I cannot believe I am actually saying this, but could it be that we here in the Caribbean, the islands of Trinidad and Tobago to be exact, are simply not capable of having a functional democracy? Could it be that our present parliamentary system is just out of sync with the realities of our existence and actually works against us, not for us? Could dictatorship be the answer?
Now I am a big fan of democracy but at the same time it seems quite clear to me that such an ideal can only work under certain circumstances. Take a look at what is happening in Iraq and you will see the beginnings of a democratic disaster. Shush! All you who immediately say, “You are not giving Iraqis enough credit. Why do you underestimate them?” Silly optimists I say. Why? Because you are the ones not giving Iraqis enough credit. You are not giving credit to their history, their diversity and their fundamentalist religious sectarianism which all go against the notion that all men are created equal and shall have a say in the government. A democracy cannot work alongside a theocracy. A democracy cannot work alongside abysmal chasms in class, culture and gender relations. A democracy cannot work when the people themselves are not empowered nor inclined towards it. The Iraqi people as we know them today are actually comprised of three main separate tribes who were forced to form a de facto country by Western outsiders. Tribal politics is in their blood, their heritage, their culture. Of course, the Western world has always been blissfully and deliberately ignorant and unconcerned about the cultural preferences of foreign brown skinned and darker people with funny accents. We assume everyone wants to live just like Americans and Europeans not so? Don’t those people know what’s good for them?
Well, actually they DO. The separate fractions in Iraq each want back their own homeland. They each want to live and be governed within their own tribal culture and religious rules. Those who believe women should be covered up from head to toe and be little more than property do not want to abide by any constitution that says otherwise. Those who believe the opposite do not want to have to answer to those who disagree and so on. A piece of paper is not enough to reverse hundreds of years of tradition. A democracy rooted in Western idealism more so than Arab reality, will crumble under religious revolt. Sad to say it but the only thing that was able to hold that fragile nation together was a powerful dictatorship. And yes, Saddam was an infected asshole of universal dimensions who committed genocide but the fact remains that people feared him and got in line. Religious fundamentalism had to take a back seat and women were allowed to seek higher education and careers. Now the Islamic extremists are killing female teachers and students.
On that note, let’s return home. The present situation in Trinidad and Tobago, like Iraq, is beginning to make me question our readiness for a democracy. Note I used the word, “readiness” instead of maybe a word like, “worthiness.” For while we are indeed worthy as all countries are of whichever system of government they so desire, I am starting to question our ability to handle a democracy. In fact I doubt we ever did have a democracy. Let me get specific here. The people of my home land have no real power and cannot effect change in any way. The government simply does not listen to them. The media is either under government control or is stifled and threatened when it probes too deeply or works against the government’s political agenda. Many of our laws are not rooted in equality or even practicality for that matter, but are arcane Victorian inspired, semi religious relics. Top government officials can be bought. There are deep divisions in our country along racial lines and two equally horrific choices of government based solely on race. Each choice is just as autocratic and demeaning to the people as the next. So in fact, we already have an oppressive, corrupt dictatorship. No matter which party is in power, they together with the business sector and criminal masterminds assume free reign of the country. The people are nothing but chattel. Our island’s forests, rivers, beaches, natural resources are nothing but their playground. It is a triune dictatorship that gives a new meaning to our La Trinity which now stands for Business Sector “The Father” (The brains, financier, decision maker and implementer), PNM/UNC “The Son” (The opiate, mouth piece and enabler) and Crime Lords “The Holy Ghost” (The executioner and subjugator).
My people, the time has come for we the people to slay the three headed beast and in order to do so, we cannot direct our attack at the Son. It is not the decision maker in this triangle, it’s power is only given by permission and is nothing more than a puppet of the Father head. The hit must be aimed squarely at the Business Sector. The only power we the people have over our Trinity dictatorship is to cut off their money flow. In order to do this, we must stop being such sissies and learn to live without certain things. We must embrace temporary hardship with hope and comfort in each other. Do not give in to fear and do not believe the PR made-over financial reports that says our economy is booming and so things, “couldn’t be all that bad”. Economic reports only indicate how much money was made by the very same Trinity monster we want to kill. It is getting fat and healthy, why should that be of any reassurance to us who are either outright starving or getting there? We know the vast majority of Trinis are not the ones reaping the benefits of the biggest energy boom in the world’s history. Trinidadians need to stop pretending we currently “fit in” with the popular USA girl and her G8 clique at UN High School. We don’t. We sit at the losers table with Jamaica. Haiti and Rwanda as far as ethnic division, corruption, degradation, disempowerment, human brutality, underdevelopment and just plain frustrating poverty and glaring lack of social services are concerned. Developed countries look at our sorry asses and laugh, wishing they could skip the long route of unfair trade and foreign policy and instead come and directly take everything they envy away from us since we obviously don’t even appreciate our own island, people and our worth, which is why we continue to spread our legs and let that Trinity monster dictatorship rape us for the developed world’s voyeuristic pleasure. “Tsk, tsk, those black people, they have so much wealth and as usual they don’t even know how to run their affairs and stand up for themselves.”
This week my Trini pride was given a hard slap in the face, when in a news report, my country was used in a cautionary tale about corruption and crime along with Jamaica and Colombia. Do you remember when we used to be the island everyone in the Caribbean wanted to imitate? When you told someone in Grenada, St. Vincent, St. Lucia etc you are a Trini or they caught your accent their reaction was, ‘Hey! Trini! You know, I visited Trinidad once! San Juan, I have cousins there! Which part of Trinidad are you from? Maraval? Oooooo I heard there is nice. Oh I love the food, love the parties, love the people, my aunt, cousin boyfriend married to a Trini……” and on and on they will go, happy to bask in your glowing Trini aura. Nowadays it’s, “ Woah… Trini eh? Man, how you surviving living there? I don’t think I could live there nah.” Imagine now we are used as an example of what other islands should NOT become. Despite all our “Miami-esque” condos, shopping malls and wholesale clubs and sports bars and beauty queen material, we have only succeeded in a superficial, materialistic imitation of those powerful developed countries. “New York” of the Caribbean my ass! Who the hell do some Trinis think they are fooling driving their BMWs and Audis on pot holed streets littered with rotting vegetables and used condoms, past shanty towns and vagrants shitting on the sidewalk and street children begging for money? We ain’t all that. Not yet. Some Trinis who worship at the altar of the Father head need to realize that and snap out of the Marie Antoinette daydream they are living in. What we should really imitate from the developed countries is the spirit of the people of those nations when they were not always so rich and powerful. Their people sacrificed life and limb in civil wars, world wars and political revolution and civil protest for social change to make their current affluent democracies what they are today. We have not even begun to sacrifice a grain of rice!
My friends, if indeed we must endure a dictatorship, at least let it be one that sprung from our revolt against our oppressive and inept so-called democracy. If we must endure a dictatorship then let it be called thus openly and honestly. At least with such transperancy we have a greater chance of getting a good leader. One with strong ethics and charisma who can inspire or if necessary FORCE Indo-Trinis and Afro-Trinis together again; go ballistic on the criminals with heavy artillery and manpower; close the class gap, fix the health system and for the sake of us all decree some common sense laws rooted in equality and protection of our environment and resources. If so called ‘democracy” means another 20 years of PNM and UNC then give me a dictator any day. It is more power than we could ever hope to have at present. If our leader gets out of line, we can overthrow him or ask the USA to do it for us, after all, we have oil and natural gas and we’re a stepping stone away from Venezuela, the next country I predict they will soon invade and on which they will force their version of democracy :).