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Before I delve into the essay on Makandal Daaga, I send condolences to the Daaga family and NJAC organization. I can’t claim to know the former leader of NJAC. My only interaction with him was in 2009 when I visited Trinidad to conduct Field research for my dissertation on the OWTU.
Originally, Daaga had agreed to grant an interview which Carolyn Sampson had worked so hard to set up. On the day in question, Daaga refused the request and he began to ramble some nonsense about the elections. I left the Duke street headquarters of NJAC very disappointed that I didn’t get the interview because I knew Dagga and George Weekes had developed a close relationship during the hey days of the 1970 Black Power Revolution.
Even though I was disappointed, I felt rather saddened by the news I received from my good friend (a former NJAC official) that NJAC received money from the PP to join them to contest the General election. It is in this context that I have entitled the essay The “Four Daagas” because Daaga’s life and contribution should be placed in different time periods and contexts: Dagga as Geddes Granger, Dagga as Makandal Daaga, Dagga as the Maximum leader and Daaga as the sold out leader.
From my perspective, it is critical that we engage in a discourse on the contribution of Daaga by examining the NJAC archives, and manuscripts located nationally, regionally, and globally. Only when historians begin to mine these documents we will have a clear picture of Dagga’s contribution to Trinidad and Tobago. As a trained historian, I reject the “Great Man theory” that places heroes at the centre of history.
This theory states, “… history can be largely explained by the impact of "great men", or heroes, highly influential individuals who, due to their personal, intelligence, wisdom, or political skill utilized their power in a way that had a decisive historical impact.”
I write from the perspective of “History from Below” and argue that it is the people who are in the vanguard of any revolutionary movement. While I agree that leaders arise to speak on behalf of the movement, often, their vision is diametrically opposed to that of the people they purport to lead.
Therefore, let us all dismiss the emotional talk in the streets that suggest Daaga deserved the perks he received from the PP government. If that is the case, then, we can make the case for other leaders who once spouted revolutionary rhetoric and became willing agents of the system that they once opposed.
With the passage of time, and with the unearthing of more historical evidence, let us as historians engage in meaningful discourse on Daaga from different perspectives and write a body of work that will add to the historiography of the 1970 Black Power Revolution. Farewell Daaga, you played your part. Now, let the historians write about the “Four Daagas".
As part of the activation of the 14 engines of the national economy, President Nicolas Maduro said to activate the Urban Agriculture Plan which serves to boost and strengthen food sovereignty.
Doing a thorough analysis of this plan, the Urban Agriculture is defined itself as one method of cultivation made at home, community and city providing food products of different types of planting such as grains, vegetables, fruits and animal poultry origin, rabbits, goats, sheep, cattle, pigs, fish and non-food as aromatic, medicinal, ornamental plants, among others.
Taking into account its contribution to the sustainable development of societies and food security of families, urban agriculture is the new line of action in the Venezuelan economy.
Despite of all attempts to make this not happen, the Bolivarian Economic Agenda (BEA) has found its own path and has served to avoid the worst deprivation ushered in by neoliberalism; it served thus as another way to protect the people against this adverse time. It is not and will not be easy. The fall in oil prices, international financial strangulation against our country, in addition to the economic war and internal economic imbalances create a complex situation that has no magic solutions. Against this, the BEA seeks to find answers in the short term while seeking structural solutions. And in this dual objective, the productive economy emerges as a necessary condition.
Amid this context, urban agriculture has entered very strongly as a new productive, social, cultural and economic practice. In a very short time, it has established itself as a power player since it was announced by President Nicolas Maduro earlier this year. It is not a new idea because Hugo Chavez himself already talked about this need before the coup of 2002. The importance of rediscovering the agricultural vocation of urban areas called for taking advantage of the verticality of the cities. Urban Agriculture responds to this challenge of the XXI century, and its response becomes more important now, in a situation of economic emergency.
The great potential of this new axis results from the simultaneous combination of multiple features: 1) Appeals to the productive narrative connecting the individual effort of the most diverse subjects with a national collective project; 2) It is formed as an indispensable material bastion of the new productive time; 3) Incorporates a significant stamp of the new economic policy; 4) It gives hope in the building of positive expectations forward; 5) every human being is grafted as a new productive Actor (Urban Agriculture, Human Agriculture), and consequently, economic activity is democratized; ; 6) It is in tune with the territory and returns to the Bolivarian project as a tool for the construction of a political and productive density at a local level; 7) it is more closely linked to the producer and consumer reducing distributor`s dependency; 8) It delineates the morphology of the new productive cities that requires this new stage.
