Monday, September 15, 2014

Dear Lizzie and Scotland

Dear Lizzie
I now see how imper-ative it is to finish this treatise, if only so Scotland would learn from the experiment by we colonies with #Independence and #Demokrissy - alas, if we knew then what we know now #DavidCameron could get real fodder.  Still standing barefooted and wondering like your Keatsy countryman if the mile, song, cherry, lead and door et al was, is, or will ever again be, as in ye olde England  ... more sooner than you think coming in #LettersToLizzie

See too Fixing the politics Something is Rotten Part 1 The Emperor's New Tools

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Culturally inappropriate literature

When is literature #CulturallyInappropriate ...we have been inducted and nurtured on culturally irrelevant and culturally inappropriate literature and education through colonisation that still hsndicap our sense of self, values, development and progress...or do they? Does someone living inside an experience have more rights to writing about it than just a visitir? And where does that leave travel literature? Does historical truths have to be fictional truths? more #LettersToLizzie @krisramp @lolleaves

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Bridging Worlds: Callaloo - The Melting Pot Trinidad and Tobago

'Collaloo: The Melting Pot' is the story of Indians living in Trinidad and Tobago, a multi-ethnic, multi-racial nation in the Southern Caribbean, which is inhabited by a diverse set of people, marred by a painful history of imperialism, slavery and migration. A riveting mix of assorted cultures, the place upholds a highly globalized, yet indigenous identity that is critical to its growing collaboration with India in various sectors of development. The film explores the socio-cultural vibrancy of Trinidad and Tobago's Indian diaspora and its indispensable contribution to the evolution of the nation and its economy and culture. The film also looks at the growing potential for investment and commerce with India, with which, it is also bound by a myriad cultural influences in art, music, fashion, films and food.

Rio Claro Through the Kristal bowl SIDS 2014 Rural Regeneration and Sustainable Development

As the world gathers to discuss the plight of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) - what some of us have presented to the UNESCO community to be rebranded as Big Ocean Sustainable States (BOSS) - the vulnerability of islands like ours and the fate of near-coastal districts like those in Nariva/Mayaro in Trinidad and Tobago’s south eastern corner come sharply into focus.
Invited to its centenary celebrations to prophesy what may portend for the Rio Claro of 100 years hence, I envision, in what follows, beyond the ‘bush’ (as the district is often described and the tendency to think of development as urbanisation), to the intrinsic value of ‘bush’ and pronounce on the potential realities of its vulnerability as a SIDS and its sustainability as a BOSS, gleaned from my Kristal ball of research on the interconnectivities of the globe and our island, the global island .TT (Dot TT – Global Island):

Rio Claro 2114: Through the Kristal bowl
Knowledge Centre of .TT, the Global Island
Address by Dr Kris Rampersad Independent Media and Cultural Educator and Producer
 and Trinidad and Tobago Representative on the UNESCO Executive Board
 on Perspectives on Sustainable Development - Rio Claro next 100 years,

Friends, Neighbours, Countryfolks.

