Tight belts and Guava Season

Them belly full

But we hungry

A hungry man is an angry man

Rain a fall

But de dirt it tuff

Pot a cook

But de food nuh nuff

Dem Belly Full, Bob Marley

Should we tighten our belts or loosen them? Papa Patos claims the worst is over.

And like an obedient child I desperately want to believe him. I want to believe that sooner rather than later, it will be okay again. Presuming of course that it was ever okay. Presuming of course that politicians don’t just say whatever comes to their minds, because they can, because they feel like it, because they are so high on power that they can say what the hell they want and zaffeh us if we take them too seriously.

My belt remains tight. So tight I can feel it constricting my ribs. It’s the look now anyway. Tight belts. High on the waist. . At least the government is in style.

Even the men are wearing their pants tight. Tight’s alright, Papa Patos. We can deal with it.

The belt is tight. So tight it is strangling our resolve. Tiring us out. Collapsing our internal organs.

Our breath is shallow now. Don’t take in too much oxygen now. Your brain might start to think. Your brain might start to process all the BS.

Mariano Browne says loosen it but not too much. Just enough to pick up the ever so faint stench of lies, half truths, baked facts, massaged figures, manufactured outcomes.

The tight belts shouldn’t stop the fete. The tight belts don’t create a moment for quiet reflection from our leaders. They bray on regardless. Do not bother to disguise their lack of a plan. The tight belts are a fashion statement and little else.

In their tightened belts Trinis lime on the Avenue. The drinks flow like water. Belts are not too tight to take in alcohol. To drink down the bitter sweet inertia of spirits that demand their tribute on the streets in the early mornings.

One morning close to dawn I met a young man with a jaw wired shut from his kidnappers beatings. His belt is tightened to hold him together, to keep smiling in spite of a jaw full of titanium. To go on enjoying life in Trinidad without the fear of someone spilling his insides onto the bloodthirsty asphalt.

In their tightened belts policemen kill their women. Tobagonians murder tourists and the children from up the road curse their mothers as they stone my neighbour’s mango tree.

Tight belts. Tight thoughts. Tight minds that allow us no space to consider our humanity.

But whether the belt is tight or loose it is still the guava season of no guavas. When one zaboca could cost you more than the cost of a trip to the country to pick one from your grandmother’s tree.

It’s Mr. Zaboca and Madame Starch now. The tight belt makes us believe that we are not deserving of such luxuries on small tropical islands. No no. Fruit is a luxury and coconut water is the drink of the nouveau riche to chase their Johnny and chase away their fears of losing their affluence.

Tight belts shield us from a desire to taste ourselves. Tight belts give us a thirst for difference. To not be ourselves. To hold ourselves up to someone else’s standards.

So he says we can loosen them now. And we are so happy for the ease up that we still can’t see through the thinly veiled hysterics.

We are tired from the tightened belts. Malnourished in this intellectual wasteland. Starved of leadership.

But whether the belt is tight or loose we still have leaders who give us bizarre directives. Fill our minds with pipe dreams and platitudes. Make us do a dance of fortune in a time when there is so much misfortune stalking us that we must look like a paw paw tree covered with blight.

Those who have never known a loose belt smile wearily. Those who have suffered in good times and bad, know better than to believe any hype.

They know that tight or loose is the same old khaki pants.

A different kind of action

Wherever the revolution begins
It’s there I want to be
Tell me, are you ready?
Ready for the revolution?
Wherever the Revolution Begins, Sheldon Blackman

I have been, like a good hippy environmentalist type, freaking out about various things happening with the world.
After years of privately being alarmed, it’s interesting that these concerns have taken hold in the mainstream.  Although you can still find the odd stiff necked business article talking about the melting of the Arctic shelf being a leftist conspiracy.
I can’t really see what the lefties are getting out of being able to say we told you so.
Because really it’s the capitalists who stand to benefit the most from heightened levels of eco-consciousness.  Every car company realizes that they have to actually look interested in alternative energy sources or make their cars gas sippers instead of guzzlers.
Even governments realize that they have to talk the talk, even if they aren’t walking the walk.  Even our own dear Prime Minister has to go about the world saying that he’s all for kicking the carbon habit even as communities here are being convinced that smelters and steel mills are the best way forward for them.
Maybe my hippy tree hugger sensibilities are making me have a skewed sense of priorities and right now I should be more concerned or rather, outright alarmed at the microscopic size of my account balance.
I suppose money is important as I am currently on the bottom end of rich and therefore cannot afford that ultimate utopian form of mass transit, the bicycle. Nor the hospital bills if one of the crazed drivers on the street were to decide they didn’t want me on the street anymore.
The good thing about big developed countries who have brought the world to the brink of destruction thanks to their century of industrialization, is that they can now afford to have bicycle lanes in the hearts of their cities and if they don’t, the lefties stage critical mass protests and thousands of cyclists reclaim the streets.
Sometimes I have hippy fantasies about no cars in downtown Port of Spain, about park and ride schemes and car pooling. And sometimes I even go all out and imagine how revolutionary it would be if our government would start by putting some EMA environmental officers to ride around the city and various other parts of the country monitoring things like emissions on our behalf.
At some point however I wake up from my hippy fantasies and the growing alarmishness and decide that I need to start taking a different kind of action.
So last weekend, I took my first introduction to permaculture workshop with artist/activist John Stollmeyer, and we all reasoned about global warming and peak oil and how much we’ll have to go back to all the things we seem to be actively trying to forget.  
Like gayaps and sharing the wealth of your yard with your neighbours and everybody minding two, three fowls and a goat and how all those things are multi-functional and interdependent.
The basic philosophy behind permaculture is as old as the hills and maybe older.  That everything has more than one purpose.  That you can eat your fowls but they also provide manure.  That when you prune your trees, you’re undermining the fertility of your garden by sending the cuttings to the La Basse.
The wise plan for lean times, for drought and flood and misfortune.  They don’t wait till the Caroni bursts its banks to start making provisions for the escalating prices of tomatoes.
Knowing how to feed yourself and your family is perhaps a far better life insurance policy these days.
But the wise also had better get wise to the fact that although the government is giving away seeds, my farmer friends say that many of our indigenous varieties of things like corn and cucumber have been breeded out of existence and now what we’re getting is the genetically modified varieties that have limited life spans that can’t be germinated unless some lab tech and not a bird or bee gets at it.
In my poor pedestrian state I walk about the city and marvel at all the empty lots, all the abandoned yards overrun with mosquito breeding bush, that could be transformed into what Johnny and other permaculturists call edible landscapes.
I’m thinking guerilla gardening and trees growing out of concrete edifices.  I’m thinking that every office should have some part devoted to growing things.  And every community composting its organic waste.  Funny how we have all these conveniences to make our lives easier but we still can’t find time to do things like learn to be self-sufficient.
Like digging your fingers into the cool earth, watching a seed you planted push up and take root and bear fruit for you to enjoy.
Maybe peak oil and all the disasters we have in our collective futures are not such a bad thing after all.  Some of us who have forgotten in our quest for shiny air conditioned convenience might have a chance to really learn what matters.