Who is protecting us?

Zombie nah go kill
Unless you tell am to kill
Zombie nah go stop
Unless you tell am to stop
Go and kill
Go and die

Zombie, Fela Kuti

Not that I’m a fan of the British royal family or anything, but it was quite interesting to note that Prince Harry son of the soon to be King, was being sent to Iraq kill.
It’s heartening, at least, for all those mothers now mourning their dead sons that it’s not just poor people’s children being sent to kill other poor people’s children.
Of course the fact that he’s so high profile makes him and his Blues and Royals regiment even more of a target for the insurgents.
It would be the ultimate scalp really.  Anti-West fundamentalists around the world would rejoice.  Kind of like I would if EMA would actually grow some balls and turn down Alutrint’s Certificate of Environmental Clearance.
But I digress.
I wonder what the delightfully melancholy Princess Di would have said about her boy child being sent to kill people.  After she devoted so much of her life to being a poster girl for clean white folks in well-starched safari outfits embracing the unclean, the maimed, the fly ridden children of the world.
Only for her son to become a certified killing machine.
I guess that’s the chance you take as a parent.  You don’t make their minds, no matter how well you try to shape them.
I mean, who watches their sweet powder smelling popo and says, ah yes, this one’s going to be one hell of a killer?
My verdict is still out on how I feel about soldiers.  On one hand they are state paid strong men.  On the other hand, perhaps a soldier also plays an important role as freedom fighter.  But that all depends on who is giving the orders. And whose version of freedom we’re going for.
I feel the same way about the police, security helicopters, the blimp and all the other accoutrements the state has come up with to supposedly protect us.
But it seems like our soliders engage in more dress up and grand charge than defending our patrimony.
This month marks another anniversary of the 1970 Black Power Revolution which climaxed in a mutiny of members of the Defense Force after the original Big Daddy Eric Williams declared a State of Emergency to deal with the revolting natives.
Come to think of it, that mutiny was probably one of the most noble things ever to be done by the protective services in Trinidad and Tobago.
I see soldiers in City Gate and I wonder if they’re there to protect me or kill me if I get out of line.
And from reading the blogs of Iraqis, I get the feeling that they have the same questions about whether the Allied Forces are there to free them or simply to make it possible for Dubya to get his grubby hands on their black gold.
So the Commissioner of Police will act all pleased with himself that the Carnival was incident free.  And everybody will jump up and say ray.  Well allow me to lead the chorus of boos.  Because I saw lots of incidents.
I saw lots of incidents of Trinidad protective services intimidating regular citizens, strong arming people who were trying to enjoy their Carnival.
Between the annoyingly ever-present blimp and security helicopters hovering like a bad dream, I didn’t feel safe.  I felt like I was in a war zone.  Where the people are the insurgents and the police and soldiers are trying to protect us from ourselves.
This is not the kind of security we need.  And I feel like a stuck record saying again that homeland security is not about how many soldiers and how many jails and how many blimps.
Homeland security is defending your nation against marauders of all kinds.
Prince Harry speeds off in his Spartan armoured recon vehicle to defend the rights of the free world but who protects the regular men women and children of Iraq?
While the blimp is busy watching for crimes in progress, who is watching how to stop them from starting at all?

Has Carnival lost its mojo?

I’ve been standing here
On Green Corner
Everyday of my life
I’m watching the masquerade
All them pretty colours
Them like soldiers on parade
So tell me why
Should I change my life
When everyday is a Carnival
Why should I rearrange
When everyday is a festival
Could you picture me in another place
When I’m in the heart of the bacchanal
Would you feed my fire
Would you my flame
The story goes on
Again and again and again and again
It feels good
This comfort nice
Carnival, 12.