I’d wondered when I would get a chance to say that last line, altered from one of Shakespeare’s masterpieces of oratory: Friends, neighbours, countryfolks.
Here, in Rio, it rings true: Though I migrated out on graduation from high school to the big city, and as my mother still says in her exaggerated style, I left her house and never came back- Indeed I have been somewhat of a wanderer since, T and T based, but about 250 global districts and more than 50 countries later, here I am, on home soil. Thank you for inviting me back home.
To be honest growing up near this district, Rio was just a place we passed through enroute to the beach at Mayaro or Guayaguayare. The folks may stop to stock up on ice or other liquid supplies while we young ones crammed as sardines into my brother’s Cortina, would peer over the wings of the always-polished silver angel that graced his car bonnet, wondering when they would get the show on the road: After all, the beach was calling.
Sometimes, on the way back, exhausted and ready for bed, ma or pa would remember they had family around, and we would have to put the sleep creeping up on us, on hold.
So in fact, my roots run somewhat deeper here in Rio, than just neighbour status. My mother was from these parts, Navet, until she was whisked away as a child on the death of her mom to live with an uncle and aunt in Fyzabad, returning to New Grant to begin a family with my father, the Sheriff, in her mid-teens, and sixty years later – she is now a young 80 something, here we are.  Some of our folks still live around here.
Ma’s life, indeed, spans much of the past 100, Rio is now celebrating – That thought struck me with the enormity of the task before me of trying to envision Rio 100 years hence. Would she, as a child in Navet,hav e envisioned anything of what the district has become today? So how can I, begin to approach to do this.
In parenthesis I note here that Rio is celebrating100 years since the trainline enhanced the population of the district.  The soil on which we are now, holds more than 10,000 year old history and heritage which we need to harness which is where I see its future. These are the kinds of specificities of our history that we need to be conscious of and that we need to correct – including misrepresentations replicated on our National Coat of Arms and National Anthem.
In preparation for this, I did what anyone of the now generation would do: I put out a call on social media – they call it crowdsourcing: ‘Share your thoughts? What would Rio look like in the next 100 years?’ I got plenty ‘likes’ ad thumbs up, but no thoughts save one who advised to consult a politician sitting here today, not at the head table.
Sigh! So much to do to develop critical thinking. I wasn’t looking for ‘likes’ or commendations, but ideas.
So I did the next best thing when faced with such a dilemma. Research. And like everyone of the now generation, I started on the internet. I was thrilled. The Rio Claro/Mayaro Corporation actually had its own website, complete with a waving national flag and pretty pictures. I immediately felt welcomed. But skimming through looking for plans I saw that its vision ended 2013. And then I saw this at the bottom of the municipal's page: LAST UPDATED: SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 25, 2011.
 You have to be a researcher to understand what a kill joy that is. Seems not only the historical but also the contemporary history reflected in the Kristal waters around this district are a little bit murky.
I searched further and found the Rio Claro/Mayaro Development plan. I was already familiar with the Ministry’s national development plans having participated in one of its consultations and made some suggestions which I am yet to see reflected therein. You see, the National Plans identify various growth poles for Trinidad and Tobago, but there is none for this region, even with the enormous potential of what the area contains identified in its regional plans.
 The beach pictures on the Municipal Corporation’s website  triggered thoughts of global warming, sealevel rise and vulnerability of what the so called developed world call small island developing states – SIDS -  but what myself and a couple colleagues from the Pacific/Oceanic region on the UNESCO Executive Board in Paris are now trying to change to Big Ocean Sustainable States: BOSS. But that is harder than trying to change the Trinidad and Tobago Constitution. It means moving 193 countries in the UN system to agree. Pressure!
In addition, I looked at the data and projections on sea level rise from climate change (with its associated erosion, flooding and submergence of land); the potential for earthquakes and other natural vulnerabilities to which we may be subjected. And I drew from my travel/research experiences: Port Royal, Jamaica, sunk by earthquakes of 1692 and 1907 – buried below the sea; nearby in Guyana, parts of what used to be its coastline is now invisible – in the sea; no different than parts of Cedros, here and the Mayaro/Guayaguyare coastline.
It’s a heavy thought. Would Rio even be around in the next 100 years? I couldn’t come here, like a prophet of doom and gloom. I wanted a more positive flavour for my home district.
With this looming sense of hopelessness, in desperation I turned to my Kristal ball. Yes. I have one of those. Every consultant should in times like these, when all other sources fail, one must have something to consult, ent?
My Kristal ball is a little murky itself: dust had accumulated, especially in the spots around Trinidad and Tobago, because it had been a while since I had been called by my islands to look into it and share its prophesy.
My friends call it my fishbowl without fish. My niece has threatened to throw it out. It contains no fish, nor any fluid transparent liquid that transforms into visions of the future. It is really a glass fishbowl with an accumulation of nondescript rocks and pebbles – of no value or worth to anyone except to myself – from the soil of the some 250 districts in more than 50 countries I’ve visited: some to prepare communities like this one to be empowered, resilient communities and face whatever the future may hold.
