Friday, April 27, 2007

Dutty Wine

Last night I sat eating my reheated dinner. It was leftover from lunch, and like most leftovers, it was a small task to fully complete its consumption. I flicked on the TV to look at the first National Debate for the Democratic candidates for the 2008 US Presidential election. Characteristically, I switched to the local news to see what new and exciting stories had captured the imagination of the press that day.

The lead story was that of Zen having their license revoked and now in an indefinite state of limbo concerning the status of their reopening. As I tried to reconcile the reasons why Zen should have their license revoked, I came to the conclusion that Trinidadians are a fickle bunch whose opinions change with the wind.

In the recent uproar over Danah Alleyne and her antics at Zen, the myriad of opinions show just how willing we are to be distracted by non issues.

Make no mistake. Zen was wrong in allowing admittance to an underage patron. There should have been better systems in place to check IDs. However, even the best systems contain flaws and having a rigorous system in place would not have prevented someone from slipping through the cracks. Zen’s responsibility is great, but it ends there.

People, for some reason are not willing to speak out and ask necessary questions of the other parties involved in this mess. Let’s start with the main culprit, Danah herself. She has admitted that she lied about her age to security to get through. She has admitted that she had a third party acquire the tickets for her and she has admitted that she lied to her father about her whereabouts that night. It is evident that she was determined to get into Zen, come hell or high water.

Having got past security, and probably thanking her lucky stars, she volunteered herself to go on stage in a public display with Akon. So we have at least four errors in judgment on her part. Danah is not as innocent as her father, brother and Manning would like us to believe.

The next party to this is her father. Akon’s performance did not start until 2 am. Was Dave not aware that his daughter had not yet returned home from an 'ice-cream' trip? In an age of cell phones and kidnappings, did he not call to find out about the whereabouts of his daughter after she had been missing for such a long time? Why was an alarm not raised? There are two very simple answers to this. The first is that Danah and Co. conspired well enough to keep her father in the dark, or Pastor Alleyne knew where his daughter was that night. Zen cannot be held responsible for ineffective parenting and the resulting fallout. The parent of a 14 year old is very much responsible for her actions.

What about those who acquired the ticket for Danah? Were they not aware that Danah was underage and not allowed into the nightclub? They are as culpable as anyone else in aiding and coercing her to attend the concert.

Akon's performance isn't necessarily everyone's cup of tea. But he was there to entertain those who had paid to see him. He would have been under the impression that this was a consenting adult.

Now, there is a huge outcry from prominent individuals. The issue has turned political, since her brother, Ian, was screened by the PNM for the Caroni East seat and is a member of the Arrive Alive campaign. Manning is now trying to save face by pleading for forgiveness of Danah. How convenient is the plea for forgiveness by these bigots, Pastor Winston Cuffie included, when just two weeks ago, they were silent on the call by another pastor from Tobago to ban Elton John from entering the island, based solely on his sexual orientation? Does forgiveness only apply to certain people? I would have thought that an all forgiving God would see no distinction in forgiving any of his flock. It seems as if these pastors are more hard line gods than God himself!

But Trinidad needs to take a serious look at itself. We allow ourselves to be blinded and brainwashed by people who claim to be cut from the cloth of God. It includes Pastor Manning, parading as the Prime Minister, Pastor Cuffie, who is more intolerant that most, Pastor Alleyne, whose daughter is a prime example of how not to rear children, Pastor Terrance Baynes who believes that homosexuality is a transmissible disease and the jewel in the crown, Pastor Vishnu Lutchmansingh, who claimed to have inherited from one obscure individual more than the GDP of the entire European Union.

And now, the thousands of other patrons of Zen are left to pay for a misbehaving teenager and her ineffective parent, while Zen themselves get their house in order. The most esteemed Defender of all things Moral, Manning, has seen it fit to drop every other issue plaguing this country since his ascension, to comment on what is effectively a matter involving a private establishment and law enforcement.

