Noble: Pay no heed to the prophets of gloom and doom; we can still save T&T

The fictional Winnie the Pooh greeted her best friend, Eeyore, the donkey: “A lovely day, isn’t it?” He replied: “I wish I could say yes, but I cannot.”

The Eternal Pessimist could never countenance a good day. For him, it is all for nought!

Winnie the Pooh (left) and her best friend, Eeyore.

The heavy rains that wrapped our nation also drenched us in self-pity and immense doubt. The zeitgeist of our country is: “Everything is sour. Wet paper could cut us.”

The tremendous pain exposed in the Paria enquiry encased our souls with unspeakable grief. Where do we go from here? How do we process our gloom? Should we stay here? Will anything change: is it a downward spiral from here?

Bad things happen at the most inconvenient of times. Already faced with global polycrises, we feel battered and helpless with the collapse of our infrastructure. East Port of Spain is stranded in flood waters, and unbelievably the Sangre Grande to Mayaro Road has been wrecked for the second time in seven years.

Water everywhere but none in our taps. The loss of our dreams to do better than our forebears causes our strength to ebb away.

Students walk through flood water outside City Gate in Port of Spain.
(Copyright Flickr)

We are confronted by a more complex and demanding life, even as it is unforgiving. Ever-increasing prices stun us daily. Many children are hungry.

All of this is on top of our murder rate, staggering and scaring us unimaginably. How do you process the loss of 18 lives over a weekend? What ought we to do?

The voices that are raised reflect our collective angst. But should we give in to feelings of hopelessness?

Closing our eyes and telling those complaining that they could leave is not good enough. We should instead ask what we ought to do to fix the problem. We cannot be deaf to the people hurting from the issues that plague us. But at the same time, we should be aware that we tend to focus on things going wrong when we are in the middle of a challenging period.

Eh?
(Copyright Glasbergen.com)

As humans, we are hardwired to focus on negativity instead of positivity. We tend to be moved by emotions and intuitive responses and then seek reasons for how we feel. Our perceptions then influence the way we process reality.

As these negative emotions get repeated, they become embedded into the psyche of the population—slowly eroding from within our country’s reputation and resolve to fight.

We need to focus on what should be improved. In October 2010, the then Works Minister Jack Warner told us that flooding in Port of Spain would be a thing of the past. He and his contractor were going to build retention ponds to allow us to manage the storm waters. Each pond was to hold 12 million gallons of water.

This past week’s newspaper photos, with the stranded travellers in East Port of Spain, were taken meters away from one such pond.

Then Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (right) and Minister of Works and Infrastructure Jack Warner at the Trinidad and Tobago 2010 Women’s Under-17 World Cup.
(Courtesy FIFA.com)

Did anybody ever check whether that pond could have held the touted capacity? Where is the pump to discharge a million gallons every two minutes?

Until we can discard our partisan lens, we will never be able to demand performance and will repeatedly pay to bash ourselves into a senseless place.

We probably should not discuss the Manzanilla road collapse since all the elements—the Nariva Swamp, the river and the sea—were and are still in place. Are we the only place on the planet with such challenges? Do the other sites face the problem?

But when we keep paying for the unsatisfactory work, where will the money be for the Tamana and all the other villages’ roads?

Chin up…

These situations should not depress us as much as they should move us to hold ourselves and others accountable.

Robert Kennedy once said: “It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope—and crossing each other from a million different centres of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest wall of oppression and resistance.”

Small acts matter.

This week, I saw a car stalled across a major thoroughfare. Impatient motorists blew their horns, but none came out of their vehicles to push the car out of the way. Two pedestrians went to the rescue, solving the problem in less than a minute. They walked away without seeking a word of gratitude.

Shane Mahabirsingh of Bilda Boyz Construction distributes chairs to elderly persons waiting to be vaccinated at the Ste Madeleine Health Centre in June 2021.

This attitude is what will make our country different. Kindness reflects who we are. Such acts are not done to seek a reward.

Who shall we be—the motorists with horns or the pedestrians?

Some people are and will always be perpetually miserable. But that is an act of the will, just as is cheerfulness. We must choose to be hopeful.

Let us remember that life has inflexion points: things can change at a moment’s notice. Even though we are predisposed to predict, we cannot do so reliably. Let us appreciate that the game is not over. There is more to come. We are not defeated.

Opportunity knocked…
(Copyright Glasbergen.com)

Weeping prophets will always be with us, but they are often not helpful in building the energy needed to overcome life’s challenges. We could listen to the naysayers but should not accept their words as being inevitable. Giving up does not work.

We are neither powerless nor debris rushing down a drain filled with rainwater. Nothing is set in concrete; we have the power to change things and shake off the gloom.

Let us say: “It is a great day!” Let us do what must be done to save our nation.

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About Noble Philip

Noble Philip, a retired business executive, is trying to interpret Jesus’ relationships with the poor and rich among us. A Seeker, not a Saint.

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