Losers all, we are

Is ah mental block
Dat hard to unlock
It hard like ah rock
an wid it yuh doh wuk
yuh go live wid illusion
Tryin to be another man
And if a man want to set
false standards for you
To follow
To he, wha yuh say?

—Blow Way, Lancelot Layne

Here’s the thing. I can’t say I’m a fan of the fellar. I can even safely say that I find his writing overbearing, condescending and other words ending in ing that I can’t be bothered to list right now.

Hell, I have a sneaking suspicion that if I were in the same position he would write a sarky column listing in brilliant detail why it was a good thing that a feminist, Africanist socialist—three strikes and you’re dotish—no longer had column space in a national newspaper. But the truth is I get no joy from the news that Newsday hasn’t run Kevin Baldeosingh’s column for the past three weeks, leading to speculation that he has been fired. You attack one, you attack all. And when the neighbour house on fire, Jah know you better start wetting your own. Or so it is in my book. Perhaps I am being presumptuous to imagine that this lumpy bumpy awkward thing called the media, when you get past the big business media house petty competition nonsense, well we have each other’s backs.

Perhaps I am wrong to think that I should be blasted vex at Newsday’s limp-wristedness. Vex at how they are taking the side of the wrong people. Not vexed as much as shocked at how it’s so easy for people to defend the indefensible. But perhaps it is wrong of me to think that the Newsday people are any different from all the other scared conservative people walking around Trinidad afraid to say boo to anybody. Who would rather hold their corner and hold a safe line instead of rocking the boat. At how integrity means nothing and those who stand up in defence of the truth are the ones who does get their throats buss. Time and again. I, quite frankly, am growing bored of it. My right to speak is something that I am prepared to defend with my life. And a threat to anyone else is an indirect threat to me. But this is unfamiliar territory in this country. This is why anti-smelter protesters can be labelled as outsiders if they don’t come from the communities that are being directly affected.

There is no solidarity among any other group in this country. Perhaps I have no right to use my own column space to speak out on behalf of another columnist. We are worlds apart ideologically but I imagine that we share one commonality. And it is that we who have opinions and are arrogant enough to believe that other people want to hear them, have a right to say what we have to say, in whatever way is pleasing to us. Well as long as it doesn’t involve borrowing from other writers. Part of the warm fuzzy feeling one gets from being a writer comes from the assurance, real or imagined, that someone out there is reading what you have to say and if not identifying with it, at least feeling something. Or so you hope. It is difficult to gauge what makes an impact and what doesn’t. It is difficult to know what has an impact and what doesn’t in this nation of armchair revolutionaries where everyone can speak eloquently about what the problem is but nobody actually wants to get up and do anything about it.

It’s not just about free speech. It is about undermining investigative journalism. Intimidating other journalists who might want to put God out of their thoughts and try to expose some injustice. It is a warning to others to not step out of line. Who wins, then? Who wins when voices are silenced? Who wins when a priest can get away with lifting some copy from another writer but teenagers are on trial for buying copies of exams? Who wins when a journalist gets fired from a newspaper for daring to challenge a holy man even as children’s jhandis are under threat at Barrackpore West? We have lost track of reality.  We have lost a vital voice in our national conversation. We have lost our sense of perspective. Nobody wins. We are all losers in a race we are not yet equipped to run.

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The heart of the matter

So the latest zeppo in the media world is that our favourite economic hitman with a big heart is calling for the head of a local journalist.

The source of his knickers being in a bunch this week, is not, curiously, the fact that the entire country is royally pissed off that our Prime Minister seems to be giving him a lot of lee way with our money, but rather that there’s an email in circulation raising some rather interesting points about his life story.

Incidentally the email started spreading like a dry season Northern Range bush fire on the same day that the Rottweiler got dismissed by the big Pappy.

I’ve seen the email in question, as has everybody else with a computer and an active email address. Everybody knows there’s nothing that Trinbagonians like to do more than forward emails, whether they are true or not is immaterial.

Anyway, so incensed was our dear friend with the big chest muscle that he decided to make an example of this local editor who, like most other people, passed on the information.

And I don’t have court clothes, eh, but I just want to put my two cents in and say, doesn’t it seem as if the conquistador doth protest too much? Put another way, if you don’t have cocoa in the sun, why oh why are you looking for rain?

Funnily enough, we’re observing World Press Freedom Day on May 3. I wonder what kinds of questions this latest piece of intimidation and ‘example making’ will raise. She wasn’t the only one to receive this email, why make her a target?

A most interesting and unfortunate development.  We’ll see where this example of big people bullying takes us.