Not much to Celebrate

Everybody run run run
Everybody scatter scatter
Some people lost some bread
Someone nearly die
Someone just die
Police dey come, army dey come
Confusion everywhere
—Sorrow, Tears and Blood, Fela Kuti

Dear Aunty Kamla,
Not that you asked. But I’ll tell you, I’m not terribly happy about the state of my country right now. It’s not just the failed-state stench that’s hanging over us like La Basse smog on an early morning. It’s not the Flying Squad bacchanal or the out-of-control crime. It’s not even the vacuum of radical, fearless leadership that’s going to be left in the aftermath of Hugo Chavez’s death.

Give jack his jacket, he did things that successive governments have failed to do and will continue to fail to do—like using our oil wealth to lift certain segments of our society out of poverty. It’s my uterus, Aunty Kamla. She’s got a mind of her own and she thinks you need to get some vulvicular fortitude. March, they say is the month of women. Women making strides. Women doing wonderful things. Yippee you say. My uterus and I had a chat and we think there isn’t much to celebrate.

We’re still one of the few countries in the western hemisphere to have a woman in charge. Well, if you call what you’re doing being in charge. My uterus gets the sense that you aren’t, really. My uterus thinks that you are just as clueless as the rest of us as to just what the hell is going on and how to solve the many problems.

My uterus is shouting bloody murder because she thinks that this cluelessness will last another two years until election season comes around again and suddenly you will have all the answers to the many questions we have. Where, oh where is the gender policy? Where, oh where is the child protection legislation? Why is the Children’s Authority still non-functional?

To tell you the truth, I think my uterus is kind of bored of it all, Aunty Kamla. What about you? Are you bored as well? Bored of having to make excuses for your Cabinet? Bored of having to sidestep demands to probe the issue of the day? Are you bored, too, of columnists like me who don’t understand what it’s really like to run a country? The cautious anticipation I felt at the beginning of your time in office has become a dull and ever present headache. I keep waiting for you to come up with a cure.

You don’t seem to have one and that makes me terribly sad. Those who say you are the mother of the nation must have had the sorts of mothers that wail on television when their children behave badly. Those who say you are the mother of the nation must be needy orphans. My mother is a lot of things, including an excellent cook and a little mad. I know if I had a headache she would probably feel it before I had a name for the pain. She would also move mountains to ensure that I no longer had a headache.

My uterus is a little gun shy about producing any future Trinis because she thinks that the foundation that you are laying for a future T&T is no future at all. My uterus wonders why your government ministers are rushing to help one family when so many children are at risk, everyday, every minute, all over this country.

My uterus wonders if your prime ministership is more gimmicky than the national telephone company that spends endless money talking about how awesome their technology is but the frequency of dropped calls is faster than the speed of mobile internet access. My uterus wants you to know that she’s kind of pissed. And it’s not hormonal imbalances. It’s not misplaced angry black woman outbursts.

My uterus wants you to woman up and do your job instead of constantly reacting to situations. My uterus wonders if you remember your own birth pangs. Who was there to hold your hand? Who prepared you for that day? Why aren’t you holding this nation closer? Why aren’t you preparing us for what is to come?

My uterus is angry and weepy, Aunty Kamla. My uterus wonders if anyone, including you, will care. My uterus wonders if your uterus also churns with distress. My uterus wonders where the mothers are. The mothers who give birth to the abusers. To the killers. To the police. To the politicians. To the thinkers and doers and musicians and the artists. My uterus wonders what is going on in their insides.

She wonders when women will understand that without them change is impossible. Without them demanding it, instigating it, forcing it, pushing it, the change our communities so desperately need will remain an unfulfilled desire. Bleeding out of us and into our flooded drains. Like so many dead children. And so many dead dreams.

First published in the Trinidad Guardian March 9, 2013

Foil Vedanta, Shakti revolution and other Wednesday morning thoughts.

