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.

Waiting for the Flood

If you wan go wash – water you go use
If you wan cook soup- water you go use
If your head be hot – water it cool am
If your child dey grow – water you go use
If water kill your child – water you go use
Nothing without water
Water it no get enemy
No go fight am, unless you wan die

Water No Get Enemy, Fela Anikulapo Kuti

The first time I heard Fela Kuti’s Water No Get Enemy when I was somewhat of a grown-up, something clicked inside my head and I spent a whole year walking around Babylon-don whistling it.  It’s one of those endless Fela songs with one verse and so much music, that moves between funk and jazz and happy and dread and although you want to dance, you also want to start a revolution. 

The message is obvious, water is the source of life, we are nothing without water.  The subtext that I later read about likens the people of Nigeria the common masses, as water to the politicians that they put in power.  The politicians are nothing without the people, in the same way that all of us are nothing without water.  If you fight water, you will die.

An important lesson to remember on this weekend of swells that only surfers should dare to try and conquer.  On this weekend when we remember the man who walked on water two thousand years ago.

On this weekend when spring comes in a joyous outpouring of colour, in clouds of abeer and chowtal singing. 

Today is also World Day for Water and I wonder if my dear friends at the EMA are concerned about how we are nothing without it.

I’ve been thinking about water a lot these days. How living on a small island preconditions you to take it for granted.  How much I love a long cool shower at the end of a hot day.  How many people in Trinidad still don’t have access to that luxury. 

I’ve also been thinking about how somebody last year mysteriously removed quarrying from the list of industries that require a Certificate of Environmental Clearance.

Because of course it makes sense to undermine our main source of clean water, in return for more buildings.  It makes sense, doesn’t it, to sacrifice the Northern Range that regulates run off and retention of water.

The thirty five water sheds in the Northern Range and five major aquifer systems mean less to us than quarries for a few companies to benefit.  Never mind that the Northern Range, according to what the professionals say, provides something like 80 per cent of the country’s water needs, including the millions of gallons that get wasted, and the millions of gallons that supply the heavy gas based industries, but can’t somehow find their way into people’s houses.

And I wonder where the management is, where the protection is.  Who is defending us from ourselves, those of us who like to dump our fridges in rivers.  Who is defending  us from ourselves, those of us who like to dump our toxic chemicals in our rivers.  Who is defending us from ourselves, those of us who think that it’s okay to undermine our natural resources, like fresh water is a renewable resource if you take away the things that renew it?

Water no get enemy, indeed.   We are nothing without water, Fela sings in my head as I watch quarry scars on my hills get bigger.  Now that you don’t need a CEC for a quarry up to 149 acres in size, I wonder how much more of us will be reduced to nothingness.

The people are water, polluted, dumped on, taken for granted.

On this day of water, I’m wondering when the water gets damn vex and turns into an almighty flood.

Why Wednesday

Why do people like to stop me and tell me about all the things I should be doing while they are doing fuck all?

Why do the cats come into the house and then act all crazy when they get caught?

Why do they have to sing sad songs at funerals?

Why is it that just when you think you have it figured out, everything gets even more bloody complicated?

Why am I so obsessed with cleaning the bathroom?

Why aren’t more people concerned enough about crime to actually get off their backsides and do something about it?

Why don’t I like porridge?

Why do my knees hurt when I try to do a kapotasana?

Why am I not in London now?

Surviving the fears

All over the world hearts pound with the rhythm
Fear not of men because men must die
Mind over matter and soul before flesh
Angels for the pain keep a record in time

