Giving your heart and soul to vanity, yeah
Makes your life filled with pain and misery
While life goes on everyone’s got to stand strong
You can’t surrender
—Sitting and Watching, Dennis Brown
Ceaseless chatter ricochets around these islands. Chatter about everything but mostly about nothing. In this nation of talkers, big talkers, robber talkers, too-too talkers, no one can seem to find anything sensible to say. Reading the newspapers becomes a chore, but mostly a bore. Nightly newscasts send you to sleep. It is then that you have to conclude that Trinidad is annoyingly small. Small to the point of causing claustrophobia. Small to the point where if one person sneezes the whole country catches a cold, gives it a name, laughs about it. One thing bothers me. And it is how come in a country of macos, gossips, mamaguy and mauvais langue is it possible for the people who took a little girl to be so hard to find?
How come children still manage to disappear? In a nation of macos, where people seem to derive so much pleasure from minding other people’s business, they can’t find children who go missing. But perhaps it is because of our highly developed macoing skills that some of us have developed the capacity to hide, to disguise ourselves as whatever is acceptable at the moment. To be horners or paedophiles or in public office and unapologetically commit fraud. Perhaps these people are the real heroes of Trinidad. Those who have escaped our scrutiny as we obsess with inanities. Trinidad is so small that we can’t find criminals. We can’t find missing children. We can’t find a functional government or a serious opposition. We concoct whole stories about a container full of missing children.
The funny thing about Trinidad is how everybody always has a tanty, some friend, their neighbour outside brother-in-law friend, who knows somebody who was passing through when it happened. Yet no one has a tanty, uncle or nennen that saw when they took Leah away from her school. In broad daylight. Yet no one gives any attention to talk that work is going on up in St Ann’s for containers in which they will house Port-of-Spain’s homeless so that all the Government’s Summit of the Americas guests won’t see our human eyesores. We would rather believe modern folklore about yawning metal mouths eating our children than take note of the soucouyants in the Red House.
Trinidad is so small enough for us to not have a problem with the culture of talking without actually saying anything. We are all about the navel gazing, the status updates, the endless barrage of Trinis on scenes, smiling with a drink in their hands. So obsessed with keeping up with what is happening, with staying connected, plugged in, hooked up that people have forgotten how to communicate. How to warn each other of danger. How to grieve when there is loss. How to look out for our neighbour’s children and expect that they will return the favour. We have dumbed down macoing, like everything else that perhaps was ever good about ourselves. I would like to believe that there was perhaps a time when macoing was a good thing. When we sought each other’s interests and protected each other from real and imagined fears.
Now that our walls are too high to see over, we peer into each other’s lives in other ways but know less. We go to fete not to fete but to see and be seen. We maco, not to look out for each other, but to pass judgment, to have something for discussion. Except when it matters. When it really matters suddenly our maco senses are dulled. In the same way that we don’t want to take responsibility for all the children who are in front of us begging for help and attention and love, we dismiss the things that we really should be macoing. No one is macoing NEC’s presumptuous soil testing for a port for which they have no Certificate of Environmental Clearance.
No one is macoing what is going on in our schools that are breeding grounds for boredom, underachievement and criminality. No one is minding our collective business, where our money is going. How much money they’re really spending on the summit and what possible benefits it will yield us, aside from being a government wank all over our Treasury. It must be that some of us are okay with children disappearing or with the Treasury being pillaged. It must be that we are willing to not see the things that we do. That sometimes we fight our maco gene. We deny it just when it is needed the most. In this tiny little country of watchers, no one seems capable of seeing clearly.