Independence military parade. Photo © Rubadiri Victor

Independence military parade. “…the brown faces in their uniforms.” Photo © 2015, Rubadiri Victor

On Independence morning 2015 thousands of citizens flocked to the Queen’s Park Savannah and surroundings to see and feel evidence of their Republic. I too was looking for it in the live broadcast. And at times I glimpsed it: in the dedication of the brown faces in their uniforms, and in the applause of pride by the gathered population in their national colours… It was as if I briefly saw her in a back room whilst I was being escorted elsewhere… And yes, I wept at those times when I glimpsed the battered beauty of the Nation on the floor of her torture room, draped in her flag, awaiting rescue… Still beautiful and defiant despite it all… And I kept looking until the parade ended, constantly looking for those glances of her. The Nation…

And I understand the thing that drives those thousands to the streets of the capital. The need to have the nation affirmed. To witness it the only way it ever evidences itself- in temporary pageant. In event. Live!..

Live… She appears in the assemblage and marching of dedicated local troops in single file; or in the live footage of the Soca Warriors on a field in Germany with their hands on their hearts whilst the National Anthem blares and our flag waves for 2 billion people to see, and we cry, and wear Soca Warrior stickers on our cars till the paint and memory fades… Or we sense her, live again, when we witness a brilliant costume in Carnival, Hosay, or Ramleela, or when we collectively hear a great Road March… Or when another sportsman or artists reminds us that there is something called Trinidad and Tobago, something out there, an idea, a rhythm, a capacity to joke, wine, and lime… A unique form of humanity. A Magic. A thing. A thing that awaits me to complete itself… That awaits us… A lightning we have not yet bottled, not yet given back to ourself as a Gift. Something we have failed to construct a House for. Something we can only feel- Live!

For we have not yet created a civilisation out of our Genius. After each event there is no Cathedral or monument constructed out of it. There is nothing left in the ashes for us to re-ignite that feeling… There are no reminders in our landscape of our Best Self after the moment of Elevation… So we wait patiently for Genius to manufacture a next one for us. Another live reminder of a Sacrament we keep forgetting we must fulfill… Another moment of Glory our Mediocre elites will then cast into the Furnace of Forgetfulness. It is a forgetfulness our elites cultivate, it is essential we forget true excellence so that all that is left in the present tense is them, and their cult of personality, and cult of dependence… Our elites: dunce, greedy, degreed, deranged, and arrogant. Mediocre. Subtracting from rather than multiplying our Gifts…

And just 4 blocks south of the Savannah, evidence of the blasphemy of our elites- the final destruction of the Greyfriar’s Church on Frederick Street. Done without permit, without warning, without mercy. Sans Humanitay. Like the dread clinical carving up of the stolen Chaguaramas peninsula by 2 sets of party financiers and a Minister of Planning…

 Photo © 2015, Rubadiri Victor

“…the final destruction of the Greyfriar’s Church on Frederick Street.” Photo © 2015, Rubadiri Victor

When I look at the wreck that our elites- especially our last series of governments- have left of our Republic, I weep. I confess. I bawl like a child… The way that this country- blest with abnormal amounts of heroes and talents, blest with riches of culture and natural resources- has had these resources squandered, mismanaged, and raped; ignored, corrupted, and stolen; maligned, super-exploited, and degraded by the elites trusted to care take them- is sickening. Our politicians and their high and low gangsta friends resemble a mas band of Vampires, Soucouyants, La Diablesses, Lugahoos, and Douens who descend like Zombies on unsuspecting towns… We the townspeople need to step up our inoculation and weapons of resistance…

A friend of mine has said that what we are witnessing is a Kingdom captured by its Dark Kings on one hand- and the almost capitulation of its Kings of Light on the other. Running rampant now are the Kings of our Worst- politicians on both sides and their rapacious party financiers. Lying silent, shuffled off to one side, or sadly dead, with their Legacies muted, are the Kings of our Love. I am talking about the tragedy of a Republic that once had at its Centre the guiding song of the voices of CLR James, Lloyd Best, VS Naipaul, Maestro, Kitchener, Sparrow, Winsford Devine, Peter Minshall, Sundar Popo, Leroy Clarke, Frank Barsotti, Frank Rampersard, Dennis Pantin, John La Guerre, Julien Kenny, Wayne Brown, Brinsley Samaroo, Earl Lovelace, Shadow, Deryck Walcott, Errol Jones, Astor Johnson, Lancelot Layne, George Goddard, Michael Anthony, Ravi Ji, David Rudder, and others… All these Kings silenced from our Centre… Now all we are left with is the bark of double-faced, fork-tongued politicians on all sides and the silent dread advance of their financiers in the wings drifting through our Treasury making away with our money and real estate… And behind it all the cackle of ill-informed talk show hosts, newly minted shallow commentators, and opportunist profiteering ‘experts’… It has been a steep fall…