 

Wake up, Murderer

“At 8am this morning Anil Agarwal was woken up at his £20 million Mayfair apartment by seven demonstrators with pots and pans and whistles. They shouted ‘blood on your hands’, ‘murderer’ and ‘Vedanta ka anta ho!’ meaning Vedanta should cease to exist, and held placards. One placard cited the communities in Zambia, Australia and India who are affected by pollution and ill health from Vedanta’s mines and industry. Another named two tribal activists – Sukru Majhi and Arsi Majhi – allegedly killed by Vedanta at their Niyamgiri mine project.”

Last summer in Babylon-don I had an amazing opportunity to take part in this protest in central London.  The occasion was the Annual General Meeting of Vedanta Resources PLC.

After my own adventures with the local anti-smelter movement, it was another chance for me to get involved in the global struggle against the aluminium monster, which is well documented in Out of this Earth written by Samarendra Das and Felix Padel.

All the Villains

I spent the day before with Sarbjit, part of the Foil Vedanta crew making posters.  It was also a chance for us to share stories of struggles and I was reminded once again of how important women are to protest movements around the world.

Sarbjit for all intents and purposes was a typically quiet Indian woman. She made me amazing chapatis in her kitchen while we talked about revolution and traditional expectations and love and other things that women like us talk about.

The next day, Sarbjit’s voice rang out clear and unrelenting ‘Arrest Anil Agarwal, criminal, criminal.’ She called out for hours, her voice vibrating along the street. I imagined her refrain making the people in the AGM upstairs increasingly agitated.

For murders and environmental crimes

The other person who stood out in this protest for me was Miriam a young English woman I met in Iceland in 2007 when Saving Iceland held their Summer Protest camp.  I consider that trip one of the significant events in my life for a number of reasons but mainly because I got to experience firsthand and with people from very diverse backgrounds that multi-nationals like to play the same dirty tricks wherever they are in the world.  And so the stories described to me from Orissa or Brazil or South Africa rang true to what I had experienced right here in Trinidad.

Without a doubt there are some amazing men involved in these global struggles for the environment, for people, for communities.

But women bring a truth to activism that is undeniable and pretty much uncelebrated.  If women aren’t involved as more than the back-up, then the movement will fail. This is why our labour movement is so weak and lacking credibility. Because it is not rooted to anything. To real people or real issues. All I can see is a bunch of men fighting over who can piss further.

More women need to understand their role in making a difference.  Beyond environmental struggles, activism among women needs to happen in terms of social interventions and taking back our communities from anything and everything that threatens to destroy them.

If we cannot change the notion of women as nurturers, life-givers, the primary source of life and living. Then we have to change the notion that women are somehow incapable of defending that which is closest and dearest to them.

All of which is to say, I’m missing my friends and sisters and brothers in London today.   And wondering how to cause a Shakti revolution up in this place.

 

The bruised one

Sometimes it seems that the going is just too rough

And things go wrong no matter what I do

Now and then it seems that life is just too much

But you’ve got the love I need to see me through

When food is gone you are my daily meal

When friends are gone I know my saviour’s love is real

Your love is real

You’ve Got the Love – Florence and the Machine

Starch for breakfast again. This one was a little worse for wear. Apparently it had a hard fall and was the proud owner of two big bruises. No big thing. I’m not a picker of mangoes really, I like to see what the tree gives me on a morning and I am thankful for any offerings or none at all. But I’m not averse to chasing off those wasteful kiskidees that pick a few morsels and then leave a lovely mango to be fly food. You could learn a lot about life from eating a mango for breakfast. For the obvious reasons of health, yes. And a starch is just a really delicious way to eat the sun. A mango is a thing of beauty, even, or maybe especially, when it is bruised. A mango is a prayer and a mango is also the answer. So you ask for wholeness and you get fragments that need to be put together. You ask for perfection and you get a bruised mango.

