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THE WRECK OF THE REPUBLIC

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!
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Not different things

A Trini friend was a writer for the Wall Street Journal. I asked him about returning home to give back. He replied, “Rubadiri, you know how I love my country and business- but I can’t come back to a country whose leaders don’t understand that there’re people in this world who’re hundred-millionaires because they can skateboard! They don’t have a clue how the world works!”

I’ve been in meetings these last few weeks where it’s clear our leaders believe that “humanity” and “business” are two different things. The split comes in many forms. They believe they must choose between “culture” or “profitability”, “heritage” or “progress”, “people” or “development’. Not for a second seeing that these are not different things. That actually culture—even in its pure form—is profitable—that Bunyol- a small Spanish town- attracts 50,000 tourists annually for a tomato-throwing festival! Bunyol begun charging participants US$13 to throw. Do the math! This festival began as a re-enactment of a fight between youths- and is now a multi-million dollar earner. They haven’t changed an essential thing about how it works. They honoured its origins.

Phagwa in India, the Day of the Dead in Mexico, Macy’s Thanksgiving in New York, Brazil’s and Venice’s carnivals, bull-running in Pamplona, Oktoberfest in Germany, and many other festivals are multi-million dollar economies that don’t sacrifice origins, native-crafts, and ritual to earn money. And they’re more successful than us. They use the rhythms of their rituals to provide opportunities for earning- but understand the sanctity of the ritual that provides the attraction. The magnetism of authenticity… Read the rest of this entry

Tightening circles

Every day this Government is finding itself with less legitimate room to manoeuvre. The citizenry is creating ever tightening circles, restricting the movement of agendas detrimental to our nation. Many say the reason Trinidad and Tobago’s citizens don’t mobilise against crimes committed against us by political and capital elites is because we’ve never fought a war for Independence. Nobody ever spilt any blood… We never had to organise an army to battle for the soul of our Republic. Because of this we’ve never been invested with the passion, sweat, sacrifice and organising principles that come with knowing the enemy will not grant us freedom until somebody in this gayelle is dead…

I’m saying this country has now arrived at that place. That in the last 12 years we’ve been fighting the war for our Independence—and are now possibly approaching the climactic battles…

Wayne Kublalsingh’s incredible hunger strike marks the second time I’m witnessing a citizen put their life on the line for this nation. The first was Pat Bishop—who paid the ultimate price in defence of our country. Read the rest of this entry