Daly Bread: Deny, deflect, denigrate; T&T damaged by political default mode


The arts and culture milieu is my ground and grounding. By that I mean it is both my happy place and helps to keep me “reel”—best translated, I suppose, as the opposite of becoming a blinged-out, undiscerning and indifferent poser.

And so it was that, on the first Saturday of this New Year, I re-entered the pan world at the Victoria Square small band Panorama semi-finals.

Uptown Fascinators play Collin Lucas’ Dollar Wire in the 2023 Panorama Conventional Small Bands final.
(via Pan Trinbago)

I suppose it was unrealistic to expect that the mess that we are in would not intrude. But intrude it did when conversations turned to concern about getting back safely to the car or to a maxi route and “to be inside” by a certain hour.

Joy was also tempered in my case when I looked at the youth who, in significant numbers, comprised the members of the bands. I wondered what many of them might be going home to and what future they might have, beyond being stuffed into schools that frustrate the life out of them or, in the worst of cases, drive them into psychological fracture.

Nevertheless the vibe was normal, normal—the accustomed mix of friendly interaction, renewal of pan acquaintances, ole talk and soul-filling music. This triggered further focus on why we the people are by and large good folk but persons with those vibes and values are under-represented in public life and official leadership positions.

An Old Tech Steel Orchestra pannist enjoys himself during the 2023 Panorama Conventional Small Band competition.
(via Pan Trinbago)

How come good people don’t get there? How come we live in a battle between the system and the people in which the system does not provide, or is cynically operated not to provide fairness to which the people are entitled?

Look at the coming formal contest to be President of the Republic. It turned nasty in a blink as each of the two main political groups denied the worth of the opposing candidate whom they did not propose for the coming appointment, but they deflected responsibility for their unwillingness to seek consensus on a candidate.

They were satisfied with denigrating each other. They might even perversely have enjoyed doing so.

The sensible public does not want that method of governance. The nasty exchanges focused the public mind on the likelihood of poor outcomes from presidential leadership elected under those conditions and destroyed the inspirational possibilities of the office when it is not tarnished and abused.

President Paula-Mae Weekes (right) sits with students from her alma mater, Bishop Anstey High School (POS), at her inauguration ceremony on 19 March 2018.
(Courtesy Office of the President)

Mind you, the stature of the office was severely diminished in the course of each of the last three presidencies by constitutional blunders made by the occupants, to the extent that commentators were describing the office as “tainted”.

What I categorise today as the system versus the people, as well as the lack of exemplary civic leadership and how we might do things differently was incisively captured by Gabrielle Hosein.

In her column in the Newsday on Wednesday last, in the context of the current presidential appointment controversy, she wrote of the need in these polarised times “to use transitions of leadership to determinedly create consensus and to quell easy stimulated (social) media antagonisms”.

Leader of the Opposition Kamla Persad-Bissessar tears up the Speaker’s guidelines during an extraordinary sitting of the House on Thursday 21 October 2021.
(Copyright Office of the Parliament 2021)

Gabrielle’s conclusion was: “Reminding people that exemplary civic leadership exists in non-aligned spaces and politics, arts and academia, among journalists and the judiciary, non-governmental organisations and social movements, and that the State reveres such independence sets an important example and has urgent value.”

Sadly, however, such reverence is lacking and our capacity for institutional reform and civility has withered. The politicians, to whom we entrust the exercise of the power of the State on our behalf, consistently and gravely devalue, non-aligned human resources and scorn proposals not aligned to their own.

They are not content to reject an idea or proposal with a reasoned counter-argument. Denigration is immediately deployed.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.

Sometimes the denigration is pernicious racial innuendo. It is frequently as simplistic as an allegation of aligning with the UNC or the PNM as the case may be, as if an idea cannot have a life of its own. Allegations of lying and of being unpatriotic are also routinely part of the arsenal of denigration.

One can expect more of the same in respect of queries whether the declaration of this Carnival as “the mother of all Carnivals” may trigger a super spread of the new Covid variant.

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About Martin Daly

Martin G Daly SC is a prominent attorney-at-law. He is a former Independent Senator and past president of the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago. He is chairman of the Pat Bishop Foundation and a steelpan music enthusiast.

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