But if you cut out the bruise, pull the skin past the wound on the skin there is sweetness under there.
Waiting for you to find it. Asking not to be ignored because of a couple of bruises. On Tuesday night I ended up at a nightclub in the ridiculous hours of the morning when people who have real jobs should be asleep.  But up in this club where women rule, women who are beautiful and comfortable in their bodies in a way I know that I have too much middle class self-consciousness to ever be. Women with baby stretch marks and bodies that bear marks of their far from easy lives. They are powerful in this space, they own it like I can only ever own my words.   They make men hold their heads, even the nice uptown ones who know they can’t handle so much Shakti. And I don’t know if they think this is all the power that they have but in this moment that doesn’t matter and the beauty of simple is overwhelming. Mangoes with bruises these women are. Unashamed of the licks they get from life. They wear their bruises because these are a reality of life in this country. Where women are bruised and have to struggle to hold on to a sense of themselves, find the sweetness still underneath the bruise.

They dance for all the young ones who never make it. Who are home minding fatherless babies. Who take their lives because they confuse love with acceptance. Whose lives are taken away by men who confuse love with possession. They dance to remember that they are alive in a society that kills them every day simply by making them invisible. More and more the West is telling women they have to be some version of perfect. Thanks to pornography, thanks to the fashion industry, thanks to abnormalities that are now cultural norms, women are being convinced even more these days that something is wrong with their bodies. That they need to be bruise-free and blemish-free and wrinkle-free and cellulite-free and doll-like and perfect. The skin bruises are airbrushed away but the desire for approval from everyone else becomes that kind of cancerous engagement with self-loathing and terror at imperfection.

Part of coming to terms with yourself is acknowledging your imperfections, being thankful for the flaws and finding a way to use them to your advantage. A lifelong engagement to last many mango seasons until one day you are as okay with your bruises as you are with the ones on your breakfast starch. You know that every scar is a sign that you are alive. That you live in spite of wind and stones and wasteful kiskidees that peck at you for a few morsels then leave you to rot alone. These are things I discover from eating a mango in the morning. That even the bruised ones have their value. That even the bruised ones are sweet and beautiful and good for you. That a bruised mango is not a rotten apple. And that we need to find a way to understand that we are different and find ways to create our own ways to love ourselves and heal ourselves, to celebrate who we are, bruises and all.

Women 350 – Statement on International Day of Climate Action

October 24, 2009 Port of Spain, Trinidad.   We are concerned citizens of Trinidad & Tobago and Caribbean.
We are the mothers, sisters, daughters, friends, lovers, wives, and workers.
Our countries are blessed with natural resources. Yet we are pursuing a model of development that is destroying our most important resource and our people.
Everywhere around the world today, people are joining forces to lend their voices to an important cause. We join them now.
Climate change is here. Climate change is now. In other parts of the world people on small islands are already being affected by climate change.
You don’t have to go to the south Pacific. Just take a drive down to Icacos and see for yourself the evidence of rising sea levels.
It does not have to be this way. We have the power to make a change now. We must make the change now. We cannot abandon future generations.
We appeal to our fellow citizens to take responsibility for your actions.
We call on you to understand what climate change is and how it affects you.
We call on you to adjust your lifestyle to reduce your carbon footprint.
We call on you to plant more of your own food and to eat less meat.
We call on you to demand stronger environmental legislation.
We call on you to hold our leaders accountable to all the international conventions they sign that rarely get enforced in national legislation.
We call on you to demand genuine development not this tidal wave of social and environmental destruction crashing down on our nations.
Our countries cry out and are being damaged by the scourge of crime.
But we remain silent on the crimes against the environment. These are crimes against ourselves and our children.
Our leaders give us confusing messages. Our leaders say they care about climate change and are concerned about the environment. It is a care that we have yet to see manifest in policies, in planning, in education, and action.
We want to remind elected leaders that you are there in service of the people. It is not the other way around. We appeal to you to stop dancing to the tune of technocrats and move with the rhythm of the people.
We appeal to you to embrace a genuine vision of development, one that gives us cleaner air, one that protects our ecological security, and one that encourages businesses and employment opportunities that enhance rather than destroy our resources.
Today on the International Day for Climate Action we take a stand. Today we let our voices be heard.
Let our voices be a call to action and let the action be as loud and as clear as collective as our voices.

