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Facing our reckoning together

Sunday, December 31, 2017

I will be glad to see the back of 2017. If there is one image that is emblematic of last year it’s my husband and I holding on to one another for our dear lives during an earthquake. As our building swayed it felt like forever. I thought this was it. It was really one of those moments when your life, knowledge, reckonings flash in front of you. If you are ever unsure about anything, try thinking about it when you think your life hangs in the balance.

This man in front of you. Your husband. You’ll keep him. This is the last face you want to see before you die, whenever you die. The faces of love. Your parents and children’s faces. The faces of the dead who live within you. The faces of everyone you’ve loved and lost.

Then there are things you know, in a flash. The knowledge of rot in foundations of almost every home, a country without a building code. The knowledge that this rot is a symptom of a larger rot. Every system in failure and interconnected.

Pan out to the Caribbean; ravaged by hurricanes, the destroyed jewel that is Dominica.

Last year, we were hopelessly unprepared, even for flash flooding that followed a non storm. Our collapsed ODPM. It’s a symptom of a general torpor of neglect in every aspect of governance.

A reminder of the vulnerability of small island states like ours and how ill-prepared we are for natural disasters.

Stay in the region. The crisis in Venezuela, so close to us, we can see its outline with a naked eye on clear days. Chilling to think this nation may simply be further along than us with the diseases of poor economic policy, crime, corruption, shortages and political conflict. We know that, like us, Venezuela is a politically divided society, oil accounts for 95 percent of its export revenues. Like us, oil financed government’s generous social programmes, providing one million poor Venezuelans with homes. As oil revenue dried up, the currency went berserk; with hyperinflation of almost 2,000 per cent, grocery shelves emptied out of even basics, and pro and anti-government protesters took to the streets. In Venezuela, the dispossessed march. Here, they brutalise and murder women and children."

Pan out further. The Islamic State was everywhere, taking responsibility for attacks globally in London, New York, Barcelona. But more importantly, with the highest per capita recruits in Trinidad. It’s as if 1990, which we failed to grapple with, stayed with us and grew a monster of lawlessness that terrorizes us.

Pan out to America, the land of our dreams. 2017, never had the political become more personal. When Donald Trump, a reality star and dodgy businessman, a man who has divided the world, like an anti-Moses to the water, became President. He touched all our lives because like a grotesque giant baby monarch, he played with the world as if it were a giant flower, mingling, nomadic people, and began ripping apart the stem and petals. Many Trinidadians have close ties to the US, with family members living there, with children studying there. We fretted over the travel bans, the racially motivated killings, trigger-happy gun nation, over Trump goading North Korea to an all out nuclear war which will affect us all.

There can be no escape to America.

What is our silver lining? First, after tonight, stop partying like passengers on the Titanic. Then we can stop wasting a recession and what we’ve been talking about forever and ever: diversify away from oil, adapt to a changing work environment, adapt a serious work ethic, retool, learn new skills, save, look after our health knowing we will probably have to pay for treatment of chronic illnesses from lifestyle choices, look squarely at the wasteland, wade in, engage, help the dispossessed, be civic citizens. Because there is no escape. It’s no longer every man for himself in these local and global tremors. If we want to survive we have to help clear the rot around us, and that means pulling up the fallen, standing shoulder to shoulder and facing our reckoning together. Happy New Year.


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