My Kristal bowl of pebbles surfaced this memory: from North England, near what is now known as Hogwart’s Castle from the Harry Potter film complete with a princess whose specialty is poisonous herbs! I was invited to speak at the World Summit on Arts and Culture in 2005 and went on a field visit to this place. Keilder Forest: looks so much like Biche forest: art and architecture transformed this region from bush it was considered to be – with the darkest skies in all England, they say: into a carefully managed world attraction close to half a million a year and could have more ifit wasn't controlled. An observatory, to watch the night sky in all its glory and make use of the darkest skies in all England;
The skyscape is viewed through what we would call an obsokey building, but enter it and you’d realise that the artist who designed it meant to change the way you look at the sky, forever. It includes a cycling trail, bits of manmade art scattered around the woods that regenerated what was believed to be a district in decline into a vibrant visitor retreat and a place locals value and enjoy.
Even without the manmade art and architecture, the Biche forest is a natural wonder: the self-growing stone, the vegetation, and something else I’ll share later. I got lost in there once on a hike with Dr Brinsley Samaroo. There was a reason for that, you may be astounded at what I found.
My Kristal ball moved a little further north on the globe: Glasgow, Scotland. In 2007 I participated in a global civil society summit, where I presented what that movement now knows as CivicCalypso: a calypso recounting the value of the civil society movement, and my experience of the New Lanark World Heritage site. Rio’s rural agricultural character could extract something from this example. New Lanark had revolutionised the labour practices for the cotton industry in Europe, and New Lanark recreates that industrial heritage along with the near half a million visitors it attracts annually. It also revitalised interest in the district's wool textiles sector.
You see, organisations like UNESCO, in its sustainable development thrust is friendly to how industry changes the world. For the last three years I have met with enthusiastic nods mixed with mounting rumblings every time I speak about World Heritage status for Trinidad and Tobago – with murmured fears that such moves would negatively affect the oil industry. So far from the truth. In fact, the nomination I have presented of an ecosystem of Trinidad and Tobago’s natural, cultural and industrial heritage that incorporates the collective values of several of our elements into an unparalleled global continuum and to which Rio and its surrounding district is pivotal, has already won widespread support in the international community. It is now for us to move our officials to action.
My Kristal ball is now moving away from Europe which you might say is rich and developed to an island, like ours: Bali, Indonesia. The year is 2011 so clearly this Kristal fishbowl with rocks not fish has no sense of chronology. I am participating as an Independent member of the consultative body of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee on Intangible Cultural Heritage and your Member of Parliament, and now Minister of Community Development who was then the Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism is representing Trinidad and Tobago and I am sure he has much to share of that experience.
Everywhere one turns, it seems, talent and art coming out of stone, literally too. I only last week heard the current Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism describe Trinidad and Tobago in those words “talent growing from the pavements.” Bali lives it: in one example, a UNESCO programme on strengthening its intangible cultural heritage has helped transformed its batik cottage industry into a multimillion dollar international trade, providing employment for what is considered the world’s most populous country, with a satellite of spinoff industries in tourism, agriculture, all tied into attractive interwoven natural, tangible and intangible heritage industries.   
There are countless other downstream spin offs too: as each of these draw crowds of tourists who throng to Bali for its sun, sand, sea, and Bali has another “S” – not the one that you may be thinking of, but for its spirituality that has gained added impetus from the book and movie Eat Pray Love. All heritage tourism which it combines into arts and crafts tourism – because people curious about how things are done, and agricultural tourism, and its natural eco tourism, flocking to the ornate terraced rice fields and the range of what is sold as ‘attractions’ but is really the everyday life of the average citizen. That’s what heritage is about: being what you are can be an attractive commodity – and we all know that apart from how we does walk, talk and cook, we does make good company.
Even without the terracing, the site of rice fields is beautiful, with the sun reflecting off them. Some of us here have planted rice at one time, right? It seems like drudgery that work, but when you add appreciation and wonder to any task it becomes noble – ask anyone in Bali.
In connecting the dots of my research, I also went to the neighbouring island, home of Java Man, one of the earliest humanoid known so I could draw the connecting dots to our own best kept secret on the site next door to here where Banwari was found. This is the site. I took time to get there from Bali, is also a World Heritage site, really a wilderness but endowed with value that we need to start developing for our own.
And incidentally, I met no one, not a single person in Bali who had dreams of leaving the island. That’s what connection to self, through heritage, supported by a state system, can do. That’s what we mean when we talk about building resilient communities.
