Some years more than others, the Christmas message of peace on Earth and goodwill to all persons takes on a tone more urgent than the general warmth of the message. This is such a time.
There have been over 500 murders for the year, a number of unsolved disappearances, significant job losses without proper severance payments, bleak prospects for graduates and crippling floods. We must all look for meaningful engagement with the broken and disadvantaged.
The low level of public trust and the related crisis of confidence have also struck deep into our diaspora communities. Persons nearing retirement are abandoning their plans to return home. Others, who have already done so, are concerned whether they have made a retirement mistake. We hear more of this as family visits are made during Christmas.
Today, two days before Christmas, I feel unable to pursue further comment about how we were pushed—and how we deluded ourselves—into our current state. I shall not grinch out the Christmas because the energy of our Republic still remains vital; despite all the considerable pain we undergo, lurching as we do from one tragedy to another.
Our energy is evident in our instant wit. By self deprecation and irony, we handle ‘laugh and cry live in the same yard’ so that laughter dilutes the sting of some of the things we are crying about.
We are prolific exponents of music, dance, theatre and costuming. During the Christmas season we have, as usual, been seeing it, hearing it and feeling it in the quatro, mandolin and box guitar and the swish of the skirts of the parranderas.
We will laugh and parang for 10 days more, but cry will perennially live in the culture yard. Beyond these special Christmas season activities, the cities and smaller communities are invariably alive with cultural activity. They are self managed, but poorly funded. There is little thought for its potential for development as a significant driving force in the economy.
Looking to the next season, the Government has accepted that the massive investment—more like wanton expenditure—in Carnival as a tourism product has failed. We await to hear what, if any, is the Plan B for investment in arts and culture.
It is doubtful that the tourism people have fresh ideas on how to re-engineer our Trinidad tourism into an arts and culture brand or how to turn Carnival into a full first quarter festival, tapping directly into the copious artistic resources without the intervention of so-called special interest groups.
I recently received a gift of appreciation for assisting some dance artistes to perform at an international event abroad. It is an unusual piece of art presented by the hosts of the event. I took it by ‘Sister G’ for advice on how to display it.
The conversation between Sister G and myself turned to why do we soldier on doing what we do in pursuit of wider interests. We touched on some of the criticisms received from those disappointed citizens normally resident abroad, as well as from some diplomats who should be stewing in the juice of their home country’s incompetence and intolerance and reserving their advice—farse and out of place when given to us—for their own hollow political class.
Sister G was philosophical: “Leave me with the dutty. We know how it is and why it is. The place has energy, talent and friendliness and we will work with that.”
A few days after that, I briefly made some ‘waiting room friends’ while waiting in a car park for someone who was attending to business up the road at the US Embassy.
As testament to the friendliness of which Sister G spoke, between each person who came to wait for their relative going up the road—mandatorily bereft of cell phone—there was the exchange of ‘good mornings’ between strangers. Seamlessly, brief conversations were struck up.
Such spontaneous public interaction is to be treasured. So as ‘Big Sister P’, Pat Bishop, exhorted: we will do the work because “until all have crossed, none have crossed and some we have to carry.”
Season’s Greetings to all my readers.