I have a vivid childhood memory of standing on the pavement with my friends waving our little flags to mark the end of colonialism and the start of Independence. Annually, I walked from my home in Quarry Street to the Queen’s Park Savannah to enjoy the military-style Independence Parade. Later in life, I viewed the parade on Trinidad and Tobago Television (TTT).
Like many baby boomers who are products of the Independence movement, we grew up feeling proud to have witnessed the first hoisting of our national flag to symbolise our freedom from British rule. Our 59th Anniversary of Independence has flown past us with such resounding silence. Except for a few demonstratively proud citizens who did their own light shows, the sky was dark; there was nothing that reminded me of the celebration of our Independence.
Yes, we are in a terrible pandemic that is killing us, but our response cannot continue to be to run for cover and shelter in place. It is time for us to become unstuck and re-imagine life in Trinidad and Tobago.
It is time for us to see Covid as an opportunity to reboot our entire society. If we assume that the pandemic circumstances will continue indefinitely, we need to focus on how we can change the way we conduct business so that we all thrive.
Our 60th Anniversary of Independence is 12 months away. We know the exact date, time, and place. How can we use this information to energise our people and engage the entire society in a celebration which is meaningful, educational, and enjoyable? How can we use that 60th anniversary to redefine, clarify and re-affirm the beliefs which we share as a people?
We have a full year to plan it, and that does not mean spending millions of dollars on tents and buntings or simply resuming the military-style parade.
In the 1960s, the Independence movement should have been our All-Rivers-Meet-Here moment. Similarly, the West Indies Federation should have been our regional call for collaboration but, alas, it ended up being ‘one from ten leaves zero’. More recently, David Rudder’s strident call, ‘One lovely nation, under a groove, the Ganges done meet the Nile’, should have pulled us together.
But the ever-so-visible divisiveness continues to strangle us. Clearly we have missed the mark again.
The disaster of this pandemic is an opportunity for us to come together as a people and dream of a different future where we all thrive. Covid has forced us to pause; maybe in that pause, there is an opportunity for reflection on what is necessary to bring our people together so that we truly have a shared vision.
Our society needs a moment to revalidate our values, norms, beliefs, and expectations. We want a better society, but have we made a wish list of attributes, and plans to arrive at those outcomes? Are we willing to acknowledge that it’s not someone else’s problem?
What about assisting people we may not like, with the understanding that their success will lead to a better society?
The void created by the non-celebration of Independence 2021 will continue to haunt me. I hope we will seize the opportunity to be intentional in redesigning our future as we learn to live with Covid-19.