That’s what we do, as we have done, my Kristal ball is changing coordinates to closer home now:
Brasilia, most recently. There to devise plans for World Heritage for the next decade, earlier this year in May – alas, just before the World Cup: someone clearly got their timing wrong. But it was opportune to be in this city before it was overrun by football fans.  
In the 1960s, a rare, you might say, visionary politician, decided to listen to a prophesy of a century earlier – for true – and move the capital of Brazil from Rio de Janeiro to Brasilia, lock, stock and barrel as we say. He must have been an extraordinary politician because he didn’t mind people dreaming bigger than him. In fact, he got someone to dream up a design for the city and an architect to fill it with some of the most astounding buildings I have ever seen: and that’s what the Brazilian capital looks like: Awesome and awe-inspiring from every angle, and carefully managed with laws that protect the city from overpopulation that is now threatening. So it’s not about just putting up buildings, but having the back up resources, infrastructure, legislation and policy to maintain and protect them and I can present on how this city has done this, as well as several others we have worked/are working with including those in the Caribbean: Cuba, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis, Guyana, Curacao etc.
At the back of my mind, this picture of doom still lurks. Who’s to say that with the flooding in Port of Spain, as the sea reclaims with was taken from it – how many of you know Port of Spain is built on land reclaimed from the sea - Well, with sea level rise, the perpetuation of flooding etc, it is not difficult to imagine that there might soon be a need to find a new capital. (I described this in my most recent book LiTTscapes, published as a commemorative book for the 50th anniversary of Independence: One of our Trini writers, Arthur De Lima in a book called The Great Quake envisioned the city destroyed by an earthquake and we all having to return to rurality. Remember I mentioned Port Royal in Jamaica, now below the sea and which we are preparing for World Heritage status. Who knows, Rio Claro could envision itself as the future capital, with its own portals to the sea, as Brasilia, built in the 1960s, with such breath and vision, and is considered the world’s most modern city, and since inscribed as such and as a World Heritage city: so UNESCO not only looking for old ruins, you see. The vibrancy of our own lives make several of our districts candidates and in the continuum I am preparing, unparalleled.
I thought that would be enough by way of comparison to now lay out my vision for this district for the next 100 years, but my Kristal bowl was on a roll…remember I have about 250 districts in it from more than 50 countries across Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas; we’ve only drifted through four.
It hurriedly turned to Peru. In 2013 to work with others in the region to help develop the Latin American and Caribbean regional blueprint for intangible cultural heritage in Cuzco, the centre of  the 12th century Inca civilisation, headquarters in breathtaking (literally, high up above the sea) MachuPichu – a world heritage site with Cuzco itself being a centre of intangible cultural heritage. They say the Inca empire lasted just about 100 years – by the way – perhaps an historical accuracy, but a lot can happen in a 100 years you see. The Inca empire extended in its heyday all the way through to Argentina, and not just in its remarkable feats of building at high altitudes, and an astounding road networks, but it has also left a legacy of an ability to feed itself through time tried agricultural practices of hydrology and fertilisation. Peru’s boast even today is its self sufficiency in food and I note that’s one of the dreams in the development plans for this district is self-sufficiency in food. Virtually all of Peru’s basic food needs are met from home grown food. Its import bill comprises only nonessential luxuries and it is justifiably called the cuisine capital of the Americas, with some of the most startling flavours for the taste buds I have ever experienced. I know, having returned a few pounds heavier, and I am not talking about my luggage.
The Kristal ball, in its now self-driven frenzy landed next, on Peru’s neighbour and ours, on Belize. Over the last couple years I have been developing and conducted heritage training for the range of stakeholders from policy and decision makers to communities and knowledge holders and practitioners  fields, not just culture, and developing what is now becoming something of a blueprint for such training in the Caribbean which we have replicated in Jamaica, Grenada, St Kitts, Guyana. So we worked with talented people in agriculture, in traditional knowledge and medicine, in arts, craft, culture, and policy makers and tourism officials and educators and archaeologists and museum specialists and researchers to pull their vision together for sustainable heritage and tourism development – from things like new textbooks and educational materials for schools to teach local Garifuna language; or identifying gaps in the macro infrastructure: like trade mechanisms etc. Belize, one of our Caribbean/Commonwealth neighbours has an astounding Mayan heritage, you know. We walked through the seven hour process of making pastelles – we think that’s from the Spanish, but it’s Mayan, or maybe earlier -  I may not have time to explain those elements of my research in detail here.
