reach to a better place.
The rant of a restauranteur on morning television shows this past week seeks to divide and separate us and promotes the view that businesspeople rank higher than all others. Blissfully unaware of his privilege which enables media access, he castigates all. Shades of Animal Farm.
He intones that the country is in a social and economic crisis but many of us, who are less fortunate, already know this. People have lost their jobs since March. The social services network is under tremendous stress. Mental health issues are all over.
The country does not need to have a businessman tell them what they are already experiencing.
His rant brings to mind of a Jamaican proverb, ‘if yuh mash ants, yuh fine ‘im guts’, which means that people reveal their true colours when under pressure. What we witnessed is sheer arrogance wrapped up in faux concerns for the employees who are yet to be affected.
He accuses the present administration of not believing in business and of wanting to tell businessmen how to run business. It appears that he believes that the help and work done since March for the business sector is meaningless and that the sector, he represents is an important one, in terms of the country’s GDP.
It is not. It is just over 1%. But this size should not cause him and others to be penalised. Indeed, they are not. There is research literature that demonstrates the risk of indoor dining and eating food in cinemas. There really is no zero-risk scenario in this pandemic.
There is no recognition that governments need to look after all citizens. He now criticises—after a sustained and palpable silence over the last 20 years—the economic mismanagement of multiple booms.
Was he too busy making money off the expatriate energy sector and our social media influencers to speak out before? Is the absence of this largesse now, more than the restrictions of Covid that impacts his business, forcing him to find his voice?
The irony of his lack of concession, when challenged by one host, that the wealth accumulated over the last 20 years could be used to support his workers escapes him. He insists that only the experience of the last seven months is what is relevant.
This points to either the future unsustainability of his business model or the belief that workers are dispensable and can be recruited when needed. Or he believes that we, as a people, do not understand that income statements (cash that flows in and out for a specific time period) are different from the balance sheets (the accumulated wealth generated and left in the business).
But like the other businesspeople who got caught with their displays of ignorance since March 2020, the default position is always about our need to consider the welfare of their employees. They apparently hold no responsibility for their actions.
He separates the world into businesspeople and thinkers. Is it that businesspeople are not thinkers? The most successful regional businessmen are deep strategic thinkers. They understand that making profits is not inconsistent with caring for the wider community.
For them, the notion of social responsibility is not the handing over of a cheque. They do the hard work of understanding their customers and so are able to tweak their business models. But all of that requires them to be more than traders.
While invoking the picture of businessmen on their knees, he pokes fun at our faith community and taunts them to pray about the current crisis. It is fine if one does not have faith in God—this group is the fastest growing religious one in our country—but that does not give anyone the right to make fun of those who believe. This is downright disrespectful.
He urges Dr Keith Rowley to discard the medical professionals and their advice. He believes that Dr Rowley should give businessmen a chance to ‘save’ our country.
Does this typify an attitude of dispensing people once they have served their needs? Or is it that he believes that they no longer are able to deliver benefits? No middle ground?
Dripping with sarcasm, he further lampoons the health care system on which the poor rely with no acknowledgment of tax leakages which contribute to that mess. This is jaw dropping.
It may just be that he has recently arrived and does not understand the pain that this creaky health system delivers while other businessmen/doctors make off like the proverbial bandits, having been educated on our dime.
If the consequences were not tragic, it would be laughable. Our business community must do better than support this rant. We have a nation to save.