Therefore, urban agriculture would cease to be marginal. On the contrary, it would become an economic centrality and powerful political instrument for this new stage. This compels it to play the directionality of other economic policies (financial, tax, investment, commercial) in favor of itself. For this reason, we must be very ambitious about urban agriculture - we cannot conceptualize it as a trendy, lifestylist fad. It must be promoted on a scale large enough for it to be a practical solution to real social problems."
Until now the first 100 days of Urban Agriculture Plan has been fulfilled with satisfactory results. The first thing that has been achieved is realization of the rationality and common sense connected with this project. It has begun to bear fruit in the real, and now you can eat the new products that are being harvested in the cities themselves. It has been made much progress in respect to its institutionality. It is being able to create effective mechanisms to produce its own seeds and fertilizers.
That is an important step in the productive sovereignty. It also proposes to reorganize public space for this activity and mobilize public in favor of this collective productive project. The next step must be to have own financial instruments (to be part of compulsory productive loans portfolio of public and private banks) to advance with firm steps in order to make this economy irreversible. Urban Agriculture has the challenge of building alliances with the rest of the economic and technology policies and thus achieve a sustainable development as the time goes by.
Urban Agriculture is presented to the country as an effective response to the economic emergency. it doesn`t want to be any patch or a bird of passage. It came to settle in the new economic and social metabolism. Only in this way, it can be done.
After hundreds of years of oppression during which western white civilization was developed on the backs of Africans and their descendants in the new world, the United States as the leader in that configuration, is yet to come to terms with its denial of equal treatment under the law to its black citizens.
The savage cruelties that were inflicted on blacks have not been made evident in the history of the nation that is taught in its schools. The reality that the prosperity of the country and its European allies was founded on the forced labor of African people, and the continuing denial of their human and civil rights, is hidden from the citizenry.
It is understandable, therefore, that a majority of whites in the USA can say that they had nothing to do with slavery, Jim Crow debasement, and the present unequal treatment before the law; and think that the problems of African-Americans are all of their own making.
Many irrefutable studies based on hard statistics have shown the pervasive discrimination against blacks in the areas of employment, housing, funding of schools, and in law enforcement. “The New Jim Crow” is a recent highly regarded exposition on the nationwide injustices by the “justice” system that have impacted hundreds of thousands of African-Americans. And yet the most recent polls show that a majority of whites think that all citizens are treated equally before the law.
How do you explain the black President? To my mind Obama would not have become President if Wall Street had not wrecked the global economy and the debacle of the Iraq war had not taken place. Both had to do with serious indiscretions and bad policy on the part of the politicians. Certainly Obama could not have done worse than those who preceded him.
His election brought about two notable reactions among whites. There were those who hated to see a nigger in the White House; and others who thought that the problems tied to race were now of the past. Experiences of my family members with law enforcement before and during the Obama presidency indicate to us that white bias against blacks is still very much alive. Many of us have unpleasant stories to tell. That these stories span decades indicates that not much has changed as far as the interactions of white police with blacks are concerned.
On the New Jersey Turnpike at about 5 am one summer in the early 1970’s the State Troopers - who were known to be particularly rabid against blacks - pulled over the car in which my three friends and I were traveling to Atlanta.
A car had been tailgating us with a very bright light shining into our car. Our concern turned to anxiety when the siren went on. On the shoulder of the highway they pulled the driver from behind the wheel and took the keys while shouting expletives at us. They searched inside the car and our suitcases in the trunk; told us to start walking. We stood our ground. One of the Troopers threatened to take us into the nearby cornfield and shoot us. After a while they let us go on our way. I still tend to think that maybe our Trinidadian accents saved us - less animosity against foreign niggers.
Fast forward to the mid 2000’s. My son - in his mid-twenties at the time - leaves his apartment to talk with his cousin. My nephew’s girlfriend is with him, so my son sits in the back of the car. Almost instantly the door is opened; he is pulled out and pushed up against the car by a white man in plainclothes. No word that he is a police officer. Another white man went to the driver’s side to confront my nephew who showed his badge and asked what was going on. My nephew is also a New York City police officer.
