Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Trini Commitment

There's a lot of debate about whether Highway Re-Route Movement leader Dr. Wayne Kublalsingh is really on a hunger strike, whether he's being childish, whether he's trying to prey on public sympathy to manipulate the government, etc.

I'm interested in none of it.

For the purposes of this particular post, I'm not even interested in whether the Movement's cause is worthy or representative of the feelings of everyone in their community.

What I'd like to look at for a minute is what he's doing in the context of our society.

Wayne Kublalsingh doesn't live in area that's about to be razed in preparation for the Mon Desir to Debe section of the new highway. He doesn't have any personal ties to the issue. In fact, he was only called into this fight because of his success in preventing the construction of the proposed aluminum smelter in La Brea (where he also does not live). Despite the fact that he has no personal dog in this fight, he's announced that he's prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice to defend the perspective of these people.

Whether he has really abstained from food or water for the past six days (today will be the seventh), or is just engaging in a "Muslim fast" (as at least one person has joked), the man is taking a stand that is very unusual in T&T.

How so?

We here don't suffer for anyone. Ever. We're a people that will watch one community protest and burn tyres over a lack of water and terrible roads (in 2012) and barely bat an eyelash before turning around and doing the exact same thing just days later in our own communities. We'll watch families cry out for help when their houses burn down, or loved ones are slain in the streets by criminals (or police) and feel nothing, but when it happens to us, we cry in front of TV cameras about the fact that no one seems to care.

That's how we live.

Before I (very uncomfortably) began watching the already-thin Kublalsingh waste away, it was inconceivable to me that anyone here would take such a stand for themselves, let alone for others. I imagine that it was similarly unimaginable for the government. Which is why they've begun their typical reactionary response, lashing out in every which way, except the one way that would actually bring the matter to the quickest close possible.

So Works and Infrastructure Minister Emmanuel George is calling Kublalsingh a liar, Housing Minister Dr. Roodal Moonilal is calling him childish and questioning whether he's been sneaking eats on the side, and Legal Affairs Minister Prakash Ramadhar is claiming that the issue has changed since he was involved (because, lest we forget, he and his government once spoke against this very highway).

And then, there's the Prime Minister herself, who penned a letter to Kublalsingh and his mother expressing her 'concern' and reiterating her commitment to the nation and sent it to them ... as they sat right outside her office. Because to go out there and meet the man who is willing to starve to fix an injustice (perceived or not) would be to give in. And the most important thing here is to win.


What about the rest of us? Those who are too busy with the daily grind to take any kind of active interest in what's going on around us. We who sit around waiting for the world to change instead of getting up and doing something about the myriad issues we spend our free time griping about. What do we do when we see a man take a stand in a way that is all but unheard of in our culture? We laugh. We sneer. We try to undermine by quibbling about how many calories are necessary to qualify for a hunger strike.

But what we're really doing is trying to hide our cowardice. Because we know, deep down, that we wouldn't be willing to take such a stand, regardless of the issue.

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