EVEN BEFORE the opening lines of your open letter to Trinidad (Newsday, 13 May), I knew you were in trouble. Despite all that goodwill you flung so liberally at Trinidad in your first paragraph — it was like you were swinging champagne bottles against the hull of a new ship — I knew you yourself were going to end up dead in the water and the same Trinidad you were praising would very quickly sink you.
Newsday, you see, ran a colour picture of you above your piece. No matter what you, or anyone, wrote underneath that, everything was going to be coloured by blonde hair and blue eyes. The best you could have hoped for was dismissal as irrelevant.
Blonde hair, blue eyes and fair skins, Amanda, remind us that, for all our pretensions to modernity, we’re mired in the past. We still labour upon the plantation. It still defines us.
But we now regard it differently.
When our only aim was to burn the Great House to the ground and dance on its ashes, Amanda, we had the right ambition. We might not have got far, perhaps, but we would have been carving out our own path.
Today, all we want to do is move een to the Great House ourselves.
But not one of them old-time, wooden building, with musky-toe net and pitch oil lamp, you hear, Amanda? In Palmiste and Goodwood Park, the Great House garage and all have to be air-condition’, and all them tile and them have to come from Me-Ami.
In the second energy boom/second dose of salts Patrick Manning era, Amanda, we rewrote Derek Walcott’s Limers’ Republic to underscore that we never understood it. We reinterpreted the jacket-and-tie we used to mock so well on Jouvert morning and cast it as our symbol of success, not failure. We sweat profusely in our monkey suits, Amanda, and grin proudly at ourselves in the mirror. That is Mimic Man!
Amanda, we play a Massa mas better than Governor Picton.
We’ve learned nothing about our own architecture.
In Trinidad, Amanda, there is a golden guiding principle: if you want to know what you should do, find out in detail whatever the current government/ruling sector policy is — and then turn around 180 degrees and go fast-fast-fast in the opposite direction. It doesn’t matter what the subject is or who is in power. Patrick Manning, God bless him, was going to build three smelters and a plastic producing plant in a rainforest. When Basdeo Panday, the sugarcane union leader, became prime minister, he played golf with the people he defined as “the parasitic oligarchy”! Every new government extends the highway it protested when it was in opposition. Same khaki pants, same monkey pants.
If the right thing happens in Trinidad, it happens despite, not because of, the government.
Or, for that matter, the people.
Any good idea can be destroyed by the right formula of apathy: the Death March became “a white people’ thing”.
Prime Minister Rowley didn’t get it right, Amanda, he just got lucky. In the West Indies, we do nothing of our own volition; we cannot even feed ourselves. In Barbados, with by far and away the best leadership in the region — and that would be so even if Mia Mottley had a competitor — we’re kind of scampering along, just trying to keep up with the real world we want to join. I chuckle every night when the Barbados’ CBC TV8 announcer says, in his best CNN imitation, “The CBC News starts right now”; he and his bosses have no idea why he’s saying that; but they know that, every weeknight, Erin Burnett says Anderson Cooper 360 starts right now.
In Trinidad, Amanda, you can always tell when someone has lost an argument because they go straight to race: haul yuh black/white/Indian/Chinee/Syrian/half-scald mother sew-and-sew until she make a dress.
The moment you made so bold as to write an appreciation of Trinidad, I knew you’d draw half-a-dozen hate missals, diatribes against your whiteness, your feminineness, your foreignness, anything but the point you made.
Yes, Amanda, Keith Rowley and Trinidad & Tobago handled the covid19 crisis better than the Boris Johnson and the Vote Leave Government of Brexit. On your Facebook page, I admired your restraint in not pointing out that the Mother Country could easily have lost its last syllable.
So you were essentially right.
But that didn’t stop the chorus of, “Haul yuh white sew-and-sew back to Westmoorings and pay yuh servant and them more!”
In Trinidad, we contrive to ignore the fabric of any issue and tear apart the hem. We kill the messenger so that we don’t have to read the message.
It is the duty of the artist, Amanda, to hold up the mirror.
But you can’t make people look.
Ex-specially, Dear Amanda, if they hate to see themselves.
BC Pires is spinning top in mud