When a global think-tank announced to the world that Trinbago is now, for all intents and purposes, in the hands of criminal gangs, I feel pretty certain that I was not the only one thinking that the country has been in the same hands for the last 50 years. At least.
The track records of all our major political parties reflect state gangsterism at the highest level. A cursory examination reveals corruption on a scale grand enough to make African despots envious, nepotism, cronyism, collusion with and acquiescence to drug lords; the list goes on and on until it screeches to a halt at the most abominable political act ever, Section 34.
It’s not that we had not been warned. Vidia Naipaul and Earl Lovelace in their books and Lloyd Best and Raffique Shah in the daily and other newspapers detailed our condition, only to be derided as unpatriotic, over-cerebral or ultra-militant. As if they were deities worthy of the greatest adulation, we clung to our symbols of influence and affluence, creating a sense of entitlement which has left current and future generations with a legacy of social and political apathy.
So what does one call a populace which has allowed itself to be so ruled and afflicted for half a century or more, arguably because of the quality of the scraps the gangs have been careful to let fall into our collective plate?
My answer is “Slumdogs.” We need look only at the recent Local Government Elections to confirm our slumdog status: PP gang declining, PNM gang ascending.
Recent history makes it clear that the People’s Partnership cannot lead people out of a paper bag, let alone a country out of the morass into which the PP’s predecessors, of varied political persuasions, have blithely precipitated it. What, pray, does it tell us about ourselves that, after so many years of insipid and sterile governance, which laid the foundations for the extensive, mind-boggling wastage and corruption we see clearly today, the PNM can still lay claim to political relevance?
Still, we continue to look for relief to the same old slumlords, the same old gangsters who have brought us to this sorry pass. Do we truly need Keith Rowley or Kamla Persad-Bissessar to mislead us, to keep bleeding us slowly, draining our lifeblood while we smile, wine and jam?
The conflagration is upon us and we don’t even realize it. The political and social conditions raise serious questions about our survival but patriotic writers underscore their patriotism by expressing optimism in our people. They are confident in our ability to awake and arise, optimistic that we shall so do before it is too late.
But who will bring us slumdogs real hope? What we really need, I submit, is someone who will burn this slum down and give us slumdogs a real chance at rebuilding from zero, at reconstruction of our collective lives, at redemption of our political and social soul.
But hold up! Is there not a new gang on the block, the ILP, headed by Austin Jack Warner, the man who sums up most completely, perhaps even most appropriately, our condition as a failed state awaiting official confirmation of our status?
What better unofficial confirmation of our unfortunate condition can there be than that, after failing to properly account for mountains of money meant to put food in the mouths of millions of moribund Haitians (over 200,000 are now dead), Warner can have a viable political life without so much as a peep out of so-called Afro-centrists like Makandal Daaga, Khafra Kambon and Selwyn Cudjoe, all of them, in their eyes, defenders of the poor black man?
Hold up, I say. In his frightening predictability, Warner will take us over the edge; his ILP promise is a false dawn. When the smoke clears, there will be nothing left for us. What he offers is mere mirage, the illusion of a better future, the assurance of a dry well for all those who now thirst for the triumphs of tomorrow; where he points to an oasis, discerning eyes see only a desert.
After all, as Robin Montano has recently discovered, despite his high-sounding rhetoric, what has Warner ever done of note politically other than amass a personal fortune to be used to consolidate his power?
So perhaps we are not here by mishap or misfortune; maybe, like Mr Montano, we are all the creators of our own condition.
“We vote for the worst,” as one writer put it succinctly, “hoping for the best.”
I guess I am considerably less of an optimist than I need to be to come into that reckoning.