The only good that can come from this is that there should be stricter controls on who is allowed to enter nightclubs in this country. However, if the same Manning and Pastors Cuffie and Alleyne fail to do their part in addressing the social decay of this country, requiring IDs at entrances will serve only as a bandage over a gaping wound. A new industry of fake IDs will be set up and it will only take time before another 14 year old is made the clown in another media circus.

'A characteristic of the normal child is he doesn't act that way very often.'

Monday, April 23, 2007

The King and WI

The high backlift. The crashing down of the blade and the perfect shot through the covers to the boundary. The Oscar winning performances ascribed to his name, even as the supporting cast failed to garner so much as a nod of approval.

He walked when he knew he was out. Sometimes, he had to walk when he knew he wasn’t. Now he has walked, pushed by the very hands that once applauded him. But that was the man. A gentleman and a sportsman on the field. The world of cricket had never seen and will never again see an incarnation of the great man. And it will be poorer for it.

The motivation of the man despite the negativity is something he will always be remembered for. His decorum and statesmanship was nothing short of that expected of the best diplomat.

As the salty tears streamed from his face on the fateful final day, his legions bowed before him and celebrated him. They acknowledged his status of Entertainer Supreme. He was the last of the old guard, from the era of greatness. A transitional soul that played at the heady heights of the early nineties to the dismal doldrums of the new millennium.

And as the indigenous orchestra played its farewell tune to its most celebrated son of the soil, realization was slowing sinking in that a void had been created that could never be filled.

He wasn't perfect, but it was his flawed genius that made him a legend. His off field antics and sometimes stubborn battles with administrators and sponsors served, not to blemish his legacy but to create it. The manner in which someone takes so much pressures without flinching takes much understanding.

Perhaps, fittingly, his imperfection is meted out by his 299 ODIs and 11,953 Test runs. Perilously close to unchartered territory. But then again, this was a man who discovered new heights and conquered them. These trivialities would have served only to affirm, rather than confirm his greatness.

In his final masterstroke, he has defied his detractors and ensured that he left on terms dictated largely by himself and no one else. He was a gentleman first, and a sportsman after. Others will be remembered for what they have done. He will be remembered for who he was and what he meant to the game. A greater compliment could not be paid.

Yes, we basked in his glory and cried at his feet. He was our man. He was our love. He was our Lara. And now, he is gone. The poet of great memories had written his final verse, without so much as a proper goodbye. And while there will be those who accuse me of elevating you on a pedestal, I rebut by saying that there is no harm in speaking the truth and no truth is more resounding than that which you have created for these islands in the last 17 years.

So thank you Brian. Thank you for the memories. Thank you for the 277, the 375, the 213 and the 153*, perhaps your greatest ever. Thank you for the 400* and the 501*. Thank you for being the Atlas for your nations. Headley would have been proud.

But thank you, Brian, for making the choice to leave when you did. For the ignominy of playing for those who do not deserve you superseded any more accomplishments that would have been added to an almost infinite list. You had nothing to prove and you proved that by exiting with your head held high and your dignity intact.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Dying to Live

'The irony of man's condition is that the deepest need is to be free of the anxiety of death and annihilation; but it is life itself which awakens it, and so we must shrink from being fully alive.'- Ernest Becker

The complexity of our individual lives is as surprising as the interplay between us. We can play it like a song, a Shakespearean dramedy or even a movie. We can write our happiness, tragedies, achievements; even our jealousies and rage. Sometimes we are scripted, other times we ad lib. Most times we play a character that isn’t a representation of our true selves.

If we’re lucky, we grace this earth for about seventy years; the ancient biblical threescore and ten. Some of us manage to live past a century while others tragically fall during what should be the most prolific years of their lives. One thing is certain. We, most of us, are not aware of the hour at which we shall obtain our demise.

We only get one shot at living; a single passport at life. Some will swear that by fortune or by the grace of God, they have been given more than one chance at life. It is these who are most appreciative of life thereafter. They are the ones who grab the opportunity to live.