Fear Not of Man, Mos Def

You know you must be doing the right thing when even the police parked up outside the Prime Ministers residence in an unmarked black SUV hail you out by name.
So you smile and you wave back at the cheery good morning.  Trying not to be too suspicious.  Because isn’t this what you’ve wanted ever since you came back?  For people to greet you like they used to long time?  For the police to be your friends and not your distant and intimidating strong arms of the state.  You smile and you walk on, hoping that they don’t see the bemusement. Hoping that they don’t hear that your heart is beating faster and your mind is racing because you’re trying to remember where you could possibly have met a police man who would be parked up outside the Prime Minister’s residence in an unmarked SUV.
You must be doing the right thing. And maybe he makes you out because you’re on television sometimes.  Your ego self, strokes you a bit and says maybe he’s a fan.
I mean it’s not like you live in a country where they victimize people for speaking their minds. I mean you’re number 17 on the Reporters without Borders rankings, a point that your government always boasts about.
And anyway, this is not the kind of country that takes its outspoken ones seriously.   Let the jackasses bray, once the Johnny Walker flows and everybody gets a kick back, people like you can say what the hell they want.
So you make jokes about it. You joke about the blimp looking for you and put it on your Facebook status update so that your friends can catch some kicks too.  Like you joke about whether Papa Patos reads your column every week.
When the night comes you sass a minister who tells you you have a sharp tongue and you treat it like it’s a compliment and not a reproach.
And in your arrogance and contempt for authority, especially of the masculinist political kind, you know you’re doing the right thing.  You go home, haughty and self-righteous.  Reach home safe, you say to the people you’ve hitched a ride with, and you mean it.
You find yourself remembering your grandmother’s voice, walk in your house backwards, not for the spirits but for the real jumbies, the half living crack heads, the young killers who were left to languish in classrooms for duncie children, the second generation coke heads who would grab at a cell phone but run at a raised voice.
You try to lock your worries out with the nights other terrors.
You want to forget for a few hours that you’re living in a society that is now so paranoid about itself that we’re willing to give up our civil liberties in order to feel something like safe.  We live in fear under electric lights and behind electric gates and burglar proofing as if we fear the douens and jumbies that stalked the imaginations of our grandparents.
You fall asleep to a lullaby of police sirens, wailing somebody dead, oh.
In the insomniac hours when it’s just you and the moon and Mr. Coltrane battling it out for your sanity and your immortal soul, you know you’re doing the right thing.
By now you’re used to the mango trees pelting hard little fruit you will never eat, that hit the galvanize like bullets ringing out into the cool night.  The old wooden gingerbread house moans and creaks like an arthritic old woman in the night breeze.
And every now and then the dogs in the distance howl, like somebody dead, oh. And under your window, cats meows sound like people begging to be let in.
You try not to think you’re living in a Martin Carter poem, where men in steel tipped boots crush your tomato plants and aim at your dreams.
Your fingers move faster and more determined across keys as if you’re life depends on you keeping writing.
The dawn is coming, so you roll out your mat and do your salute to the sun, glad that you’ve lived to see it again.  You think about the smiling policeman in the unmarked black SUV, the blimp that will start making its daily rounds, but miss the young boys who keep breaking into your neighbour’s house.
You smile that you were ever even worried, because in the light of day nothing is scary anymore.
You think about ministers who reproach your sharp tongue and the cat that pissed in your hammock.  Mild annoyances, but not the end of the world.
You resist the urge to turn on the news and find out who died in the night.   For a moment you want to celebrate that you, like your tomatoes, are still living.

Footprints in the sky

Hmmm, what goes well with a big new house?  Why your own private jet of course.
It’s the ultimate accessory for young up and coming nations who want to squander as much of their wealth as possible on absolutely useless things.
Kind of like how so many low income households believe that having a huge television is much more of a priority than school books for their children.
The whole private jet hullabaloo reeks of that never see come see, conspicuous consumption that plagues all of us, from the richest to the poorest.  It reeks of I must take a loan to go to Miami to shop for Christmas. It also reeks of I must go to every all-inclusive fete for Carnival.
There’s a divine order in everything I suppose. So every fiefdom should have symbols of power and might before which the puny citizens can bow down in awe and wonderment at just what wonderful things their tax money can buy.
Coming down the road in a hot cramped up maxi taxi on Thursday I hear the Minister of Works and Transport Colm Imbert live and direct from the post-cabinet briefing say that he went online himself and did the research, he was the one who identified the Bombardier Global Xpress as the best plane.
Well whooptie doo and yippee yaaay for that.  We wouldn’t want to think that our government ministers weren’t doing their jobs.  I mean at least he wasn’t faffing about on Facebook on national time.
Long watery steups ring out in the maxi taxi as Imbert drones on and on, trying to defend the indefensible.  Traffic backed up on the highway I can see it.  Tired eyes of workers who had to get up before the butt crack of dawn and face three hours of traffic.  Bepping children and mothers bent over under the weight of long hours and high food prices and fighting to get public transport.
And Imbert drones on, defending the indefensible.
Every day the traffic gets worse and we lose minutes, hours of our productive young lives.  No worries. While most of us can’t get to our homes without having a bumper to bumper experience, some among us can now get to Russia without having to refuel. It’s cause for celebration indeed.
53 million dollars worth of celebration.  53 million dollars for a plane.  Not a hospital.  Not a bridge.  Not new roads for Mayaro.  Not even a blasted ferry going up the islands so that it might actually be cheaper to go to Jamaica than it is to go to New York.
Meanwhile, as local journalists frothed at the mouth to get up close and personal with the obsolete king to be, no-one bothered to ask why he decided to come out here at this particular moment in the first place?   I mean aside from trying to get away from the excessively mild English spring.
Even as he was getting flak from the British press about the huge carbon footprint his little trip to the islands was making.  I wonder if he gave Papa Patos a little private boof, as one royal to another, about the carbon footprint of a private jet.
I wonder how come the government took him to Asa Wright and not down to Union Village to the site of their experiment in ecocide.
And instead of running about trying to get the Prince to smile and give them the screw de lightbulb royal wave, it would have been really wonderful if our own press had rediscovered its gonads and pressed the prince on what he felt about the EPA that our governments have until March 15 to sign.
The EPA agreement on which many of our brighter minds agree is fraught with inconsistencies, inequalities and general salt-sucking for countries in the global south.
But maybe that doesn’t apply to us.  We have oil and gas and we will magically be transformed into a developed country soon.
Luckily for us, we can afford to buy a private jet.  It’s very prestigious, you know.  So prestigious in fact, that we most of us will never get to see or smell its interior.  Well, at least we’ll get to keep the footprint.

