Apocalypse or Renaissance
There is a body of thought that believes that every nation is made up of two spiritual countries. One is the shining, golden beacon that is its best self—a country living within the elixir of its imagination. The other is its shadow self—a nation run by its worst impulses. For England, that magical spiritual country is “Lourdes”, the England of King Arthur and Camelot, of Middle Earth and Narnia. Its diabolical dark side is the England of coal mines and industrial mills, the imperial global murderer “Britannia”. The litmus test of a nation’s health is: “which ‘country’ is it living closer to?” Are we, dear friends, closer to the Golden Trinbago of king sailors and Nobel Prize winners, Ramleela and Hosay pageants, Lara, Hasely, and CLR James? The land Amerindians called Iere—land of the hummingbird. Or are we closer to the savage nation of mediocrity, ugliness, corruption, murder and petty vice?
The year 2012 brings with it “the prophecy” of world’s end. Even if you do not want to believe the canny Mayans—there are a number of historical forces converging, locally and globally. Alive in the world —and right here at home on the ground—there are enough tumbling forces that can spell destruction. But to me, the answer to the question of apocalypse comes in the choice of which “nation” prevails. In that choice lies the destiny of whether, when the inevitable principalities and powers collide, we emerge with apocalypse, or rebirth.
In my first article, I stated that Trinidad and Tobago is currently undergoing, possibly, its most fertile period ever. Why? Because in 2010, we finally destroyed the centuries-old cult of the maximum leader that had paralysed us for so long. This was a system of governance inherited from the plantation. It was refined by the Crown Colony, perfected by Manning and Panday. In it, the political leader had all powers centralised in himself. Institutions countrywide were gutted of visionaries and independent thinkers and, instead, were staffed with mediocre talents whose job was to follow orders, maintain the status quo.
Maximum leadership is now dead, but the nation finds itself in a new frontier, a vacuum where it has absolutely no protocols with which to govern itself and advance its agendas. This means we have the opportunity to fashion a new beginning. To choose, Britannia or Lourdes.
We chose Britannia.
The mandate of this new Government could not have been simpler: assemble massive meetings of stakeholders. Get feedback. Assemble core visionaries in sectors. Assemble reports and collect data. Peruse the best proposals of the past that were on shelves rotting. Create action plans out of all this dialogue and good thinking. In the drive for implementation, use the best local human resources. Repatriate foreign-based professionals at the top of their field. That was it. Simple. This was the simple change that people voted for. Intelligent participatory democracy, making use of the best that we have.
Instead, we got more of the same: network, family and ethnic nepotism. The culture of corruption, inefficiency and waste. Non-consultation and policy by vaps. The continuing reign of the mediocre. The stories are now rampant. Add to this: clueless ministers who feel they have all the answers, completely ignoring grassroots expertise, and State boards loaded with clueless appointees. It is the continuing Trini recipe for disaster. The crazy doctor is gone, but the inmates are now running the asylum. There has been a near complete abandoning of people’s participation. Instead, Julian Kenny is dead. Pat Bishop is dead. Norris Deonarine is dead. These were “visionary citizens” who articulated solutions. Who offered themselves for service. Who risked their lives for “change”. Our political class continues to betray “the visionary citizen”. With every misstep, we move further from Iere and into darkness. The leadership we now require is one that knows how to emancipate “the visionary citizen”. In that way, salvation lies.
England recently coined the term “feral elite” to define the class of businessmen and political insiders who stand in the way of redemption. It’s the same elite the Occupy Wall Street movement and Latin American socialist political revolutions fight against. In Trinidad, that elite may be businessmen and politicians who frustrate progressive projects while skimming tens of millions from the economy. Other members may be bringing in drugs and guns from massive global cartels which destroy certain communities, possibly with ethnic, class, or real estate agendas. Other members may just be morons who have large amounts of power. All the same, this elite constitutes the constituency who must be engaged to move the country closer to the island of light.
Against this backdrop of our internal war between our best and worst selves, the world is turning. The Middle East is battling for its soul, as are all the countries of the world, while the Mayan prophecy hums in the background. We are at a crossroads. We have an opportunity that happens probably once every 100 years to change the course of our time. Each time we betray a moment, the harder it is to return. Which nation will we choose?