Trinidad and Tobago is a nation of immigrants. We may have come on different boats, but we are in the same boat now.
Between the drop in oil and gas prices and their depressed demand, the consequent lack of foreign exchange and the Covid-19 economic shock, we could now be set back by at least three or four decades. This grim outlook, even if we choose to ignore it, is the backdrop to our just-completed crazy week and our months ahead.
We cannot wish it away.
The outrageous outburst of OWTU president general Ancel Roget, the airing of the infamous Trinity’s Triangle ads and the turning up of angry ‘workers’ demanding their election pay from their would-be Tunapuna representative are the bookends.
The Ramsaran’s flare-up is an expression of what awaits us more than it is a new-fangled situation. Our answer to the question, ‘What kind of country do we wish for?’
was, ‘Keep it rolling, don’t go changing.’ This answer may yet haunt us.
There is a straight line between the neo-liberal philosophy adopted in the ’80s where we jettisoned ‘all ah we is one’ to ‘every man for himself’ and today’s perceived racism. At the heart are income inequality and poverty problems. Those expressing disgust at others have benefited from Government policies, enriching themselves but now kick down the ladder of social mobility, pretending to be self-made men and women.
Should we analyse the racist discourse, we will perceive the link between the casually expressed discrimination and the structure of racial inequity. The words and expressions have no meaning without understanding the underlying structural social problems. The ‘others’ are labelled with demeaning caricatures, likened to objects and animals, and then are to be avoided or else be subjected to violent overtures. We fail to grasp that this action and the reaction to it further depress our economy and reduce our capacity to recover. They stop our economy in its tracks.
Nobody appears willing to face this problem in any of the comments offered.
We appear comfortable with maintaining the status quo and silencing or shaming ‘those people’. We indulge in ‘whataboutism’ as a means of assuaging our consciences, or we turn away and hope it will go away.
Sad news: the problem is not going away but will worsen.
When consumer confidence declines, consumption also does. We then all suffer regardless of race.
Langston Hughes’ iconic poem, ‘Harlem’, the likely inspiration for Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, profoundly describes his frustration at his experience of inequality. The ‘workers’ in Tunapuna, like many others in this country, have had their hopes deferred too often. The sore of inequality and the disrespect to workers and customers alike are well on their way to being a piece of rotten meat.
And like a dead dog at the roadside, the carcass would explode and soil us all. Do we wish to reach there or do we want better for our children?
All divine religions consider good treatment of ‘others’ as an act of righteousness.
The Bible warns: do not oppress the ‘other’ for he has a defender in God. The injunction is to love him as yourself since you too were ‘others’. The choice is ours.