The stench of ‘progress’

As if the stink of the uselessness of the building weren’t enough. As if there weren’t enough bacchanal surrounding this monument, that my dear Mr Uncle Minsh calls the copulating slugs, here comes talk that toxic fumes from the Performing Arts Academy are making people in the neighbouring buildings fall sick. Yes, this is progress at its best.

Students from Bishop’s going home with headaches, parents feeling ill from the fumes from a few minutes’ exposure when coming to pick up their daugh-ters. Lost days of school, in a country where education is allegedly so vital. Surrounding offices had to be evacuated in a country whose watch words are discipline and production. And no one knows what the problem is. Or perhaps they know and just don’t want to say. Work continues, the show must go on. One wonders what health and safety standards apply at this site and also, if people in surrounding offices know what’s affecting them. One wonders if when they say they have a situation under control that they really do. One wonders if slipshod health and safety standards are manifesting themselves at other work sites around the country.

I hear stage whispers about overflowing toilets and uncollected garbage. And you want to give everyone the benefit of the doubt but it’s hard to when it stinks anyway. When it’s suspicious and over-expensive. When it reeks of corruption and other nastiness. You wonder what ends they will go to achieve their vision. If they will compromise the health of their own children to bring their vision to fruition. One wonders if Papa Patos must think he is some kind of pharaoh mas and needs foreign slave labour to build monuments to his greatness. At least pyramids are metaphysical wonders. One wonders what is the point of a Performing Arts Academy for which no artists were consulted. And now it makes a big stink. And no one can stop the work. No one can stop the bacchanal. Like no one can stop the stink of the La Basse from permeating their pretty Hyatt walls. Like no one can stop the traffic jams and the killing and the flooding and the recession and the spending and the spending and the spending. No one knows where the off switch is for the natural gas. No one knows how to stop work at a construction site that is making children sick. Teenage girls. Future leaders, future parents. No one knows if these toxic fumes have permanent side-effects.

No one knows what the problem is but there’s no time to stop and investigate. There’s no stopping the bacchanal. Workers like ants in a Machel video. The stench in the midday heat, mingling with the stench of the fresh pitch being laid on Abercromby Street is unbearable noxiousness. As noxious as soca is uninspiring. Not a face mask in sight on the workers, like ants, scaling the sides of the copulating slugs. Town smells. In the heat like you’ve fallen head first into a vat of rotten oil. After the rain it smells like all Chacon Street early in the morning. No one knows what standards are. No one knows what will happen when they defy the court order and build their smelter. No one knows why Phillip Julien steps on the stage and announces that smelters don’t cause cancer, although the Medical Monitoring report recommended cancer testing every six months for Alutrint workers and every year for the thousands of residents who live within a two-kilometre radius of the plant. No one knows who is actor and who is audience. No one knows who is telling the truth or if they are reciting their lines. And not just whether they are capable of telling the truth but if they care enough to do so.

One wonders who they are planning for in the future if they don’t mind putting us at risk now. Any risk is too much. Any fume is too much. Any danger is unnecessary. Especially for a building that is probably going to be little more than a monument to Papa Patos’ penchant for big shiny buildings. The future of the nation. Those who will have to reap the 2020 whirlwind. I am begging for their forgiveness in advance. Like they never hear about make sure better than cocksure. Like they never hear about erring on the side of caution. The stink permeates the town. Blending in with all the other pollution. We act our daily roles. Trying not to notice the stench. It is a tragic kind of comedy, really. Shakespeare couldn’t have written it better and not even my dear Mr Uncle Minsh could have dreamt up such a bizarre tableau for the now dead Savannah stage. One wonders if this is a city or a cesspool. One wonders when or where the play will end and the horrific reality begin.

One thought on “The stench of ‘progress’

  1. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Trinidad & Tobago: The Price of Progress is High

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