Saturday, May 18, 2024
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HomeEducation / CultureSackcloth and Ashes

Sackcloth and Ashes

By Johnny Coomansingh

Then there is this question about our extremely colourful Trini language; how we use it and how we interpret it. We have the more classic and well-known political phrases such as: “I am the boss, and who vex loss,” “One from ten leaves zero,” “Money is no problem,” “We like it so,” “… hostile recalcitrant minority,” “… let the jackass bray,” “neemakaram,” “pseudo-racist,” “… while the Indian was beating book, the African was beating pan,” “…he has a diarrhea of words and a constipation of ideas,” “hassikara,” “blank man,” “cockroaches,” and “hypocrisy versus democracy.”

Nonetheless, in my opinion, the four foulest phrases ever articulated in the history of Trinidad so far, are: “… who cyat, who dog,” “Nobody lives there,” “Oreo cookie,” and “Is we time now.” As the saying goes, ‘Is not what you say, it’s how you say what you say’ that matters. I daresay that these four phrases are the most disgusting and putrefying stench emitted from the lips of some of our more prominent politicians.

Whether they like it or not, our politicians, the people who seek to lead the people of Trinidad and Tobago, should be cognizant of the fact that nature placed all of us right here on these two outcroppings of rock in the Caribbean Sea. Our forebears, according to Dr Leroy Calliste (calypsonian ‘Black Stalin’), mentioned in one of his calypsos, “We took the same trip on the same ship.”

At this point, I will not hesitate to state that Trinidad has found itself in an abominable and abhorrent racial divide. Ethnic cleavages proliferate, especially in political circles. “One love” done! Trinidad was, I said was, an example to the world; a beautiful and wonderful rainbow country. Where is the rainbow now? No one seems to be able to bell the discriminatory racist cat.

As the saying goes, everybody “‘fraid Karl;” afraid to speak! I will state clearly that people born in Trinidad are not classified as Africans, French, Spanish, Indians, Chinese, Syrians, Lebanese, British, Canadians, Europeans or Americans. If yuh born in Trinidad and Tobago yuh is ah Trini! Straight case! Better yet if we massage the alphabet a little, we could come up with “TRINIGONIAN.” On second thought, we can leave Tobago with their ‘Tobagonian’ just in case they want to pull off a serious secession.

Once upon a time a certain political party’s anthem was Bob Marley’s “One love” for one of the general elections, so how come deceased Satnaryan Maharaj, former secretary general of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) could get up and say: “Is we time now?” What did he really mean by that statement? The racial divide in Trinidad is a sickness in the soul of the society. I will double dare any political party to play “One love” for the upcoming general elections. It seems that we as a people have gone too far down into the racial rabbit hole to revive any kind of salvation.

The people will choose a political party to do a job. Yes, all of our politicians promise to serve the people, but what happens? The baby always gets thrown out with the bath water. A former prime minister warned them a long time ago about “irrationalities.” I have no idea what any political leader could, should or would employ to re-kindle the spirit of unity in the people of Trinidad. I really don’t know! Despite the fact that our national anthem clearly states “Here every creed and race find an equal place,” the people of Trinidad and Tobago are still struggling for an identity.

There are some politicians who still pander to some form of supposed racial superiority. Although Trinidad and Tobago is an independent nation, I suspect that the country is suffering from the backlash and wheels of cultural imperialism. The colonialists brought their ‘system’ that confused us, and now, here we are in the throes of neocolonialism, another ‘system’ that is confusing us even more. Now where do we go from here? A close look at our political landscape will show images of cultural repression…a shroud covers many cultural art forms.

Calypsonians, the true ‘mouthpieces’ of the masses are being threatened with censorship and jail. Michael Anthony Osouna (calypsonian ‘Sugar Aloes’) was right, “…ah done change mih clothes, ah ready tuh go,” meaning that he was ready to go to jail for his rights. The people of Trinidad and Tobago must stand up for what they know is right.

Although in many ways today, the state is leaning towards an autocracy, it is still a democracy. It was George Michael Chambers, a former prime minister who said, “… make wrong things right,” and almost everybody thought that he was “duncey.” The words, “Chambers done see”  were part of the lyrics of Clinton Moreau (calypsonian ‘Plainclothes’). Mark my words, his words will live on! Today, it appears that all the “wrong” things are now “right” in this country.

We must as a nation eliminate the wrongs in our society and replace them with what we know to be right. On the flipside of our so-called freedom, I have seen the press come under serious attack. A certain prime minister keeps ‘roughing up’ and deriding some journalists who ask piercing questions of him on television. His autocratic, crass and callous demeanor must be purged. This must not be allowed! We have a democracy to protect and propagate. Muzzling the press does not augur well for the survival of a democracy. We must have a free press!

The economy is experiencing flagellation from every side. Food prices have hit the roof! I have said that we will have to walk with a cocoa rod affixed to a gullet to ‘juk’ down the high prices in the supermarkets and everywhere else. Promised amenities and basic potable water is still a dream in many localities.

Another high-flying minister declared that the people will get ‘truck-borne’ water if the people pay a certain kind of tax. In this day and age, the people of Trinidad are regressing. Truck-borne water? After two oil booms we now have truck-borne water? Who gets the contracts for delivering the water to these depressed villages?

The education sector is reeling and rocking while racial tensions under the slogan “Is we time now” and is continuing to show its ugly and austere head in every sector. The spite attending the statement “… nobody lives there” is exemplified by the many depressed communities in a nation that is considered to be an oil rich state. The lack of basic amenities and neglect of infrastructure is appalling. Praedial larceny and squatting are a never-ending sores upon the landscape.

And despite the best efforts of one of my former bosses to attempt to reconcile the country with some idea of God in the coordination of marches for Jesus, I will maintain that Trinidad and Tobago requires more than a march for Jesus. Trinidad and Tobago requires ‘sackcloth and ashes.’ I remember quite well his words to me when I worked at Trintopec, “Johnny, you have to pay your dues.”

Although I still find his statement baffling, I wonder if my good ol’ administrative officer is willing to pay his dues for the people of Trinidad and Tobago on the steps of the Hall of Justice? I wonder if he would sit there clothed in ‘sackcloth with ashes’ upon his head? Will he fast for 40 days? Knowing the man, I guess he would.

I sat and I wrote this article because I have a passion for the welfare of Trinidad and Tobago. I challenge the prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago to go down in ‘sackcloth and ashes’ and give to the people the required leadership.

Into his hands, the almighty has entrusted the citizens of Trinidad minus the 576 murdered last year and the 182 murdered this year to date (April 24, 2024). The Holy Bible states. “I the Lord raiseth up kings and I the Lord taketh them down.” Can we not start a new crusade for unity and brotherhood in Trinidad and Tobago? The longest mile begins with the first step.

Ministers are appointed to serve, not to insult, ridicule and embarrass the people. If your constituents want to baptize you or administer a bath upon you with flood and sewage water, accept it. The neglectful member of parliament should stand up and take the bath, not report the ‘offenders’ to the police. If you were chosen to serve, then do that. A golfing prime minister will not take Trinidad and Tobago where it needs to go, nor the importation of lord this and lord that to solve the judicial problems of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

Village walkabouts after elections always come to a sudden halt! Members of parliament and elected representatives must not withdraw from the masses from whence they came. Give the people a regular supply of potable water, show them how to get food without having to steal, show them the law of least effort and how it works, and show them that the seeds of opportunity can be found in every problem. In other words, show them how to turn their problems into opportunities. Talk is cheap. Show them how to make the turnaround.

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