Belize was part of the Mayan Empire that dominated the region from about 3000 BC. You would never look at bush the same way again, because buried under and disguised as mountains and forests are thousands of Mayan constructions – they estimate about 2,500, and there are living Mayan communities, as there are Incas too – the colonials didn’t kill them all out as our history books tell us, you know, though they took much else from them; but they exist and in thriving numbers similar stories from Guyana, Suriname our neighbours, Dominica. Hence the need to inject our history books with all this new knowledge that is surfacing and which I have been trying to gather in my research and travels and interviews across the region of local communities, some which few people can reach.
Now suddenly, my Kristal ball, is not murky anymore and the clouds have cleared and I realise what it has been trying to tell me to say about Rio Claro in the next 100 years; and that, even if we are all washed away by sea level rise or taken down by an earthquake, and may not be around, at least not in the glory of the ancient Mayans and Incas but as lesser mortals if a natural disaster strikes; if the powers forbide, an earthquake shatters all these nice plans we have for sustainability and take away our oil rigs and city skyscrapers, and highways and all those things we hold so dearly as markers of our development. If the sea rose up again it does in my little concept video of this research I have undertaken with the working title of .TT (Dot TT) - Global Island which you can see on youtube and of which this vision for Rio 2114, is now a part.
So mine is not just a 100 year but a =-10,000 year old vision casting back and forward; one backed by a ten year plan for Rio and its sustainability into perpetuity. The thread through all I have seen, the work with communities and officials, the experiences of peoples and cultures and lifestyles, the site visits and field trips and case studies. 
What is the one thing that has stood the test of time; that has made the Mayans and Incas endure; that lend tone and texture to Brasilia’s and the Keilder forest’s modern art-architecture, and Bali’s astounding creative energies?
It is only hinted at in the plans we have before us in our national blue print and then glossed over but it really should be our central focus and it would easily be activated for this region of T&T with the highest poverty levels but the lowest population and crime levels; and its abundance of resources terrestrial, oceanographic and fresh air: agriculture, rainforest, swampland, sea…
What did I see so clearly in my Kristal ball? 
A sea of knowledge. The missing element: the spaces that connect the dots on the map of my travel experience and localising that for the benefit of us here. Rio, which sits virtually at the centre of SouthTrinidad can easily be the pivotal point of harnessing all that this district from the Pitch Lake, Naparima Hill, mud volcanoes, archeological elements, to the industrial of not just petroleum but also agriculture and literary intellectual heritage and arts and culture and other living heritage elements – an unparalleled and incomparable positioning of our global island in its microcosmic universality of interconnected natural, cultural and industrial heritage and the clear picture that I am accumulating in my research complete with maps etc, drawn from the some 250 plus districts in the more than 50 countries I have visited, researched and piecing together as the story of us, .TT.
This Southern, latitudinal half of the island; and eastern, longitudinal half, both invisible in our national development plans today, remain the richest legacy we have of ourselves, in conversation with our cities, and of mammoth significance not just to us, but also to the entire Americas, the Caribbean and the globe in its natural and cultural heritage, and linked as we are indelibly through migrations in natural and cultural spheres into the infinite past and indefinite future. Therein is our OUV – what the UNESCO community call outstanding universal value- ; what makes us incomparable - not in the singularity but in the collective.
So why aren’t we delving into this knowledge to learn more of ourselves.
Why aren’t we bringing together our resources, our knowledge and our technologies – yes, we need the technologies and the resources of the petroleum sector to work with us on collating and recreating our heritage and we need to delve deeper and harness the knowledge that lay in and around this district and its neighbouring regions; to utilise the hundred to young graduates being offered free education to tertiary level but few meaningful jobs.
None of us can do it alone: We need to harness our knowledge resources of genetics, astronomy, archaeology; the commonsense in folkstories and legends; the vision from our art and architecture for our own personal global lifestory.
The Minister of Tertiary Education has announced a CoSTAAT centre for Rio Claro: May I suggest, why just a centre; why not a campus for knowledge of ourselves and our multifaceted heritage (like the law one planned for next door). A Shangri-La, where we can harness all this knowledge, so that when all of us are gone - come hell (bullets spraying out our brain) or high water – sea level rise - we would have left something of ourselves to perpetuity.
That’s my ten year plan, and my 100 year projetion with its 10,000 year vision with timelines and actions and projected outcomes, and budget too which the economists among us, like Mr Ronald Ramkission, would be pleased to know. It is not just about a quick fixed to win the next elections. The President, who built Brasilia was exiled for awhile following his term, you know, is the city’s premier hero - a huge monument has been justifiably built in his honour and no one in Brasilia questions that award! It is not just about a quick fixed to win the next elections. It is about legacy, and what legacy we as Trinis want to leave the world.
Perhaps this moment can springboard us into that future for Rio, in the next 100 years, a sustainable future, one where the knowledge we leave will live long after the hi-rises and the highways turn to dust.
The alternative reality? In losing our past, we also lose our future….