LET ACTION BEGIN WITH A COMMITMEBNT OF ALL WORLD LEADERS TO CONTROLING AND REDUCING CARBON EMISSIONS TO THE RECOMMENDED 350 parts per million which is the safe upper limit for CARBON DIOXIDE IN THE ATMOSPHERE.
Please wear white and join us as we take public action on Climate Change at 3.50 p.m. in Queen’s Park Savannah (opposite Whitehall).

Women 350 – Climate Action in Trinidad!

We are a collective of women of Trinidad and Tobago.
We are gathering to add our voices to the international call.
Trinidad and Tobago is a wealthy small island developing nation rich in oil and natural gas. But we are also seeing the damaging effects of aggressive industrialisation on our islands.
This is an opportunity for women’s voices to be heard.
Our event centres around a smoke ceremony from the most forgotten voice of indigenous women of Trinidad and Tobago.
We are asking all women to come to the Queen’s Park Savannah wearing white. We are asking men to come and lend their voices in support at 3.50 p.m.
We will make the 350 with our bodies, in this way, we all take responsibility for making 350 a reality.
We all have a part to play and Saturday is a call to arms for women from all communities to begin to be conscious of climate change and how it will affect the lives of all islanders.

Love and Baigan – A Maticoor Meditation

Republic Maticoor

When Gab, my sistren from the year nought jokingly suggested that I organize and host her maticoor at the Republic a month ago it didn’t seem so odd. 

Given that I am a post modern Orisa/Rasta ecofeminist and Gab is a Rapso feminist activist, former Miss Mastana Bahar and her family is actually Muslim Indian via Afghanistan. AND she was getting married to an African man in Christian ceremony.

I engaged in the process the same way I engage in any kind of celebration, with wild abandon and excitement.

This was not to be a regular maticoor by any stretch of our imaginations.  It was less than rites but more than tradition.  But that is the Trinidad experience — creating new interpretations of old things, making culture relevant  and current and alive and vital.  

 It didn’t matter that I’m not Indian or Hindu or a family member.

In our reasonings about what we wanted the maticoor to be, Gab and I agreed that to call it a maticoor was to take the name with its local cultural and social significance specifically to women and make it our own.  

As women confronting this Trinidad landscape, claiming space, expressing views, thoughts, dreams, desires we know the restrictions on this freedom.  The maticoor then becomes that last chance for us to come together and surround our sister friend with all our light, all our hope and all our admonishing that this mouth called marriage doesn’t swallow her up, consume her so totally that she no longer is the person we knew.  A better stronger person perhaps. Because what is love if it doesn’t give you the energy to be an amplified version of yourself?

On the day of the maticoor I ended up in a shop in San Juan market with the mother.  I bought some coconut oil and wicks for the deyas I planned for Gab’s circle of light.  I stood there talking with the female shop owner, asking her about the various puja items on sale.  We chatted for a long time too about the similarities between Hindu rites and practices and Ifa/Orisa rites and practices.  About the late Orisa priest Baba Sam who often said his prayers in Sanskrit, of Ravi Ji who I call Uncle.

An Indian man,  a Jehovah’s Witness tried to engage me and the mother in a conversation about Christianity and why the Bible is the only truth.  There was a lot of snorting and steupsing from us at this point.  A few shoppers stopped their shopping to hear how the conversation was going.  Anyway to cut a long story short, the mother shouted at the man ‘Conversion is the worst crime perpetrated against people like us.  A lot of Indian people had to convert to Christianity, change their names and their way of life to keep their jobs, to send their children to school.  Orisa people used to have to run from police for playing their drums.  Pay respect to your ancestors who sacrificed so much for you to be here!’

