February 04, 2009

Hurray For The Recession!

A lot of people are scared and running around like headless chickens. Some are having nightmares over their overpriced home, car and sound system, all still 75% owned by the bank. Some, like our Government, are in denial and trying to squeeze out the last few drops of hedonistic excess, indiscriminate shopping, energy wastage and laiseƩ faire work ethic before the well runs dry. Bureaucrats can feel the tension from skull to sphincter mounting as they are asked to stand next to a measuring stick of cost efficiency.

Then there are those who are strangely calm as the storm approaches. Some are even strangely optimistic in the midst of forecasts of doom and gloom. Who are these weirdoes smiling in the face of adversity? I’ll tell you they are:

1. People Who Have Always Led A Simple Life

Some have always conducted themselves with a little more financial restraint and never spent a penny that was not theirs to spend unless it would give a measurable return on investment or aid their future development in some way. They know how to make their own bhaji, saltfish buljol, bread, bake, pelau and a thousand other quick easy dishes and bring home-made lunches to work without shame. They don’t have to eat meat every day. They have always known it is not healthy for our bodies and the planet.

If you buy at the market and know what to do with some callaloo bush, seasoning and rice, you will get through this recession.

Their friends love them for their reputation and their relationships are solid, not based on superficial membership in the “Keeping Up With The Jones’ Club”. They are secure in the size of their male endowment and don’t have to rush out and buy the latest gadget or car. Their self-esteem is solid and they do not depend on E!, BET or Scorch to confirm if they look nice. Their style is original and they choose local, natural, recycled wherever possible. Their garbage is not filled with wasted food. The American lifestyle of constant consumption has always been one they looked on at with scorn not emulation.

2. Those Who Love Up We Culture

If you love our local calypso, rapso and alternative rock music and support local broadcasting and local programming, there will be an explosion of it as foreign programming becomes prohibitive for media houses and for households who can no longer afford cable. If I were a media house or a corporate sponsor or advertising executive, I would be seriously re-thinking my approach to things. Now is a chance to develop a vibrant and viable television and film industry. Now is the chance to extend our love of local music beyond the Carnival season.

3. The Professional “Wheat” Who Were Overtaken By “Chaff”

French producer I had the pleasure of meeting commented about Trinidadians, “Everyone here wants to be celebrity chef. Nobody wants to actually clean zee fish and cook zee food.”

It is amazing how when the bottom line matters most, private companies quickly and effectively separate the wheat from the chaff. You wonder why they needed that chaff of sycophantic, overcompensated middle management in the first place. With less money to spend, there will less tolerance for those who lack sharp, inventive minds and cannot make strategic decisions or show the cahones to take responsibility for those decisions. Those who think they are somehow owed professional respect only because they have the right surname, skin colour, degree or MBA are going to have to come better than that.

Those who have silently bourne the burden of the "real work" to be done will become more evident to the decision makers.

A French producer I had the pleasure of meeting commented about Trinidadians, “Everyone here wants to be celebrity chef. Nobody wants to actually clean zee fish and cook zee food.” Goodbye to the now superfluous supply of “Degree” holders who cannot spell, string together a sentence, communicate clearly, bring solutions to the table and treat with people in a professional manner. I hope they have a back-up skill set and can actually do or make something. During a recession, suddenly it becomes very evident who the real committed workers are and who is just full of, “big talk”; producing paper waste; passing the buck and constantly calling endless meetings that go nowhere.

There is an old Chinese proverb, “The servant is in fact the master,” and there are hard workers in Trinidad and Tobago who have always understood the value of customer service. They do not think it demeaning to serve another person; get their hands dirty; admit it when they did not know something and learn from others with experience. They may have toiled unnoticed before but now they are going to shine. As tourism and service industries start to fill the void of a dying industrial sector, these people who serve with a smile will reap the rewards. The foot shufflers, steupsers, ignoring the customer while talking on the telephone culprits, those who show no pride or passion in their job and take no initiative will be forced to shape up or ship out because of point No.4.....

4. The Consumers

What we were willing to excuse in times of plenty will become increasingly difficult to do when it pains us to part with every single penny. We who were once so apathetic and allowed ourselves to accept below-standard service, unfair prices and inferior quality will suddenly get very discriminating and begrudge any cent spent on less than value for money. We will begin to question, “Why exactly do I need to spend all this money on this or at this establishment? What really is soooo special about this hot-spot that a beer costs $30.00?” and we will find that actually, we don’t have to.

Finally with scarcely any money to spend we will begin to hold companies up to their advertising claims and re-discover that consumers have rights. The good thing is, when consumers get more demanding, workers get treated better because exploitative employers (you know who you are) will be forced to pay up for better quality employees or train, motivate and remunerate their current staff to meet consumer demands.

