18 Apr 2008

Mimic Men

Let’s be country others mimic

We have been called “mimic men” and it seems we do this well. Our levels of crime, traffic congestion, food shortages, road accidents and heinous acts of inhumanity against our children are excused as world trends.

It shouldn’t matter that we have the resources to allow all citizens to at least live above the poverty line, it shouldn’t matter that we have fertile land (where we haven’t yet put houses) to grow food to feed our population, it shouldn’t matter that we are a people who rise above lack of support and appreciation for our own and continue to do and excel in every field.

Why should that matter? We are part of the world and the world is in crisis so, being great mimic men, we must be in crisis too.

What I have serious difficulty understanding is how come we only mimic the bad things? If we are so good at mimicking, why don’t we mimic what is good?

I hear we follow, among others, American culture and sure enough I hear the American accent, I see us wearing sweat shirts and boots, I note that “summer” exists in Trinidad and I even see “spring” and “fall” wending their way into our calendar.

But when I look at the American coverage of their upcoming elections, I see politicians being forced to answer questions about campaign funding, corruption and dangerous liaisons, I see a nation listening and assessing and a politician having to state policies and prove himself to the people.

I don’t see ads about who didn’t do and who going to do and a population thinking that one government will give them what the other wouldn’t, based on race.

I see in America a system where people can sue and win for negligence, while our babies die like it’s the norm in our hospitals.

I see in America a campus killing make news for weeks and a nation made to share and remember the horror, while the recent school killing in Success, Laventille, makes news for a few days and then we look for the next big story.

I see in America how a 16-year-old girl in a Texas community could send a letter for help and help will come, while our children cry out and we sit up only when they are hospitalised or already dead.

In fact we don’t even have to look that far to find someone to mimic. Remember when they tried to privatise Pigeon Point beach? What did Tobagonians do? They found other beaches to go to. Remember the first Plymouth Jazz Festival? What did the THA do? They gave out tickets to Tobagonians to ensure that their people would not miss out because they couldn’t afford the show.

The statement is clear: Tobago is for Tobagonians, Tobagonians will not be excluded in their own country. Elitism will not be favoured over nationalism. But here in Trinidad, nightclubs that employ elitist policies remain the most popular and playing mas and going to cricket have returned to the bourgeoisie.

What happens to our ability to mimic when it comes to the important things?

Until we come together as a people and recognise that your problem is my problem, until we stand together as a people and are more concerned about our nation’s well-being rather than our individual survival, we can have all the oil and gas in the world, we can build the most opulent buildings ever, we can host as many international conferences as possible, but we will never be a first world country.

I urge the media, let it begin with you, recognise the power you have and use it responsibly, be the hound dogs who sniff out the stories we want to ignore, follow the stories that we should never forget, use your forum to uplift and educate and not to self-promote and sensationalise. Bombard us, remind us until we wake up out of our “next party, new story” nightmare, so that the superficial, selfish society that threatens will not become our reality.

The sad truth is we could be a country that the world mimics. Our Carnival, steel pan, writers, sportsmen, artists, religious tolerance and many others things are examples to the world and the world has noticed, yet we continue to look through the window at the other man’s house instead of admiring our own and taking care of it.

Joanne Haynes

Via e-mail

I hear the plaintive wail in your letter Joanne, but Trinidadians like it so. Asking them to change or improve is like beating your head against a brick wall. Which do you think will give way first, the wall or your head?