I thank you.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Fixing the politics Something is Rotten Part 1 The Emperor's New Tools

I changed the constitution. I woke up one morning and decided that I would begin the day with lunch
rather than with breakfast. Then I waited for the body
(politic) to protest.
Sure enough, it did, Angrily. Vehemently. Vociferously. Luckily I was adequately stocked on toilet paper and other supplies required for exactly such a s-ituation when it hit the airwaves. I tried calming it with a particularly two particular compositions, Dreams, and Nightmare, by Ravi Shankar-Beatles-George Harrison to which I have recently been introduced, which didn't quite work, so I played them simultaneously and they created enough of a chaotic musical cacophony to drown out my body politic's grumblings, gruntings, churnings. Then I waited to see the post-constitution change effects.
I waited for the accustomed hunger pangs when lunchtime came around. None. I was in a quandary. What meal should I eat now? Breakfast or dinner? But I was not hungry. In fact, I felt some extra energy. I spent my habitual lunchtime exercising. Then I made myself a fresh squeeze of barbadine juice. My own non-lacto-concoction, minus the douses of condensed and carnation milk everyone used: That would have evoked another anti-democratic riot in my body politic. This innovation was just plain barbadine, de-seeded and peeled, crushed, chilled, water added with a touch of honey. Yum.
By dinner time I was moderately hungry so no big fanfare there.  A homegrown childhood favourite, I opted for some freshly made zaboca choka (crushed zaboca with sauted pepper, garlic and onions in a spot of oil and dash of salt) served with sada roti.Yum-Yum.
I thought I might wake up at midnight, wanting breakfast, anticipating my constitution to protest that it needed to return to its regular routine. But the initial convulsions began to subside which each day's radical meal reversal. I did this for a week, varying the fresh juice, sometimes using another of my own concoctions of lemongrass and bayleaf boiled in cinnamon, clove and cardamon as the liquid base for non-dairy sour sop, passion fruit, carambola, pawpaw, and pommecythere. By the end of the week, I had shed some some unwanted weight in the process.
Feeling thus refreshed, renergised, and re-tooled, with a renewed sense of independence and self-determination of having devised a meal plan constituted to my own work hours, I then turned my attention to the external brouhaha that I had been trying to ward off for the last few weeks. This matter of Constitution Reform. Honest, I wasn't waiting for a multimillion dollar consultant contract to share my opinion, just to clear some of the bile from my system, that this new variation to the constitution of my meals facilitated.
I could already hear the comments - the chuckles of those who think I must be coming with some analogy to my renewed sense of purpose and the raging Constitution Reform hullabaloo; and the sneers from others: she now going defend them changes because she write book about the current incumbent in government, and she from that particular ethnic group, too. I was tempted to return to the oblivion of my own constitutional rearrangements.
Wrong. Because if there is an analogy there, it isn't a parallel one, or I am yet to establish that. So let's see. This is what my new mental frame was churning out. One question:
So that's what it will take to fix the politics?
Well, the one question multiplied out into others, creating a cacophony in my head, that itself drowned out the kankalang outside.
So that's what it will take to set Trinidad and Tobago on a progressive part to its future, armed for the challenges of the next century? That takes into account the kind of society our politicians and other leaders will be called on to manage into the next millennium? That is what would solve the continual bacchanalia and rolling heads of Ministers listed by Denise Demming in this compilation of the 21 Ministers who drifted through the People's Partnership Government in just about 50 months in office, and the fall of the previous regimes through a variety of reasons ranging from downright incompetence to disrespect of women and others? That will fix the sceptre of corruption that has gone unanswerable in relation to all our home-grown governments since Independence: O-Hallaran, UDeCOTT et al? That will solve the continuing crumbling of the Integrity Commission, Police/Prisons Service Commissions and other mechanisms set up by the Independence and Republican Constitutions to guard our democracy but which have been so tied to the skirt tails of interdependency on already tottering executive, legislature and judiciary systems of a Constitution that was born with the genes of Benjamin Button - already archaic even as it was born.
Now there's a real analogy, I thought. These folks trying to make the 50-something year old Constitution, borrowed from centuries old genes of the WestMinster parliamentary system, transplanted half way across the world to a society comprising an amalgam of people also transplanted from various parts of the world through various degrees of autocratic machinations, young again.
And they using Benjamin Button genes to do it, and hoping that that would help the loss of confidence in not just the political, but also the judicial, and other social systems on which the wheels of progress are meant to turn.