5. Creative People

Necessity is the mother of all invention. During times of excess and unbridled spending tackiness prevails! True creative people are overshadowed by well funded mediocrity. I submit as evidence, the late 80s. When the economically challenging 90s hit, accompanied by AIDS crossing over into the white, heterosexual, middle classes, suddenly people lost their tolerance for the tackiness and fluff.

When the tackiness of the 80s boom ended it was goodbye to over-produced Paula Abdul and Poison and hello to Melissa Etheridge and Nirvana. On the local scene, rapso (3 Canal) and alternative rock (Orange Sky) broke through.

The true musicians, singers/songwriters re-emerged along with inspired new geniuses and new genres. It was goodbye to over-produced Paula Abdul and Poison and hello to Melissa Etheridge and Nirvana. On the local scene, rapso (3 Canal) and alternative rock (Orange Sky) broke through. After toiling in the proverbial dessert, artists from Peter Minshall to Rudder, Rikki Jai to Mungal Patassar finally found mainstream success in the 90s. The World Wide Web and internet innovators sprung up like mushrooms on the dying log of the old 80s economy. There was revolution after revolution in graphic and gaming software. Spielberg’s Jurassic Park paved the way for Peter Jackson’s Lord of The Rings.

Depressions and the first few years of emergence from them tend to be golden ages in film, design, art, music, advertising and more. My fellow creative people, no matter your subject or craft, our renaissance is coming! In particular, those of you poised to invent energy efficient technological breakthroughs, alternative fuels, renewable engineering and more, get ready!

6. Those Longing For A Revolution

It is precisely at these moments of change and crisis that the real patriots and leaders step forward and real political transformation becomes possible. You see, everyone wants to run the country when the oil money flowing, so they can take their share, enrich their friends and massage their egos with pappy show and pork barrel projects. But when there is nothing to spend, just adept and pro-active planning and resourceful budgeting, who wants the job? I’ll tell you who, the FDRs, Obamas and ANR Robinsons of this world.

Most importantly, without the distraction of spending and frivolity, the public’s focus will be aimed squarely at monitoring the government’s spending and performance. Our patience will be thinner. Our expectations will be higher an hopefully that will add up to sustained resolution to look beyond our race, class and religion and “put aside childish things” so that we never be fooled by race, rum & roti politricks again.

7. The Ones Who Honour Mother Earth

When President Obama told his people, “The time has come for us to make some hard choices,” Mother Earth was probably like, “Well, it’s about time!” The chiefs of aboriginal tribes were also going, “We told you so! In the end you will all have to live more like us, in harmony with nature.”

Those we thought stupid and primative will now seem so smart.

As the Mayan calendar approaches the time of earth awakening, this recession is a gift. It is an early wake up call that our overly patriarchal, man-made systems are at odds with the planet, starting with an economy based on rampant, indiscriminate consumption. There is no way this can co-exist with a clean, green, livable planet and that is why this recession had to happen! We can either hit the snooze button or WAKE UP, rub the yampee out of our eyes and get a head start on the dawn of a new era.

I don’t mean to sound like one of those “end times” alarmists but Armageddon is certainly coming! However not for the reasons or in the way most expect, so relax. It is not God’s vengeance on anyone for we puny organisms cannot hurt the feelings of a Being as Supreme as that. Besides, we were already created with a mechanism for self-punishment and live in a universe designed for balance and karmic justice. God does not need to overkill just for kicks or to prove He is boss. Armageddon is also not the end of the planet. But make no mistake, something WILL end!

It is not God, we should be considering this time but Goddess. I hope you have not forgotten about Her? How foolish have we been to think that in a universe where everything has an opposing force, that a masculine Divine Being did not have a feminine aspect too? Yes, we have neglected Her for a long, long time and that is unfortunate. You see, unlike our Father who has more of a spiritual, cerebral relationship with us, our Mother has much more of a physical, material relationship with us. To put it another way, Father is like the air we breathe while Mother is the lungs that allow us to take in Father's air. You can buy the most expensive equipment to have the purest air in the world but if your lungs have been damaged by abuse and neglect, your body will never be healthy. By neglecting, raping and plundering our Mother, we have only hurt ourselves, our home and in fact handicapped our ability to also receive Father's gifts as well. When She begins Her process of renewal our current global system of governance and enterprise WILL end.

The only suffering that will be had by those during this “earth awakening” will be by those who cling to the old system for their entire sense of personhood and cannot live as simply as indigenous people do without extreme discomfort.