Dreaming with Obama

I want to write about Barack Obama, but I find myself thinking a lot about Toussaint L’Ouverture.Toussaint who dared to think that he had a right to be in control of his own destiny.

Toussaint who did what no-one thought was possible.

We all know, or at least we’re supposed to know, the story of Haiti, even as now Haitians languish in 200 years of punishment for the sheer farseness of thinking that they could rule themselves.  Toussaint, the revolutionary, the great black hope, who died in a French prison. Haiti, that great statement of fight that was forced to pay reparations to France for the loss of their most lucrative colony.

In the past few weeks, in a flurry of e-mails sent back and forth around the world, in the din of endless debates and polls and reports and never-ending coverage, I’ve been thinking about Toussaint.

What would it mean to this region to have a black man as President of the United States of America?

What would it mean for a region that has so consistently since Independence been disappointed by leaders, African, Indian, European and in-between?

In truth, we haven’t had much luck with people who look like us. In fact in many cases, the people who look like us have turned out to be even worse colonials than the colonials themselves.

It’s a peculiar and troubling time to be black in Trinidad, in the world. And I’m not on any victim trip, but Jah, why is it that we’re still so uncomfortable with talking about race? We daily refuse to acknowledge the thing that is most used to divide us.

African-Americans are overcome with hope. It’s a huge deal for them because there’s never ever been a black President of the USA. They want it so badly, they can taste it. They don’t know like we do that it’s possible for your leader to look like you and still jam you with dry pommecythere seed.

The problem with Obama is that he fits none of the stereotypes that the world has of black America. He’s not a rabble-rouser, or thug gangsta, he’s no jive-talking mofo. And so perhaps he is more dangerous, because the possibility in his eyes is infectious.

Perhaps if he weren’t so near the ideal image of a dignified, well-spoken, determined black man I’d be more comfortable with him.

I would not invest any emotion in him. My heart wouldn’t skip a beat at the beginning of a debate as if it was Brian Lara’s wicket I was terrified of being taken by the dreadest of the Australian spinners.

I don’t want to like him just because he’s a black man, in the same way that I don’t want to like Hillary Clinton because she’s a woman.

Those characteristics don’t necessarily a great leader make. I almost don’t want to make myself like him, because I don’t think I would be able to take it if he turned out to be a disappointment in any form.

The closer and closer it gets, the more terrified I get. That they’ll try to kill him. That he’ll turn out to be a huge disappointment. That he’ll try very hard but the neo-cons and the big business massas will undermine his ability to make a difference. Because in America, just like in Trinidad, it’s not just the President that’s running the country, but the people with the paper.

The problem is that Obama will inherit a civilisation in decline. On the brink of collapse and of course it will all be the black man’s fault.

I fear that the people who want things to remain the way they are will not permit someone like Obama to survive.

Or maybe the time has really come where even a black man can get a bligh.

We would all really like for Obama to be the one. To make us love America again. To make things okay again. To see Martin Luther King’s much bandied dream come to light for real.

Barack Obama must have a terrible weight on his shoulders, to return hope to a generation of men and women who have known more disappointment than is reasonable, given our lack of chains and our wealth of resources.

Who are tired of martyrs and even more tired of sell-outs.