The slaughter of innocent children; the floundering health system even with the impending threat of Ebola, compounded with Chikungunya, TB, Cholera, dengue, et al. That's what it would take? I was listening to the debate on the Bill in the Lower House by members of both sides of the House, anticipating now the debate to begin shortly in the Upper House.
The questions were creating a riot in my body politic, trashing around like the unconstitutional trashings being meted our to out-of-season bobolees.
So that would help return the loss of respect for law and order; solve the Dana Seetahal assassination growing cold 100-days plus, myriad murders and all the other cold cases Selwyn Richardson and the wake of other truncated lives and bodies in various stages of decomposition, which, to borrow from Shakespeare as we all do 'smells to high heaven? That would return us the money squandered on the unsportsmanly LifeSport, NAPA and UDeCoTT-driven squandermania that surfaced from that high-cost enquiry? That would help refocus national budgets to build and support the remarkable talents and skills of our people so they can develop home grown industries and initiatives that can allow them to stand on their own two feet even as economies crumble around them? That would help the life of disconnected school going youths and the 2250+++ sporting young boys and girls who are offered all the opportunities of being schooled - if not educated - from cradle to university, free, and then remedial education free, but still can't read and write?
Ohhh, like Rushdie's Midnight's Children these questions were tumbling over each other in my head as I tried to hear myself say to myself amid the uproar, ramajay-style noisemaking-in-the-large by many who were 'liking' and supporting positions and pounding on effigies of bobolees for reasons they perhaps hardly understood nor had taken the time to go beyond what someone else was saying, through the near 24-hours debate by several sides of elected politicians in the Lower House that has now moved upstairs to the Senate.
I've scanned the comments, journeyed through the proposals and counter remarks (didn't find much counter proposals) looking for answers.
The questions churned out like the raging convulsions in my stomach. That would encourage people to come out to vote; that would help people feel more connected to the political system? That will encourage the noise makers to shed biases and prejudices and try to examine dispassionately and objectively in the interest of their children and ensuing generations what would allow the centre to hold, come hell-like havoc of earthquakes or the high waters of sea level rise?
And I stood, not in my shoes but barefooted (because it helps me connect to the earth my parents and foreparents tilled and planted and nurtured to build this land we share title deed with others to call home) and I wondered, in Keatsian self-awe, and with a similar song to myself. Yes, I stood barefooted and I wondered ....As in the self same England that was evolving its WestMinster system to suit itself while we held on for dear life to its weighty doorframes.
How many of those expressing opinions here, there and everywhere, malling bobolees like pitbulls, and of those gathered outside of the House taking one side or the other, have read, one or the other (linked below for easy reference to those may now wish to enlighten themselves):
  1. The Constitution of Trinidad and Tobago (and or its previous editions, Independence and Republican versions);
  2. The Proposals for the Reform currently before Parliament;
  3. The Report of the Constitution Reform Commission (2014)
  4. Reports of Previous Constitution Reform Commissions (Wooding, Hyatali);
  5. Previous drafts for revisions to the Constitution a la Sir Ellis etc.
An informed society is an empowered society. Such empowerment would not come from a clause in a Bill in a piece of legislation. It comes from people taking the time to be informed in which process availing one self of a wide array of primary information along with the opinions and rantings and ravings and others would give one a fair grasp of the nature of the issue at hand. The best form of empowerment. There was a time when knowledge and information was a privileged commodity. People didn't have such easy access to knowledge and information as we do today to act on informed positions.
Years ago I was part of a process of a UN/OAS/Commonwealth civil society lobby for the inclusion of the right to information as a human right. All the above cited documents are in the public domain and available for reading. It is our democratic right and responsibility if we want to be part of this machinery of change to access them and peruse them. True, much of the jargon is sometimes incomprehensible to lay people who must rely on the so-called experts, but read something original and form an opinion, nah. But in the end, do they in any way spell out or reflect the kind of society we want for ourselves. What's the vision?
I stood barefoot and pregnant with such musings.
One would be surprised how refreshed, energised and rejuvenated, one's constitution becomes when one confronts imminent change.
But then one has to force the travesty of such informed experts and graduated political pundits pronouncing WestMinster as WestMinister. I get lacto-style diarrheaic stomach cringes every time I hear the so called learned political pundits, mooks and politicians in high office too, say West Minister system. Politics 101: there is NO such thing as West Minister, not a type of governance system, not a parliament in the UK, not the district after which it was named. They are all called WestMinster, just an indication of how remote we are from the system that govern us and just one of the many examples that show how diarrhearically loose and lax our education system has become, on the basics.
