The instability, corruption and favouritism—as well as enduring shade, class and foreign preference—and just plain, but twisted, foolishness have become so overwhelming that I have been unable to write about some of my favourite things that reflect the resources capable of making Trinidad and Tobago a happier place.
I had intended, for example, to write an appreciation of the pan in the countryside event that took place at Las Cuevas on a full moon night, a month ago. That gave way to commentary on disturbing events in the Senate.
A month before Las Cuevas, I spent a Sunday afternoon under the cannonball tree in the Port of Spain Savannah at a commemoration for Asami Nagakiya, the Japanese pannist murdered in that vicinity on a Carnival Tuesday afternoon. She was murdered with the customary impunity when it may well be that there are those in authority who know who is the killer.
A small group from the pan community led by the Codrington and Silver Stars pan families held that commemoration joined by some Japanese colleagues, who performed a dance in her memory and played pan.
Had other matters not been pressing I would have written much about that afternoon, particularly as I played under that cannonball tree as a small boy growing up in Newtown at a time when the Savannah was a safe and happy place.
I am now referencing that event for this reason. We are currently following the Orlando massacre and expressing grief as though it is our own tragedy.
By contrast Asami and many other victims at home are barely mourned or are the subject of sustained cries for justice. No fashionable vigils are held. Even foreign death is more engaging than our own.
This imbuing of foreign preference and other prejudices into everything is one of the ways we have relentlessly been planting our own garden wrong, with disastrous consequences.
Chris Gayle, the cricketer, is a controversial figure. His recently published book, which was reviewed in the UK Guardian, said this:
“Even in Jamaica, your own country, coming into youth cricket you need to be from an upscale high school or have a light skin. As you get older you get used to the culture. My club, Lucas Cricket Club, was the only one to accept black people back in the day. So people would say: ‘We can’t have this Chris leading his country. His background doesn’t suit us’. That’s the reality I faced.”
Gayle is certainly not politically correct and one cannot condone many of his utterances. Nevertheless, we need to examine the society of which he is a product—a society that we have maintained, slavishly embracing the status quo, sometimes selling out progressive values just for a free fete ticket.
In the course of that examination it will be readily revealed that shade preference dominates within all groups in our nation. That is why we rate the metropolis higher than ourselves. Is it class and race prejudice that inhibits barbaric remand yard overcrowding from receiving priority attention?
Many ask me why I do not write about Mayaro again. The answer is I do not go there as often because fighting up with the traffic and the lousy roads are dangerous and also tedious, unless one sets out at the crack of dawn—a time for me that is incompatible with liming at night in the panyards, theatres and other artistic spaces in order to feed the soul.
However, I was in Mayaro for the end of May long weekend and grieved again at the widespread devastation of the coconut trees throughout Manzanilla and Mayaro.
I guess there is no need for a scenic environment of a coconut garden if the seaside ground is valued only as a place to plant the speaker boxes and dem.
Some fine theatre events have also been displaced in my columns by some political and constitutional perversities. A more recent theatre event is the revival of Efebo Wilkinson’s Bitter Cassava.
The central theme concerns the objectifying of women and shade preference. There is a distinct parallel between the lifestyle of Sam Blondell, portrayed in Bitter Cassava, and the one reflected in some of the reported attitudes of Chris Gayle.
I am not the only commentator gripped by the relevance of the play to current times and to the twisted aspects of our society that are conveniently overlooked in the quest for bling and perceived status. May I be forgiven for repeating in the context of my own commentary the closing words of the village elder in the play, Pa Cefus:
“When yuh plant a bitter cassava garden, all while it growing, it lush and green like any good cassava crop, but in the fullness of the time, papa, is a bitter harvest to reap.”
The fete tickets may be lush and green but are they really sweet?