What would you do if you were given the chance to experience death and return to tell the stories? Many claim that they already have. Their near death experiences (NDEs) are tales of happiness and terror, confusion and disbelief. They all agree that there is some sort of life after our term expires here on earth. How then, do we rationalize our living? After all, no one has died and live to tell the tale! I believe that we must live to be happy.

Ill health transports us to a place that most of us choose not to visit. It unleashes upon our repressed souls the notion of our mortality. Having yet to extract the elixir that will grant us life ad infinitum, we grapple with the reality that one day we shall rejoin the soil from which we were first extracted. We shall become nothing more than the carbon, proteins and dust that formed our structure. We will no longer be sentient beings, if indeed, we were in the first place. Our veins shall run dry and, for the vast majority, the memories of our existences will crumble faster than the bones in our graves.

Happiness is defined by one’s own personal derivation of it. It is not universal in its attainment. It isn’t a do-as-you-please exercise. But true happiness can only be achieved when one is honest with oneself and can then charter a course in life toward successfully achieving it. For some, it will be a short, clear course, while others will navigate choppy waters. In the end, if you find the way to live every day as though it was your last, then you have done better than the most successful academic, sportsman or stockbroker.

Obstacles such as health may serve to detract. It is especially so if you have managed to initially overcome these woes. It is a torture because you think that every pain or strain may be an indication that your condition is returning or worsening. You live in perennial fear that you may once again have to face challenges that you never envisioned. You think that you cannot face another round of scourging. You think of the worst outcomes even before a proper diagnosis is made. You spend weeks pondering the results of the latest scans or bloods. I know you. I was you.

Don’t for one minute allow it to overcome you. I have come to realize now that regardless of the state of things around or within us, we must ensure that we live life fully. It is surely easier said than done, but the crux is that we live our lives until we die. To wallow and mope unnecessarily in the misgivings of our current realities is to allow death to have a premature stranglehold on our souls.

You can hope for a better reality post mortem, or you can simply ensure that the one life that you are certain exists, is justly served with the maximum amount of life due to it. And if, perchance you find happiness along the way, then does it really matter if there is a life hereafter? After all, once we are born we only hold a one way ticket to death.

April 12th, 2007

Monday, April 9, 2007

The Covenant

Let us not deceive ourselves. Politicians are in the business of obtaining votes. Few admit to it but, to his credit, Basdeo Panday has made it clear on many occasions that his business in politics is simply in obtaining power. It was, after all, the motivation behind the now infamous Crowne Plaza Agreement of 2001 which failed so miserably that one must wonder what more it must take for supposedly experienced politicians to get their act together for the good of the country. And it is only then that you realize, or more accurately, it is consciously imposed on you that our politicians hardly ever have the interest of the country at heart in devising their political shenanigans.

As things stand currently, there will be a massive splitting of votes in the upcoming General Elections that will see the incumbent PNM win a majority of House seats quite comfortably. The population stands on the cusp of some serious decision making. No election in the history of this country has ever been more important. It is truly damning that Patrick Manning’s approval rating in Trinidad and Tobago is worse than George W. Bush’s in the USA, yet the major polls predict a landslide win for his party.

This is an overwhelming indication of the potential that vote splitting has in the First Past the Post system of elections. There can be no doubt that there is a desire for change. There is also no doubt that the population has become increasingly apathetic, fed up of 51 years of the same type of politics. There is a leadership vacuum with no clear heir to assume the position. In Medieval England, this would be solved by war, with the ascension to the throne of a new Royal Line. Our democracy, however, places us in the quagmire of returning spent forces to our legislative chambers and creating political dinosaurs.

Perhaps what is needed is a benevolent dictator to pull us out of our current predicament and set this country back onto a solid footing with a relatively efficiently functioning judicial, financial, health and education systems. But that is not even a viable option at this stage.

The solution lies not in Panday’s call for unity or Winston Dookeran’s rejection of any form of dialogue. Even though they may possess dichotomous personalities, their respective decisions and strategies simply culminate in a recipe for a PNM victory in the upcoming polls. One can be Machiavellian and adopt Panday’s pragmatic approach or settle for the inevitably futile method of Dookeran. Or one can compromise.

