By Tony Deyal
With local elections in Trinidad and Tobago on Monday, I was asked by my friends, both local and foreign: “What is the difference between the two major parties, the Peoples National Movement (PNM) and the United National Congress (UNC)?” My response was always: “My friend, if the PNM wins it is a case of people exploiting people. And if the UNC wins it’s the other way around.”
One of them also asked: “When you say it is a general election, is it for old soldiers only?” I replied, “As far as I know, old soldiers never die. Most of them fade away and the others lose their deposits internally and externally.” My friend laughed, “So they are demoted to LOO-tenants?”
While I am no longer for either side, or any side in the games people play, I agree in principle with the same friend who continued: “Listen, in the whole Caribbean instead of politicians we should let the monkeys govern the countries; at least they will thief only the bananas.”
So I told him that bananas is “fig-urrative” speech and asked: “What is the difference between a politician and a catfish.” No answer, so I took him out of his misery,
“One is a bottom-dwelling, scum-sucking scavenger and the other is a fish.” Even Ronald Reagan, former president of the United States, wasn’t kind to himself and his colleagues so he could have been acting when he quipped: “Politics is supposed to be the second-oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.” Many people do not totally support Reagan. Among those placed “second” are journalists, pirates, press agents and gangsters. According to one of my friends, “Tony, but isn’t that the same thing?”
That opened the floodgates and for the rest of the day other friends called in with quips and questions like: “You know why the government is so set against people who steal, lie and cheat? They hate competition. Some politicians are so crooked they could eat soup with a corkscrew!”.
“What is the difference between politicians and Flying Pigs? The letter “F”; “Do honest politicians exist? Of course! But they are the most expensive” and one of my favourites.
“What is the definition of a politician? A person whose skin is so thick he or she can stand upright even without a spine.”
That was it for me. Generally, all our Caribbean people are known for being light-hearted, taking things light and also being light years ahead of the citizens of other countries in their tolerance and inventiveness. However, in times like these, with an election fever worse than dengue and COVID put together, the majority of people become alight with political fiction and split into frictions and factions.
As elections get nearer, trying to get to the truth is like attempting to nail a drop of water to a wall. This is because most of the time many people in Trinidad and Tobago don’t have water in their taps. However, at election time, there is water for all – but it is then that the walls are littered with “pamphlets” and posters telling you who to vote for.
Like now, almost all the political heat in Trinidad and Tobago is about corruption. While I believe that the Caribbean, especially Trinidad and Tobago, has the best politicians’ money can buy, there is still some contention about honesty or whether those that have been bought will remain bought. The people who, apart from the politicians, always do well are the “contractors.”
There is a story that a previous Trinidad government put out a tender around the world for a bridge near the sea that had collapsed and needed quick repairs. The Germans came in with a bid of US$60 million. The Chinese came in asking for US$10 million. A Trinidad company came in with $50 million and got the contract.
When asked by one of their colleagues who was supplying a lot of the trucks for the job, “How were you able to get this contract despite the Chinese being so low with their price?” the Trini explained with a laugh: “Easy! It was $20 million for us, $20 million for the politicians and we give the job to the Chinese.”
One thing I can tell you is that in terms of contractor jokes, Trinidad and Tobago will never run out of material. That is why the first truth about politics is that it is a word made up of two parts or “roots”. The first is “poli” which, in Latin, means “many”, and the second part is “tics” which means “blood-sucking creatures”.
Even Webster’s New World Dictionary defines “politics” as “the science and art of political government”. Others add: “Crafty or unprincipled methods” and “factional scheming for power and status within a group.”
It is no wonder that the term politician is “frequently used in a derogatory sense, with implications of seeking personal or partisan gain, scheming, opportunism and so on”. Some people have even said that a politician is like a contraceptive; he gives you a sense of security while you’re being screwed. That is why whoever decided to apply the acronym “HOGS” for our Caribbean “Heads of Governments” was just adding value to the CARICOM mess which supposedly holds us together.
Earlier this week, in an Editorial entitled “Voters must call time out on bacchanal politics,” a Trinidad and Tobago newspaper started with, “Politicians campaigning for the local government polls are, unfortunately, preparing the ground for an intensification of racial disharmony, even violence. Having done so, they then seek to be holier than thou and point accusing fingers at their opponents. If it did not have the potential for catastrophe, it would be funny.”
Unfortunately, that paper and all the others in Trinidad and Tobago specialise in singles. Their articles are to me what the Japanese call a “one-shot manga”. If the prime minister or opposition leader or any other high-ranking politician says something – anything – “he”, “she” or even “it” gets the whole page. Then subsequently, if it ever happens at all, those people who were mentioned or, for that matter, claimed to have been maligned, finally get a chance to respond or be misunderstood.
This is why I thought of a story that would be a good ending and an even better start before all hell (of votes, quarrels, hard talk and articles) breaks loose before Monday.
A busload of politicians and their media “coverage” were heading down a country road when suddenly the bus ran off the path and crashed into a tree in an old farmer’s field. The old farmer, after seeing what happened, went over to investigate. He then proceeded to dig a hole and bury everyone in the vehicle. A few days later, the local sheriff came out, saw the crashed bus, and then asked the old farmer, “Were they all dead?” The old farmer replied, “Well, some of them, especially the journalists, said they weren’t, but you know how all of them, the talkers and the writers especially, lie like hell.”
*Tony Deyal was last seen asking “What does a politician do when he dies?” He lies still.