In our circle later that night, after Burton had sung his ribald maticoor songs and then orikis to Orisa goddesses Yemoja, Osun and Oya and of course Sparrow’s Maharajin and we sat watching our mehendi’d hands dry, we all dressed as our personal sheroes – I am Phoolan Devi, in a circle of Parvati, Gaia, Winnie Mandela, Artemis, Athena, Yemoja, Osun… 

I spare a thought for the Jehovah Witness man who must still be scratching his head over the encounter with me and the mother.  I spare a thought for his version of the story which can only ever be one way.  That his worldview is limited by his belief system that says there is only one truth.  

We gather there in that circle giving Gab our love and advice.  The melongene comes out and we collapse into giggles.  Love and baigan are things that we all know. Experiences that we all share.  We give our best ideas and advice.

Trini men are special enough for us to try to figure out how to love them and demand that they love us in ways that are affirming, empowering, enlightening.

In a place and time when we presume women are disempowered, whether by marriage, religion or just the goddamn competing patriarchies that battle for women’s bodies and minds in this country, the maticoor then is a space of power for women where they can celebrate themselves, their femininity, sexuality freely.

 The maticoor is a moment of woman obeah.  To remind us of our power and how to use it.  That setting of a stage where the bride knows that the women have her back.  

Trinidad is such a subtle, nuanced place.  It’s easy to get it wrong. It’s easy to think that race divides us, which it does in bizarre ways.  That we succumb to the politics of nigger and coolie paranoia, which we do in the worst of times.  No mistake, there are a lot of people in Trinidad for whom that is a reality.  There are a lot of people in Trinidad who fully and committedly engage in the politics of resentment.  Who use difference as a dividing line.  

But it is never that simple.  So it is up to us who have had this upbringing that is all of the above: Indian and African and western and Baptist and Amitabh Bachchan on a Sunday afternoon and Viv Richards and pan to develop the capactity to deal with our cultural schizophrenia rather than try to disentangle it and try to construct some singular identity.  That’s not just impossible, it’s impossibly boring.

Maybe it is up to the women to lead the way to this easier understanding of this country’s complexities.  To an acceptance of how we mix and mingle and our sharp edges become softened by a constant rubbing against the Other. Until the other is yourself and you are the other.  And maybe a dougla maticoor is not the answer to all our problems.

 But surely love and baigan are key ingredients in any effort to bring us all a little closer.

Sexual politics in the US

Darling stop confusing me
With your wishful thinking
Hopeful embraces
Don’t you understand?
I have to go through this
I belong to here where
No-one cares and no-one loves
No light no air to live in
A place called hate
The city of fear

I play dead
It stops the hurting
I play dead
And hurting stops

It’s sometimes just like sleeping
Curling up inside my private tortures
I nestle into pain
Hug suffering
Caress every ache
Play Dead, Björk

