Have we taken a good look at ourselves? It is not an encouraging picture.
We should have been re-assessing our tiny nation’s place in the world on an ongoing basis since Independence, long before we were reminded of our lowly place by having to stand in line for a supply of vaccines.
After all, our rejected second prime minister, George Chambers—as recalled in a column in 2019—did have a clear appreciation that when powerful nations are pursuing their interests, Trinidad and Tobago is ‘a black speck of dust’. He recognised that in the world order we are relative peewats, not potentates; as we sometimes delusionally think we are.
There is now an urgency to get real about ourselves in light of the nasty, dangerous and emotionally unbalanced, feuding between the government and the opposition. The country has descended almost exclusively into the practice of the poisonous politics of demonisation.
There is no point carrying on exchanges about who started it or who is worse. It is embedded in both parties.
The practice will leave us even further behind the rest of the world. Some of our Caricom counterparts are looking better than us. We are even being laughed at in some parts of the region.
Where are we to turn to have hardship heeded? How or when will we return to more than a semblance of a fairly-run country?
The current slew of hardships arise out of our deteriorating human condition. Still the validating elites remain largely silent and complicit in unfairness, even though we are in real trouble.
This is a particularly bad time to be paralysed and pulled down by feuding, when major events and movements—none more than the Covid-19 pandemic—are forcing persons all over the world to re-think many things.
Regarding polarised views, I recently learned of a book by an American journalist and author, Amanda Ripley, entitled ‘High Conflict-How We Get Trapped and How We Get Out’.
Ripley defines high conflict as conflict, which itself takes over. She defines it as different from ‘the useful friction of healthy conflict’.
The publisher’s synopsis of Ripley’s will be distressingly familiar: ‘High conflict, by contrast, is what happens when discord distills into a good-versus-evil kind of feud, the kind with an ‘us’ and a ‘them’.
‘In this state, the normal rules of engagement no longer apply. The brain behaves differently. We feel increasingly certain of our own superiority and, at the same time, more and more mystified by the other side.’
The United States Congress has recognised the problem that feuding has created for the legislature and has a committee for the modernisation of Congress, with part of its remit being to promote civility and bi-partisanship there.
The committee heard testimony from political science scholars, psychologists and media at a hearing on 24 June, which can be followed on C Span on the internet. Reference was made there to Ripley’s work.
There was strong feeling that an important step in reconciliation, is taking time to identify what the persons in high conflict have in common. Covid does not distinguish between PNM and UNC constituents. They face the same risk.
As indicated, our most pressing problem arises out of the common human condition of vulnerability to the virus. That should be a powerful enough stimulant for a truce in order to work towards the common good.
Meanwhile, as the Delta variant becomes rapidly dominant in the US, President Joe Biden passionately urged his fellow citizens to get vaccinated as ‘the best defence against the powerful variants’.
“It’s the most patriotic thing you can do,” said Biden, at last Sunday’s celebration of US Independence Day. “So, please, if you haven’t gotten vaccinated, do it—do it now for yourself, for your loved ones, for your community, and for your country.”
But when will leaders like President Biden, with considerable resources at their disposal, drive the expediting of promised vaccine gifts to less powerful and near defenceless nations like ours, trapped in the inequity of vaccine distribution?
That is something to do now for the global community.