Spin and Molasses

There’s a story in today’s Express talking about the increasingly putrid smell that’s been hanging over the Beetham on the Priority Bus Route for the past two weeks. I’ve noticed it for a while now and spoke about it in my column this weekend

“A statement from Angostura disclosed that on July 19, 5,833 cubic metres of molasses spilled when the base of a tank ruptured.”

I’m wondering if there was nothing else that could be done to alleviate the smell and also the other impacts reported by Beetham residents.

“Adam Ramdany, who lives directly opposite Fernandes Compound, said two weeks ago he noticed the substance and the pungent smells.

“That smell is so sickening now, I feel as if I could die smelling that thing,” he said.

Ramdany, who claimed that the waste might contain some harmful chemicals, said he recently engaged in some agricultural activities and all the plants dried up.

One youth, who called himself Charles, said he dug a trench and the water which came up was the same dark colour as the water in the drain.”

The story in today’s Express claims that Angostura has been successfully able to clean up the spill. Huh? The smell is enough to make you gag. And of course they’ve been dumping that effluent into those drains for years now, in addition to whatever else is being dumped into that water. And everybody knows what excellent waste water treatment plans we have for domestic effluent.

It’s taken weeks for Angostura to make a statement. I wonder if their factory was in a different neighbourhood if they would have waited so long to engage their spin cycle, not to talk about cleaning up that blasted mess.

And of course, where oh where is the EM firetrucking A?

Some Kind of Freedom

Meanwhile yuh dancin to dis musik
And tryin to figure out these lyrics
Meanwhile yuh drinkin and havin fun
Watch out
de revolution a come
Betta be a part a de solution
Dis mite be di final confrontation
Betta awake to dis reality
Dis is no time to lose yuh sanity

Any Which Way…Freedom, Mutabaruka

The smell of rotting sugar hangs over the Priority Bus Route like a ghostly reminder of times past.

It mingles with the more industrial smells of cars and burning copper.

The drains are dark brown into dark green, into plastic shiny silver in the early morning sunlight. Depending on what pollution the companies on the right side of the Bus Route are kind enough to share with the people of Beetham Gardens.

Emancipation Day comes and the smell of rum hangs like the spirits of all those angry restless ancestors.

Freedom, it seems, does not extend to the ability for some sections of our society to be able to breathe clean air.

Freedom does not mean that you have a right to enjoy the fact that massa day is done. And the bush that once lured your ancestors away from plantations is yours to roam free in whenever you please.

One hundred and seventy years later I am still trying to make sense of freedom on the Emancipation weekend.

One hundred and seventy years is much more than people can begin to imagine.

In the immediacy of these times, in the up-to-the-minute news and readily available everything-in-the-moment technology, yesterday seems like a faraway time and place.

One hundred and seventy years could very well be prehistoric times to young people who don’t have a sense of the presence far less for the past.

It seems like all celebrations are doomed to lose sight of what they really represent the further away from the event you go.

So Christmas becomes a reason to drink and eat to excess and Emancipation becomes a day to spend a lot of money to look like a free person.

And while the celebration continues and a holiday is a day for enjoying the fruits of one’s labours, who is really considering what it means to be free?

And in the same way that political leaders take an opportunity to dress up and pretend they care, and companies who don’t bother to support education programmes, never mind Emancipation programmes, put on big sales to sell pretty African fabric made in China, you have to wonder who are we pretending this sense of freedom for?

Too besides, do we really understand what it is to have chain-free ankles? Who knows that massa day is done? Who has switched physical chains for enslavement to a job and a house and a car?

Doomed to fail, for sure. Doomed to be forever divided between an underclass that has neither motivation nor means to improve and a black elite so profoundly terrified of being thought to be black, whatever that is.

The complication now is not the chains on the feet or the amount of work to be done. But how to find the fine line between not black enough for the masses and too black to be socially acceptable.

So you resolve to enslave yourself to the things that now count as acceptable masters. To conspicuous consumption. To big gold chains or designer shoes. To a way of thinking and being that convinces you that you belong.

You have to wonder if freedom is some bizarre notion that only exists for some people and not for others. Because the way this society operates, it’s as if some people have more of a right to be free.

Some people have more of a right to enjoy this country while others feel they have a right to stop them from enjoying it.

They set us up that way and left it like that for us to wallow in our hierarchies and stereotypes forever.