Truthfully, I’m not terribly fond of the woman, her politics or the fact that everyone is so excited at the fact that in her spare time she’s a moose murderer.
And no, I don’t think because she owns a pair of ovaries that somehow magically cancels out the fact that she’s a right wing, polar bear hating, climate change denying nightmare – her winning smile and girl next door looks serving to convince me that she could possibly be the scariest woman to be seen in western politics since Margaret Thatcher.
But what I don’t appreciate is the fact that the American media did what can only be interpreted as an honour killing of Bristol Palin just because her mother won’t let her decide what she can and can’t do with her uterus.
I mean, Sarah Palin, the fact that you’re rich enough to afford to overpopulate the planet and put more of a strain on the world’s resources doesn’t mean that other women should be stripped of their own right to make life and death decisions.
Poor Bristol Palin has to be one brave young woman to stand up to the scrutiny for what must be a trying and private time.  Hardly being an adult herself, just getting into a sense of her body, grappling with teen angst and the newly discovered bargaining power of breasts.
It’s not Bristol Palin’s fault that her society gives her such double standards.  That even politicians use sex to sell themselves. And even her dear sweet hockey mom mother has graced the cover of Vogue in some hot low cut lingerie to demonstrate that it’s not just Democrats and PETA models that can be hot.
The thing I like about those Islamic misogynists who kill their girl children if they dare do the unspeakable and have sex with some dude not sanctioned by their family is that they just get to the point.  But in America, under the guise of civilization, there are all these sinister mind games that characterize post-modern sexual politics.
So child brides are a no-no but Britney Spears prancing around provocatively in a sexified school uniform is alright.  And girls are free to get a university education but once you get there doh dig no horrors to star in your own Girls Gone Wild special.
What’s wrong with a society in which women are expected to be heroine in public, whore in private and always with a happy lipsticked smile that is Maybelline approved to stay painted on for the many many hours of your life that you will be expected to live your life and look good doing it.
As all of this has been happening I’ve been reading Infidel by Somali Ayaan Hirsi Ali who documents her experiences as a Muslim woman and her subsequent rejection of its oppression and repression of sexuality, personality and possibility.  She currently lives in hiding after the Dutch filmmaker with whom she produced a documentary on domestic violence against Muslim women was murdered.
In the book she speaks about the importance of women bearing the weight of their lives in total submission.  Without complaint to husband or children.  Silence is the dignified response to any problem for the devout and respectful Muslim woman.  But watching Bristol Palin grinning sheepishly at the Republican National Convention I can’t help but get the feeling that someone is forcing her to be silent too. Forcing her to think she was ready to be sexually active in an irresponsible way, forcing her to then do the mature, responsible thing when perhaps all she wants to do is be a teenager and sit in her room and cry at the tremendous injustices of the world.
The confrontation of female sexuality against patriarchy is clearer in cultures where women walk the streets hidden like black shadows, shrouded against the raging libidos of men who cannot and will not control their basest instincts even as they try to control everything else.
But Bristol Palin is perhaps even more disadvantaged because she doesn’t have the luxury of living in a culture that is clear about what sexuality is and what function it serves to a young woman.
So you can shake your bamsee as much as you want.  You can be what you want to be, to a point and don’t dare overstep those boundaries lest you be labeled slut, bitch or the worst insult of them all, feminist.
And don’t forget to smile for the camera and look like everything is a-okay. Because this is a free country where a young woman has a right to show all the hurt and anger and terror of not being control of her body to the whole wide world.

Time to Kick Back

He isn’t true
He beats me too
What can I do?
Oh, my man I love him so
He’ll never know
All my life is just despair
But I don’t care
When he takes me in his arms
The world is right, alright
What’s the difference if I say
I’ll go away, when I know I’ll come back
On my knees someday
For whatever my man is
I’m his
Forever more.
My Man, Billie Holiday

Gangsters and wannabe gangsters killing each other is bad enough.  In this time of war when warriors know nothing of fighting for a reason, loving the battle, defending anything more than their fragile manhood.  We are shocked enough about it to sit around talking.  Some of us are relieved that they are killing each other.
War is war and maybe there is nothing that the rest of us can do about it.  Maybe.
But what is love when it makes you kill your four year old son?  What is devotion when you the only way to resolve family conflict is death?
For some reason we still haven’t found a way to deal with this kind of madness. Maybe because we still are so permissive about violence against women and children.  It’s the way, because men are head of the household, blah blah blah.  Even though are sometimes most men contribute less emotionally, financially and physically.  I don’t want to be one of those jaded bitter women who complain about men and how they’re no good, but Jah, it is difficult.
Not that I could possibly manage to be more unpopular among Trini men, but there is something wrong with too many of them.
We all talk about it, with varying levels of hysteria hidden in our nervous laughter.
Still, I desperately want to believe that this terrible monstrosity known as the Trini man is really a front and the good men are hidden somewhere hidden, in a secret good man lair, waiting to unleash themselves on the female population, when we’re ready.
I want desperately to believe that there are good men out there. I know a few that try very hard, in the face of domineering women, the sperm jackers and the money spenders who only look for a mooks of a man to manipulate.
Yet the headline on Guardian following the tragic murder suicide was ‘I Never Horn Him’.  As if a woman horning a man is some kind of justification for any kind of violence.
But I’ve heard so many comments in the past few months about women saying that another woman deserves to get her face re-modeled for even entertaining the thought of another man, that I wonder why we have so many double standards about men and women’s sexuality.
Women still think their bodies and lives and the bodies and lives of their children belong to men, and the police are trained to reinforce these misconceptions, but not, apparently to mediate man and woman problems.
Four years old, I imagine a sweet little boy who touches everything and has an assortment of sassy comments. Words he doesn’t understand, aped from the adults around him or from television.
I wonder if men got pregnant and went through labour, would it be so easy for them to kill?
I wonder too if love can make you hate so much that you can kill your child, why are we all so obsessed with finding it?
And in the same way that our government is obsessed with owning as many new and shiny useless things as possible, our men are also obsessed with possessing women in ways that nobody should ever feel they have rights to lay claim over another human being.
And it doesn’t matter if you live in the country or in a nice suburban townhouse, you still have a right to collect some slaps, eat some licks, swallow some cuff.
And as the men on the streets of our fair city remind us everyday with their not so wide range of uninspired courting, it doesn’t matter if you’re a whore or a bank girl, you’re just a piece of ass.  And what is an ass but a not to bright beast on which to ride?  I live in hope that one day the beasts get fed up and finally start to kick back.