Nowhere has the dismissal of the potential of the Republic been more telling than in the treatment and state of the Creative and Cultural Sector: a process that can only be called the vagrantisation of the Soul of the Nation by our elites… A civilisation 6000 years old (on evidence of the Banwari fossil) which has been blest by New World symphonies of epic works by geniuses stretching two hundreds years now lives in epic forgetfulness and amnesia of all of them. No real monuments exist to this sheer tonnage of Genius, and neither do the Ideas that birthed these creations pulse at the Heart of any debates in our public spaces. After the high of a civilisation that created ‘Beauty in Perpetuity’ we are now a Republic of box drains and Christmas lights… Beauty does not sing at the centre of this island any more…

For the last 20 years myself and the Artists’ Coalition of Trinidad & Tobago have engaged in sometimes negotiations but mostly pitched battle with governments to get adopted and implemented what we call ‘the Progressive Agenda’ for the Arts- to almost no avail. ‘The Progressive Agenda’ for the Arts is not some arbitrary militant pipe-dream of local artists hell-bent on hand-outs. It simply is a facilitative regulatory environment wherein an industry can function healthily- much like the policy, regulatory, fiscal and infrastructural environment that was created locally for the Oil, Gas or Manufacturing Sectors. What is more damning is that the elements of the ‘Progressive Agenda’ for the Creative and Cultural Sector are in fact things that many countries in the world have put in place since the 1920s!!!:

This ecosystem of policies, laws, fiscal enablers, institutional complexes and protocols that most other countries have implemented in 4 waves since the 1920s is what is responsible for the current $2.2 trillion Creative Economy that the world is now enjoying. It has made Entertainment the second largest industry on planet Earth. This ecosystem has been the foundation of creative Renaissances most countries in the world have enjoyed in the last 15 years. With the notable exception of Trinidad and Tobago! Whereas most developed and developing countries in the world have reaped enormous aesthetic innovations, legacy consolidations, and astronomical rewards from their Creative Sectors- in Trinidad and Tobago we instead have witnessed strangulation and collapse in the last 15 years- despite a $500 billion boom. Why? Because our governments since Independence have stubbornly refused to adopt and implement the common-sense enablers. Because of the refusal of our elites to enable our Creators, generations of T&T geniuses have not been able to reap the full benefits of their talents and creations. Have not been able to fulfil their potentials and economise their gifts…

This strangulation has happened on individual levels: the artificial plateauing of the career of someone like a David Rudder who should be a global World Beat artist of the first order- or the artificial and conscious destruction of communities like East Port of Spain- the community most responsible for midwifing the traditions of the Trinidad-style Carnivals and spreading it to 300+ countries globally… In this way thousands of T&T creatives are aborted before they even have a chance to blossom. We cannot rise with systems which are 90 years behind the rest of the world… The greatest casualty is of course the Republic who loses billions of dollars of potential foreign exchange by the silencing of its artists. But even more intimately the real casualty is the constant aborting of the construction of the Cathedral to the Nation’s Gifts at its centre… This has left the nation puppy-dog lost, wandering looking for its mother in increasingly grimier back roads, without a home. The savage destruction of the Greyfriar’s Church is just a metaphor for the daily destruction of the Cathedral to our Gifts that constitutes our post-Independence reality…

But is it possible that this act of obliteration can be the first moment of the Nation? Is it possible that the razing to the ground of Greyfriar’s at the heart of the capital city next to the Square where our Independence was born and mere blocks away from East Port of Spain where the heart pulse of the nation beats is simply the clearing away of the real estate necessary for the construction of our Necessary Cathedral? Could we who huddle waiting for the Nation to appear magically, who long for fleeting glances of her in the margins, could we be inspired in this darkest of times to rally for the consecration of this moment and the construction of what has been postponed for 53 years? I believe that the Greyfriar’s calamity is an opportunity for us to build. I believe that instead of preserving a 200 year old Church we are being called upon to erect the Forever Cathedral to our Best Self. We are being called upon to utter our hymn to ourself. May we find the wherewithal and the key…


“I believe that the Greyfriar’s calamity is an opportunity for us to build.” Photo © 2015, Rubadiri Victor

Posted on August 31, 2015, in President's Blog and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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