He was told that my son had come out of the apartment wearing a hoodie. This was several years before Trayvon Martin was murdered in Florida. Imagine the possible consequences if my son had fought his attacker and my nephew was not also a police officer. I should make it clear that all my sons are upstanding citizens.
For another incident where he was falsely arrested the same son sued the city and won a settlement. In that incident he was sitting in his car waiting for another nephew to come out of his house when white plainclothes officers in an unmarked car came along and pulled up alongside. He said that he said goodnight to them. They drove off then returned and asked if he was trying to be funny. One of them attempted to take his duffel bag which was on the seat beside him, and when he resisted he was pulled out of the car. Fortunately he has the wherewithal that he could have hired a lawyer. Tens of thousands of young black and Latino men are coerced into taking plea deals because they cannot afford adequate legal representation; and therefore unjustly end up with a criminal record.
During “Giuliani time”, when some of the worst excesses of the NY Police Department were tolerated if not encouraged by the Mayor, my sons and nephews as teenagers at the time were often harassed by the Police even though we lived in a solid middle class, low crime area of Queens. Even being asked what they were doing there while sitting on the front steps of the house in which we lived.
My nephew who is now a NYPD cop and another son were riding their bikes when they detoured onto the sidewalk to avoid two oncoming bicycle cops, who then turned around and gave them tickets for riding on the sidewalk. Another instance of “broken windows” policing as espoused by Giuliani and Bratton, who is once more the Police Commissioner. But that police indiscretion was too much for the Judge to swallow. The case was dismissed.
My eldest son - about seventeen at the time - came home one evening in tears after he had been stopped by the cops for the umpteenth time for no legitimate reason. In bewilderment he asked me if I thought it was because of the way he dressed. This was long before teenagers and young men began wearing their pants low on their butt.
It was during “Giuliani time” that the young African immigrant Amadou Diallo was gunned down in a fusillade of forty-one bullets in the vestibule of his apartment building while taking out his keys to enter the building. The white plainclothes officers said that they mistook his wallet for a gun. One hot summer night when a pre-teen black boy was gunned down in Brooklyn by a white cop, who said that he mistook his large water gun for the real thing, Giuliani’s response was to ask why the boy’s parents allowed him to be out that late.
The most abhorrent of the incidents in which one of my sons came into contact with the NYPD involved my second to last boy in his High School - Benjamin Cardozo, which had the reputation of being one of the best schools in Queens. He was there for an extra-curricular activity when the Police came and told the School Aides to round up all the black boys in the school, because a girl had reported that an electronic device had been taken from her in a snatch and run episode. (To this day my son does not know what type of device it was.)
My son and two other boys who were in the school at the time were put in a lineup so that the girl could view them from a hidden position. She picked out my son and one of the other boys as the culprits. Common sense should have informed the cops that the real culprits would not have stayed around to be arrested. The girl’s device was not found on my son or the other boy.
His mother and I were worried sick when we got a call from the NYPD - close to midnight - that they had our son in custody. This was several hours after he had been arrested, and by law they should have informed us immediately, as he was under eighteen. We rushed to the Precinct where we were told he was. When we got there they said he had been transferred to Central Booking, which meant he had to spend the night in jail.
I took the week off from work to ensure that my son was not railroaded. In speaking with the Vice-Principal he informed me that the School Administration had informed the cops and the Asst. District Attorney that my son had a good reputation in the School and was very unlikely to have been involved. Speaking with the Asst. District Attorney I informed him that my son owned a Motorola Sidekick which was much desired by the teenagers at the time; and therefore if it was a cell phone that was taken from the girl, why would he need it.
Fortunately the order to suspend my son from school until the case came to trial was rescinded. A lawyer had to be hired to defend him. About two months later when the case came to trial it was dismissed. What about parents who do not have the knowledge and resources to defend their sons? They have to stand by helplessly while they are chewed up in the maw of the “injustice system”.
If what I have described could take place in New York City, the supposed capital of the world where one would think that racially enlightened policing policies would prevail; one must wonder what it is like in the rest of the USA. If the law-abiding young men of ONE black family in New York City have had so many needless negative experiences with white police officers, what can be said of the city as a whole, and furthermore the entire country?
According to the World mainstream press, Venezuela now lives in unprecedented chaos. According to this matrix of opinion, globally widespread, the country is collapsing, nothing works here, that we live under a dictatorship, and the only way out is the removal of the government of current President Nicolas Maduro, for which a recall referendum is being driven.
