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What are we supposed to do?

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

My grandmother has a saying, one that she evokes every December 25 after the thrill of gift-exchanging and gastronomic indulging has subsided; she says, “Before yuh blink yuh eye… Christmas go be here again.”

Taken at face value the declaration is rather premature if not a little foreboding, but I do think it contains a fair amount of wisdom as well. Not only does it speak to the fleeting sensation associated with the passage of time, but to how Trinbagonians are always looking to what enjoyments lie ahead regardless of what’s going on around them.

That being said, looking at how early the Yuletide season started, maybe my grandmother wasn’t so wrong after all. Before the month of November began parang could be heard on the radio and businesses were advertising special sales. Perhaps the trying experiences of this past year motivated our citizens to get a head start on the festivities. But the sombre truth, however, is that not everyone will be celebrating.

Because for families who have lost a loved one to tragic circumstances, Christmas time will never be the same again.

Remember Shannon Banfield? The 20-year-old bank employee who was murdered this time last year? For the few weeks after, the entire country was united in shock and outrage, crying out that “enough was enough” and demanding that something be done. But all those voices soon died down; the country moved on and Miss Banfield, whose name had inspired calls to action, became little more than just another murder statistic.

Of course, this cycle of tragedy, outcry, and forgetfulness occurs quite often in T&T. And would repeat itself following the gruesome murders of Rose Mohammed and her neighbour Videsh Subar (June), Dr Claire Broadbridge (September), and, as recent as two weeks ago, Pundit Sunil Ragbirsingh. It’s not that the population’s reaction to such events isn’t genuine, but that their proclivity for “moving on” is a morose indication that they’ve come to accept such tragedies as inevitable.

So why have we become a population of complacent complainers? The usual refrain is the self-deprecating maxim that “we like it so”. But that mentality ignores the concerted efforts that have been made to foment social and political change. Virtuous citizens have turned to starting petitions, orchestrating nation-wide shutdowns, and assembling outside of parliament. To date, none of those methods have had the desired effect and we are left with the “same ole, same ole”: politicians who ignore us, a public service that holds the country to ransom, and criminal elements who operate seemingly unchecked.

Democracies tend to tout the notion that “vox populi, vox Dei”—the voice of the people is the voice of God. But that only applies to the act of casting one’s ballot every five years; during the time in-between the electorate is left voiceless. This is a stark contrast to the before-mentioned groups who are never without the power to further their own agendas. The government has the power to make policies and enrich their financiers; the public service and trade unions have the power to plunge our country into chaos; and the criminals have the power to deprive us of our possessions and even our lives. What, if anything, are average citizens supposed to do?

Considering this imbalance, it’s no wonder then that Trinbagonians are the way they are—disenchanted with what’s happening around them and yet disinterested in trying to make things better. It’s easy to complain about something, or to identify a problem without offering a worthwhile solution; my last column read very much like that.

While I don’t presume to have any answers, I acknowledge that just adding to the noise isn’t doing a damn thing to help. I’ll try to keep that in mind if I revisit this topic in the future. But for now Trinidad and Tobago, Christmas is here once again. While it is indeed a season for enjoyment, do try and remember those who aren’t here to do the same.

Ryan Hadeed


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