It’s been that kind of Carnival. That I could have missed completely.
Everywhere I’ve seen people and they’ve said similar things.  They just weren’t feeling the Carnival feelings this year.
I don’t know what it was about this year that made me so completely uninterested in taking part in the festivities.
I guess it’s an overall disappointment.  Disappointed by the music, by the costumes, by the void left by Mr. Uncle Minsh that no one has bothered to fill.   Disappointed by the hurried paving of roads for masqueraders and promises of heightened security.
Excluded from the exorbitant all inclusives.  Left peeping over the fence at so many events that are ram crammed with people spending money that I don’t have.  Way too unsexy to dare put on a sparkly bikini.
I guess I must be really over Carnival.  It’s as if the greatest show on earth has been exposed to be little more than a five cents play in a badly lit community centre.
But maybe it was always like that I never bothered to notice.  I guess being in foreign you tend to exaggerate the value of something, pump up its brilliance in your own imagination as you try to find that thing that makes you special.
Funny I could be at home and feel like I’m in another part of the world.  A world where soldiers play a gun mas in down town.  And the noise of security helicopters disorients the jumbies.
For real, this Carnival has been an out of body experience.
I could be nearly in the heart of the bacchanal, pan and mas and fetes coming live and direct to my ears from the Stadium and not feel it take possession.
I felt something of the old excitement in Princes Town market on Wednesday night in the crush of people circling a gayelle.  There was something in the eyes of those stick men that made me know that I am still alive.
Back in town, St. James is lively under the film of stink.  Cockroaches dance round food vendors flanked by sleeping crackheads under the feet of drunk drivers.
Another Carnival, another string band of Carnival babies to hope for better.  To boost our population but not our potential.
Because we give birth to the same old newness everyday.
We enjoy this cycle of predictability that isn’t necessarily about upholding traditions.  It’s not about subversion or resistance or self-preservation.  It’s about added value to the lowest common denominator. Even those of us considered to be cutting edge settle into a comfortable pattern of outspokenness.  So even the resistance elements become formulaic and pandering to American phD students and French film crews and avant garde Japanese artists.
I’m seeking truth here, somewhere and find it lacking.  Everybody playing a mas, everybody in their section trying to keep up appearances.
It’s as if Carnival is a phantom limb.  A bit of our beauty and wholeness that’s been cut off but we still think it’s there.  We still go through the motions, for reasons of image or enjoyment or economics.
And we find a million ways to up the ante.  To make it bigger and brighter and louder.  Pave roads so that bad drivers can play midnight robber.  Convince ourselves that it really is the greatest show on earth.  Well I guess that’s what Trinis do best.  Show ourselves.  Play ourselves in front of the camera, skin our teeth and shake our Dexatrimmed backsides and our newly bought breasts.  Revel in the stench of our mediocrity, because what else do we know?  What else is possible?
The Merry Monarch steupsed and stalked past me. Left me standing on Green Corner hoping for a last minute reprieve. In the heat and silence of my aloneness, I’m not looking  forward to the walk home.

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.

The Real Terrorism

I heard terrorism makes good television
It’s no coincidence and as a matter of fact
If it weren’t guaranteed to be on television
There’d be less reason for a terrorist attack

I say television ignores terrorism
When was the last time you saw on your screen
The assassinations and bombings and bulldozers that
Are just a part of our government’s routine
Terrorism makes good TV, Pierce Woodward

So, the talk is that Trinidad and Tobago is a hotbed of terrorist activity.
And I am inclined to agree with that supposition but for entirely different reasons to those posed by that alarmist piece of thinly veiled jingoism that appeared in some nondescript publication called Investors.com.
In this buzz word time when everybody wants to be the one to coin the next catchy piece of double speak, we really need to understand what terrorism means to us.
Funny that homeland security only refers to big bad countries who give multi million dollar contracts to aluminum companies to build their arms for them.  Funny that our little piece of rock has no conception of security, or the value of patrimony, for the people and not the corporatocracy.
And maybe if for one minute we were to consider the terrorists we wanted to protect ourselves against, maybe we’d start with the ones in jackets and ties who say things like they have a job to do and let’s look at the figures and not the people.
If we wanted to protect ourselves against the common enemy maybe we would discover that the common enemy is fear.
Fear of each other, fear of poverty, fear of stagnation, fear of not being able to know if you will live out your days without being shot, maimed, run over or off the road, bludgeoned with a crowbar.
In a country of 1.3 million people there are six million ways to die. And I was told that I didn’t have a head for maths so I guess that’s why the figures don’t really make sense to me.
I’m checking out the situation and it occurs to me that the real threat is not from real or imagined bogey men lurking in a compound on Mucurapo Road.
I don’t understand why we need to import American paranoia.  Aren’t we scared enough already as it is?  Haven’t we gorged ourselves with enough of their mythology?  Aren’t we too trying to live out the American nightmare with our chicken and chips proclivity?
If we want to talk about terrorism in Trinidad, why don’t we talk about those terrorists in that red building in the middle of the woefully stink city of Port of Spain.
Terrorism is a government that ignores the voices of people.
Terrorism is police officers arresting a man on dubious charges and not giving a justification.  Terrorism is undermining press freedoms because you are so caught up in urban creole racism and Christian sanctimony that you treat everyone with a different perspective like a criminal while some jackasses are allowed to bray on national radio with impunity.
Terrorism is pastors beating their Bibles and calling for hangings, but not talking about small church corruption.
Terrorism is what happens every night to street children in Port of Spain and Curepe and St. James.
Just when we’ll get interested enough in that kind of terrorism I’d really like to know.  Instead of clouding the issues with the scare mongering tactics of rich white men in America who want to protect their oil supply so that they can build bigger and better SUV’s every year.
I fear for my land that cannot breathe.  I fear for melting icebergs and rising ocean levels. I fear for children who get shot in crossfire and grannies who cannot die with dignity.  I fear for a future that looks less and less bright every time Papa Patos or anyone from the so-called opposition open their mouths.
I do not fear for civilizations built on the blood and sweat of my ancestors. al Qaeda won’t be responsible for anyone’s fall. Civilisations destroy themselves from the inside, under the weight of all their guilt and wealth and opulence and oppression.
The biggest threat to our security is our collective insecurity.  The insecurity that fosters greed.  The many isms that keep us peeping over our walls not wanting to reach out to those who are different.