So these Constitution reforms proposed are going fill the gaps and educate the educators, guard the guards, allow justice for those crying out for justice, feed the thousands living below the poverty line when our GDP sets us climbing beyond mid to high level development status? Eh?
Would it?
But it should.
The clamour for changes to the Constitution reflect a need for changes that are more fundamental than shuffling the pack of political leadership, hanging someone's jack or acing a spade. It requires mature politicians willing to put country first, but it requires mature citizens too to recognise when they are being lead, blindly and sheepishly and responding to drums that are sounding notes of someone else's agenda.
#Demokrissy has maintained that position through the most recent processes of Constitutional engagement and before. Constitutional and any other reform measures must position us to deal with not just today's realities, but the tsunami of changes that are heading our way with a world that is grinding on wheels hardly envisioned when the Constitution took its birth as an old man in an embryonic society.
Demokrissy has pointed out that there is little in the latest and indeed previous constitution reports to suggest that the authors had a vision of the next century through which the new governance system must endure, nor provisions to deal with them a la the challenges and toppling of age old regimes the last decade through Arab Spring and American Summer meltdowns, Asian autumns and European winters. Demokrissy has pointed out that there must be alternatives closer home to the wedge in which we have lodged our thoughts of trying to find a model governance system between the two already failing US Presidential and UK Parliamentary systems. In the Introduction to Through The Political Glass CeilingClash of Poltical Cultures: Cultural Diversity and Minority Politics in Trinidad and Tobago, I had pointed out the gaps in the accepted political analyses of our context: the growing gap of representation that parliamentary representation does not capture; elements that have remained disenfranchised by the franchise system; growing numbers who have been disinclined to cast a vote or enter the political system because it is inherently self-destructive; realities resulted in what were believed to be the unanticipated political eruptions and landslide elections of 1986 and 2010 and deadlock years of disappointment and inertia, in between. Demokrissy had posited that that was the challenge that every leader had been held to and to which they have been held wanting, and would be the test of this or any other.
Are we any closer to bridging those gaps? Have we as a society  been able to bridge historic distrust and suspicion and skepticism of ourselves and those we see as 'others' that were planted by those charged to leader on independence but whom instead nurtured divisions to secure power bases?.And is that challenge and responsibility only for those who are in politics, or is it not one for all of us - the body politic; we, the people. But maybe we the people, like our leaders, need to purge ourselves of the prejudices of the past.
The current convulsions are evidence that our society is trying to regain control of our tottering democracy which for too long has stood on archaic sluggish, self indulgent systems, most of which have been grinding to a halt for some time now, stuck in interdependency on each other, under the guise of independence: we see it in the seeming ineffectiveness of the judiciary, the parliament and other social system in a near deadlock of tangled intertwinnings.  Demokrissy would challenge anyone to identify which system set up by our Constitution is indeed independent.We have had to build our independence on these systems and structures of dependency. Changing the Constitution requires more fundamental changes, strengthening of these, not just manipulation of the power game.

I do not yet see any of the proposals, nor the circus before us, trying to address that: stepping back and surveying the scene of what really would it take to govern a society like ours in the context of its own realities, not someone-else's, and not borrowed from elsewhere which has devised solutions to deal with their own realities. The UK's move to address its constitutional realities are focused on its own processes; Bahamas has just moved to review its citizenship arrangements to suit its contexts; Barbados and Jamaica are in processes of reform, also convulsive. Their realities are not altogether ours.
Change can be a revolting notion to many, and revolt might be a significant first step to effecting change, but history has taught us that revolt without vision and without strategic direction is like a diet without a plan, and change happens only by those brave enough to try it.
Or decades hence, after all the brouhaha, we may find ourselves still standing barefooted or in our shoes wondering,  why the ground is as hard ...see green box with orange writings
Now I wonder how my body politic will respond were I to review the constitution of meals and make dinner the first meal of my day.
Next: Fixing the leadership: Something is Rotten x 2

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