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Small courtesies, common goodgood

Published: 
Sunday, January 28, 2018

That rainy day when puddles settled in crevices of enclosed car park I stood by the entrance to a building holding the door open to man after man who walked in and out, none seeing the irony of it, none allowing me to pass, I remembered my father’s oft-repeated words “When small courtesies go, the big ones go.”

So there are men who don’t hold a door open for women or anyone anymore, perhaps never have or never will. Small thing, except it’s not. Because courtesy is about the value we place on life and people around us. Everyone, even strangers matter. The life around us matters.

When I finally got through the door I spent a broody morning in a coffee shop waiting for someone with whom I had a work related appointment. She didn’t show up.

I made the usual excuses. This is Trinidad after all. People don’t show up when they say they will. People don’t return calls. Small thing, except it’s not. It’s saying to people ‘you don’t count. Your time doesn’t count.’

This failure to return calls has led to our ruinous work ethic, drives investors away. I’m thinking of the diplomat who said he couldn’t get through to a government agency to meet the conditions to donate millions of dollars of aid to us. Time is money, but in Trinidad there is more than enough to waste, or was. Still, we waste it.

I was tired that morning so I sat in the café thinking, reading the papers.

My nerves were frazzled because I hadn’t been able to sleep. I, like thousands of others had been subject to hours and hours of noise pollution consisting of soca and chutney ‘artistes’ (whatever that is) shouting obscenities and infantilised orders to drink, jump, grind etc.

The EMA is such a toothless bulldog that it isn’t an option. No one answers the phone there either when fetes are on.

In the papers there was a large photo of an ‘artiste’ shoving his groin into the behind of a barely clothed woman. I’m no prude. I’ve ‘played’ mas. It’s fun for an afternoon, but someone has to explain the excellence in monosyllabic shouts and groin thrusts to me, explain why semi porn has to be funded by the State. That, I was supposed to understand after years of living here, is our ‘cul-tere’.

I recently saw a woman teaching her child, no more than three, to ‘wine’ around Nelson Mandela park. It’s not culture, it’s an early indoctrination to sex, with a direct correlation to the thousands of cases of child sex abuse being reported to the Children’s Authority.

There was a story of Government giving a chutney singer a prize for a million dollars. In a recession? That’s our priority? Isn’t culture the creative and intellectual expression of a peoples world view? Shouldn’t we glorify excellence, composition and lyrics instead of gyration in soca?

Shouldn’t we honour the sciences and arts, academia, professions and a trade; celebrate good parenting and civic citizens? Isn’t this the stuff of culture? We have had great minds amongst us—from Williams to Capildeo, Naipaul to Walcott. All disappearing, dead.

Or is culture the dumbing down of T&T? What if the lack of civility, and lethargy comes from the top? Oil has enabled our State to be both the largest employer and consumer.

Sadly when oil prices drop, there is an immediate recession. Thousands in the private and public sector lose their jobs since there is no oil money to support them.

With our oil crutch there is no need to fix broken communities, grapple with drugs or guns or children going home to empty homes after school, an education that left most functionally illiterate and being parented by gangs.

Later while driving I glimpsed dug up parks (for the fete which sported gorgeous white tents) and by way of contrast the pathetic sight of the interim green camouflage roof at the once splendid, now condemned President’s House which I was lucky enough to visit many times.

Everywhere, a no-show. We value tents over historical buildings. The small courtesies are disappearing, and with it, the big ones.

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