Firing not the answer

I and I know the truth of it all,
Cos we have smashed our heads ‘gainst that wall,
And now I seh we must create a scene,
We must recapture our culture
by any means.
Babylon Makes the Rules, Steel Pulse

It’s not what he said that was the travesty. In a country where children curse old people and men dehumanise women, you can’t really fault the goodly Mr Mungalsingh for saying what he had to say.

African people are doing the crime so therefore they don’t deserve to be alive. It’s not an original thought, and it’s not just shared by the Indians in this country who feel under siege.

One night a couple years ago an Afro-Trini man showed me an SMS joke of the day. It went something like: Question: what do you call a Laventille woman who has an abortion? Answer: crimestopper.

He watched me for a couple seconds, trying to assess what my reaction would be. Not too sure if I would burst out laughing or to knock him over. I don’t know why he thought I would find that even remotely funny. But we’ve become so desensitised to our own insensitivities that we think that everybody else is as callous.

I walked around stunned for a couple days trying to figure out a way to process that one.

So basically Harrypersad Mungalsingh took a joke and made it deadly serious. And he represents a completely legitimate voice in Trinidad.

Those who would see absolute sense in denying working class women of the reproductive rights. Those who have taken the trauma of living in a rotten headed state to new heights.

Those who are parlaysed by fear and self-loathing.

The answer is not to fire Harrypersad Mungalsingh.

He certainly was continuing a longstanding tradition of disrespect that has become a mainstay of our highest offices. People in power in this country can basically do or say whatever the France they want without fear of reproach.

So protestors can be drug lords and political leaders can offer to sleep with the devil for power.

I mean, imagine, if you can, if Sherman Mc Nicholls was a little natty head boy from Red Hill. Would he have the privilege to decide on which day he could turn up in court to give evidence.

He would have been down in Remand Yard eating sulphur filled hops bread before you could say contempt of court?

No, Aunty Kamla, Harrypersad Mungalsingh and his verbal diarrhoea are not the problem.

The problem is the one rule for the rich and another for the poor.

The problem is the huge valley that exists between the Indians who feel under siege and the Africans who are losing their children to gun violence.

The problem is that there is willing to take on the task of beginning to work through the barriers created by a century of cleverly crafted divisions.

The problem is not the African community but all the creole PNM-ites who think that political power is their birthright, even though it’s really not working to improve their conditions as human beings.

The problem is that sexual and reproductive health rights of women in the country as a whole are basically non-existent and sex is still tied up with somebody’s version of morals.

I think that Harrypersad Mungalsingh, together with a selection of black radio announcers need to be given some race and gender sensitivity training. And perhaps we could add Hedgwige Bereaux to that list after his pronouncement in a meeting in La Brea that “white” Trinis who are opposed to aluminium smelters don’t want black people to prosper.