A compromise is not an alliance or an unification. It is not a repeat of 1986 or 1995. It lies in this middle aged Republic taking yet another step toward political maturity. We must come to embrace politics as if it were run like a corporate entity. If the Opposition forces are serious about unseating the incumbent, then they must negotiate a method by which they themselves contest the election against a single party rather than against each other as well as the incumbent.

The only verdict is that the warring factions must come to the table, not in an attempt to merge their parties or compromise their principles. There is a reason that the two parties are now separate, and it is no coincidence that much of that has to do on differing views on principles and integrity. However, an agreement concerning the contesting of seats in such a manner that no constituency proffers more than two viable candidates, the incumbent and the negotiated opposition candidate is perhaps the most vital of any in the hope of mounting a serious challenge. Following this agreement, and prior to the election, agreements must also be made on which party nominates the positions of Prime Minister, Attorney General, Minister of Finance, Minister of National Security and Minister of Foreign Affairs, subject to success at the polls.

This method seeks to bring bout some semblance of respectability to the process while allowing for the will of the people to be expressed in such a way that people are not felt cheated in the final outcome. It also allows the parties to maintain their identities without being drowned in a soup of conundrums if a merger were to take place. It also allows a simmering of suspicions between the organizations since there will be no attempt to dissolve one or both, in the name of forming a new entity.

Our only hope for a change of government at this point is a coalition, a covenant if you will, of the separate parties of the UNC and COP, not an alliance or unification.
The people will unite on their own volition, not on the manipulations of politicians. The politicians’ jobs are simply to ensure that the will of the people is manifest adequately at the highest levels of administration in the country, whilst maintaining integrity, accountability, transparency, decency and honesty.

It is perhaps the best solution to a situation that has no good solutions.

‘Don't sacrifice your political convictions for the convenience of the hour’- Edward Kennedy.

Sun Apr 08, 2007
03:16 A.M.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

A New Day

‘Let the rain come down and wash away my tears, let it fill my soul and drown my fears.’- Aldo Nova & Stephan Moccio

It’s 4 minutes into the new day and I find myself on the internet. Facebook to be exact. It has become more of an addiction than the distraction that it once was.

I flick the light switch off and come to bed, my blanket pulled to my chest. It's worn threadbare now, a relic of my childhood but the source of most of my warmth and comfort during those trying and sometimes unbearable years. Like an old, faithful pup, it has continued to keep me company though its best days have passed.

The rain falls as it has been for the last four hours. The drops on the roof sound garbled and every so often a cold wind blows that lifts the ceiling tiles and drops them back down, in a well choreographed dance. A colder breeze blows and the blanket reaches my neck. I know one day it will fail to offer me protection. But for now, it is my only refuge.

As I lie here contemplating, I wonder when exactly I grew up, making that transition from boy to man. It was probably around 8 or 9, a full hand of years before puberty. We make our judgments on rigid timetables set for us by our biologists. Hardly ever do we acknowledge that we place in the minds of our children the tasks of adults. Physically, the body bears it, but the mind is forever changed, in ways so profound, that we can never truly recover the simplicity of our childhood, however short it may have lasted. What I can’t place is that time I became hardened, frigid and cynical.

Life tests us. Whether it is a designed assessment to achieve a higher end or simply happenstance, we find ourselves caught in a web, trying to extract only that which can adequately and safely nourish us, but sometimes being forced to consume poisons such as hate, jealousy and criticisms for actions that are inherently private and no one else’s concern.

That is why I no longer attempt to please everyone. It’s why I now try to live as freely as I could without depending too much on others. And it’s why I am now trying to break this mould that has set for years. But it is an exercise in isolation to continue along this path. For there will always be the desire for being needed and loved. To intertwine one’s fingers with another’s. To close your eyes and know that you can completely trust. To love without castigation and hate. But most of all, to simply live, without having to kill your true self.

‘How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of these.’
- George Washington Carver

12:27am Tue 03/27/2007