The indigenous peoples knew this all along. There were like the wise parent who sees their child going astray and after trying hard to impart wisdom to no avail, knows they have no choice but just allow what must happen, happen. To our blinded eyes, they surrendered, seemingly defeated by our conquest and dominion over nature. We thought them primitive and stupid for not wanting to live like we do. But they were just hanging back and letting us kid ourselves. The only suffering that will be had by those during this “earth awakening” will be by those who cling to the old system for their entire sense of personhood and cannot live as simply as indigenous people do without extreme discomfort. It gives a whole new meaning to what Jesus meant when he said how difficult it will be for a rich man to enter the kingdom and why the poor and meek are actually more blessed. The natural disasters and diseases that result from Mother’s enema will torment those who fear death because they do not understand we are everlasting souls. Those who mistakenly felt superior to others because of race, religion, nationality or class will scramble for a sense of justice when they see Mother does not discriminate at all. All Her children will be collected into Her womb for recycling.

We abide in Mother's domain. How stupid it was of us to forget all about Her. How hard it will be for some when we are all reminded of just how powerful She is.

Right now, we are at a crossroads where we can either continue down the same road we have been going since the Bronze Age and rising dominance of monotheism and fixed, unchanging Gods that also require us to “fix” nature and “control” it or have a massive overhaul of the now defunct and damaging personal, spiritual, social, political and economic status quo. We can choose to give in to fear of change and allow those aging farts in power who control 95% of the world’s wealth to act as if the ground has not already shifted beneath our feet. Or, we can challenge them and ourselves to adjust to the new topography.

The last days of the Capitalist Pigs are upon us. We can either recognise this early on or still allow the aging farts in power who control 95% of the world’s wealth to act as if the ground has not already shifted beneath our feet.

In conclusion, yes, certainly there will be hardship and sacrifice. There will be tears and loss. There will be those who will give in to despair and as always, crime, destitution and greed will plague us. The matters we have neglected for so long; social transformation, healthcare, children’s welfare, equal rights for all, environmental responsibility will bite us back…hard. Instead of choosing the nobler ideals of the American dream, we along with the rest of the world chose to chase the rankest, tackiest superficialities of it. Now we are finding out the Yanks we emulated were chasing after a mirage bought on credit, unfair trade, exploitative labour, foreign oil, unfair wars, support of corrupt dictatorships, bloodshed and environmental plunder. Unfortunately, some obtuse Trinis with poor self-esteem will continue to chase it still, long after the Americans have realized they need to change and have voted for change. These gauche Trinis will buy nine hundred thousand dollar Porches on credit, not for the genuine love of Italian engineering but wasted flam on our traffic and pothole ridden streets. They will go ahead with the Summit and plan a second one.

For some of us, it will be the third or fourth major recession in their lifetime. For some like me, it will their second and for those born in the 90s, and raised on cable, foreign brands and throw away food, this will be their first ever. They will have it extra hard. One thing is certain no matter if you can recall the fallout of the first boom years or not this will be the last chance we all have to positively turn around the fate of our human civilization and our planet. Are you prepared to dig deep for a true sense of identity, pride and personal fulfillment?

For some, their perception of The End will be far less traumatic. Their happiness, peace of mind and spiritual fulfillment was never tied up in our man-made systems. How I envy them.


C'bbean gurl said...

Wow....loved the post. Very insightful. A bit scary but I guess it's reality.

Yemoonyah said...

Wow..this is a great post and I think this does not only true for Trinidad and Tobago but for the entire planet. I'm gonna share this with others

Celebrity Gossip said...

We know that every place has its own blessings that people live can use for their everyday life. If we have to share , why not but we just limit it for our own sake.

Guanaguanare said...

Jessica, Thanks so much for this, I'd been seeing it for days in the aggregator and saving it for when I had the time to give it the proper reading that your posts always deserve. You give me hope because you always take the time to think things through.

Like you, I am not bothered by economic depressions but I worry about the vulnerable who will become even more so, the chronically ill especially. For myself, I've never had and I've never wanted much so finally my "lack of ambition" will find its niche.

The photo of the Gaia figure is the most beautiful thing I've seen in a long while. I gazed and gazed and found every single detail perfect...that smile is too gorgeous. I was intending to make one out of clay and I'd been collecting the materials for a while, but when I saw this photo it said to me, "I am everything and much more than you could ever have imagined."

Jessica said...


I'm with you on that. I worry about the weak, ailing and at-risk sectors of the society.

Our sense of unity and community will surely be tested. I remain optimistic that the better virtues of our Trini-nature will prevail

tntcricketfan said...

Great Post!!!
I absolutely enjoyed reading it. It is like all the things I want to say but unable to express myself. You covered everything. WOW!!
Very well put together.
Most of all I know now that I am not the only one who sees things for what they relly are.