Polticians say dumb things everyday. It’s as if when they enter office they get a big handbook of completely inappropriate things to say.

Or possibly they are the embarrassing product of what happens when you become so comfortable in our racism, in our bluntness and insensitivity that we can’t seem to be civil to each other any more.

That’s about as effective as putting little black boys in prison to get sodomised because they’re caught with a spliff.

To say that Harrypersad Mungalsingh is a racist is counter-productive. To axe him from Parliament even moreso.

I mean really, we should be glad that he managed to stay awake long enough to say anything at all.

The answer is not to fire Harrypersad Mungalsingh. To fire him is to absolve him of any responsibility for his actions.

And firing him doesn’t help us begin to answer the question of why he made those comments in the first place.

Life after 30

This world is mine

For all the time

I can turn any stone

Call any place my home

I can do anything.

Use the Force, Jamiroquai

So I’ve been freaking out about turning 30 for at least a month now. All things considered, I don’t feel any different now than I did two days ago when I was still a twenty-something, but I find the finality of it a little hard to adjust to.

I can’t remember feeling so stressed out about turning 20. Actually, to be honest, I can’t remember turning 20. It wasn’t as significant as 18 and not as terrifying as 25.

But a decade is a lot of living to go through. It’s sped past in a haze of books and protests and flaky men and interesting fashion decisions.

And ten years later I don’t feel older but I do feel a lot wiser.

I still don’t consider myself a grown-up, possibly because people still refer to me as “the chile.” In truth, being a grown-up is a terribly overrated thing. Being a grown-up is really all about responsibilities and expectations and the disappointments that come when you refuse or fail to live up to these.

I have resisted most if not all attempts to make me a serious frowny lady who wears pumps, pantyhose and other instruments of female repression.

I’m not too sure why. I suppose my life would have been a lot easier if I’d gone down a less odd road.

It occurred to me in the midst of my pre-birthday funk when I was wondering how my life had turned out like it had and why another birthday was approaching and my bank account looking just as empty as it had in previous years.

When I was 25 I used to say every day that I didn’t want to turn 30 still engaged in the daily reporter grind, locked into the wage slavery of a full-time job and conspicuous consumption of house, car and fetes.

I look back and see how the universe opened the way and here I am five years later, a full-time professional protester of no fixed abode and neither chick nor child to show for it.

And if I didn’t have the pictures to prove it, I would think that my life for the past five years was a dream, with a few nightmarish bits put in for good measure. How I managed to climb the Great Wall, trod through Babylon-don, cruise the Adriatic, scale the Swiss Alps, march in Chatham, and generally have a fabulously detached existence is beyond me.

This time around I think I’m going to be a little more clear to the universe and try not to doubt so much that nothing in my life happens by accident.

That said, the best plan for me, it seems, is to make no plan at all. To see what turns up and go with the flow.

Sometimes I wish that what turns up is a big pile of dirty capitalist cash that I can use to fund all my subversive little revolutionary projects.

In the dark and frequent hours when self-doubt grips me by the throat and threatens to snuff out any positive thought, I wonder if I can manage to balance my life between being someone that cares and someone that earns a livable wage. I wonder if I can really open myself to the abundant blessings rather than cursing the poverty and the loneliness that come with rejecting social norms.

I guess at some point I’ll have to suppress that Aquarian predisposition to be out in mental orbit most of the time. Or use the orbit time to plot a course that really leads me where I want to go, wherever that is.

I’m going to focus on the positives of being a dread hippy and not second guess my interesting fashion decisions. I’m going to embrace the flaky men and understand that they’ve taught me some interesting lessons about how I see love and how much I love myself.

The challenge for the next year, five years, the rest of my life is to just enjoy being me. A human woman feminist writer tree hugger activist meggie artist drama queen fashion outcast photographer traveller lover friend sister daughter auntie perhaps one day mother dancer deejay…the list gets longer everyday. The possibilities of me are endless.