Here every creed and race find an equal place but there is no solidarity. Only the Africans celebrate the fact that they are free. Only the Indians celebrate the fact that they arrived. What is the point of being cosmopolitan if we can’t even be bothered to share our triumphs and our failures?

What is the point of being happy for yourself and no-one else?

In the stink of my own rubbish and the stink of rotting molasses and the horror of buildings that say that I am better than I used to be, I wonder if it isn’t a Pyrrhic sort of victory, if a victory at all, when there are plenty who are convinced that you should still be in chains.

Essar Steel- Utter Madness

Got this in my inbox this morning. The epicenter of environmental protest has shifted to Claxton Bay where residents are under the shadow of a $1.2 billion dollar steel plant to be built by Mumbai based steel company Essar Steel. In addition to the plant there are also plans to destroy a crucial stand of mangrove swamp, as shown in the image.

It’s the classic kind of EMA/government madness that creates an untenable situation for communities. They have no choice but to protest, get arrested and fight for their homes and their survival.

Patriotism matters

My people self dey fear too much
Dem fear for the thing we no see
Dem fear for the air around us

We fear to fight for freedom
We fear to fight for liberty
We fear to fight for justice
We fear to fight for happiness
We always get reason to fear
Sorrow Tears and Blood, Fela Kuti
One of the accusations that has been leveled at the anti-smelter lobby over the past two years is that it’s mainly motivated by over-enthusiastic tree huggers (yes, that’s me) who are talking more out of emotion than a real understanding of the economic and technical issues.
Which is neither here nor there with me.  Patriotism, the feeling that you have when you’re flying over the Northern Range or the way your spirit soars when you bend that last bend as catch sight of Maracas Bay, that’s emotional.
That’s what keeps us here, in spite of the fact that we’re living in some kind of nightmare in paradise.  The feeling in the pit of our bellies is what keeps us rooted here even though the soil is shifting beneath our feet.
I don’t know when Trinis became unfeeling sheep.  I wondered about this between 4 and 5 o’clock trying to go east from City Gate.  Watching little children being trampled on.  The passengers around me laughing at the fact that the maxi taxis are coming to the platform almost full.
And I started to get damn vexed until soon enough I was shouting at the police office talking to the tick ting on the next platform that he wasn’t doing his job.  And I started boofing up the people around me that they aren’t animals and this is not what it means to be a Trinbagonian.
Emotions come to the fore when you see a situation that is unreasonable.  When you just can’t seem to get your head around why in your own country you have no access to vast wealth, even if it’s just being able to get a bus without having to elbow other commuters out of the way.
I get emotional when I read the Alutrint Environmental Impact Assessment and I see the figures there in black and white that only 410 locals will get employed out of a total of 1,982 jobs that will be available during the peak construction phase.  I get emotional when I hear that on the day of Papa Patos’ symposium in Vessigny, commuters in Arima couldn’t get a bus to get into town because all the buses were being used to take the Fat Arse Brigade on an excursion.
I get emotional for more witnesses murdered and more little girls being molested and for the children living in Sobo and Union Villages who have to deal with the dust of 1000 acres of cleared land yet again.
But what do I do when the Father of the Nation says I’m in collusion with druglords?  I check my water tank.  Because I know that soon enough the time is coming when every act of questioning, every voice that sounds in opposition to the Big Daddy appointed by God will be demonized.
The equation is going to be drawn like it was in America by the neo conservatives, that anyone who isn’t for the government is a traitor.
Already there is this stiff necked capitalist assumption that people who value trees are somehow against progress and development.  That people who believe in empowering communities are some strange breed of alien.
Because by empowerment I don’t mean sponsoring full page ads for Village Councils to endorse Alutrint when there are countless people in La Brea who will tell you that no one asked for their opinion.
I appreciate the crass stupidity that prompts Papa Patos to make his pronouncements, as much as I appreciate that every legitimate community concern becomes a good jackass for opposition parties to ride.
However I also understand the significance of heavily armed soliders in town.
This is the time of professional protesters.  Of direct action for direct results.  Whether it is Chatham or Chiapas, people are standing up and pelting social big stones at state tanks.

I want to see how many Trinbagonians start feeling the feelings.  The next year is going to be a real test of who is willing to get emotional and stop waiting for the state to decide how next they’re going to jam us.