All this is part of a war that is being waged against the Bolivarian process, which has been trying to build a new for the last 17 years. Consider that these changes are being made within the framework of a democratic system, where the vast majority of the population chose that path through a vote.
The Bolivarian process is held genuinely through the popular vote. Since President Hugo Chavez won in 1998, it has continually been holding open, fair and transparent elections, and it is the people itself that have elected what we have. There is no imposition here. The government that has been elected since then has brought a number of improvements to the population; that is unquestionable. Therefore it is impossible to speak of chaos.
The international right-wing hoped that with the death of Hugo Chavez and the arrival of Nicolas Maduro to the presidency, everything built up over all these years would fall and the progress of the revolution would reverse. But it was not like that. Maduro democratically won the presidency. The Bolivarian process went ahead, albeit with great difficulty, despite the continued harassment to which it is subjected, by the pressures and repeated attacks in all areas.
As a result of all that pressure a situation was created where there are problems. It is true that there is a very complicated economic situation for the population. The declining oil prices internationally represented a blow to the national economy.
Unfortunately we remain a rentier country without our own production and rely on imports for almost everything, even food. The price of a barrel of oil fell to $ 20 as a result of the manipulation of the stock exchanges trying to bomb Venezuela [as well as Russia and Iran, all major oil producers], having come down from $200 at one time and that very largely dismantled the economy.
The big problem is that there is little domestic production, and most part of it is bought out, so the state is at the mercy of these private companies, speculating at ease. This shows a basic structural problem of the country that is still living off oil revenues leaving aside its own production. Therefore, at this moment the government is promoting urban gardens as a way to gradually introduce a new culture, to exit from the oil rentier economy and not rely on imports.
Hence a very large part of the urban population has begun to produce pulse and vegetables in small home gardens: such as lettuce, tomato, onion, paprika. These are principal palliatives to address the current crisis.
The right-wing has the least concern for the people. All what they want is to get rid of the Bolivarian government; therefore they implement all this policy of aggression against the revolution: food shortages, polarization, denunciation of misrule and chaos with which they inundate the entire media space. In short, if someone suffers with all of that, it is the same population they claim to defend and for whom they are supposedly worried. What drives the right-wing is the ouster of President Maduro through a referendum; that is the purpose of the economic chaos that is occurring.
Shortages and inflation bring discomfort, no doubt. And indeed there have been protests from people, because shortages and long lines bother, that's clear. But what circulates through the mass media is false: it is an exaggeration. Much of that discomfort is due to the provocateurs who incite the population when they reach to the queues and shout against the government protesting against hunger as alleged proceeds of inefficiency of Maduro and this "Castro-communist” dictatorship that has subjugated us.
Of course all these manipulations try to lead to despair; and somehow they succeed. Then the press comes and speaks of chaos. There have been deaths, it is true, but that is the result of those clashes that the provocateurs encourage. It is not true that there is an open repression against the population. We are quite far from a repressive state that shoots against population.
It can be seen that there is an intention of the international right-wing to stop any process of popular democracy, of social progress, that gives prominence to the workers, so anything is done to stop these changes, such as those being carried out in Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador.
The idea is to get out of the way any process of change. We know that none of these are socialist governments in the strict sense of the word, but they drive improvements for the large popular majorities. They are not governments that came through a socialist revolution, but they are against imperial policies.
This hurts the right-wing, and here in Venezuela, although the large companies maintain their business, they have gone out of the political leadership of the country. That's something they do not forgive, and that is why the empire also reacts. In summary, this lets us see that the right-wing wants to handle everything, including the political sphere. What they do not forgive is the dive toward sovereignty.
Birdsong began its existence, in 1973, as a campus club at the University of the West Indies at St. Augustine. The band’s first home was an abandoned gymnasium located next to the Daaga Hall building, adjacent to the playing fields near the University’s front entrance.
Within a year Birdsong outgrew its campus club status when it opted to enter the Steelband Panorama and invite the workers on campus and members of the neighbouring Monte Grande and Tunapuna communities to join its student members as stakeholders in the Birdsong experience.
This created a conundrum for the University administration. Despite the previous efforts to integrate the UWI campus community with its surrounding community, by then warden the legendary Sir Frank Worrell, the campus administration found the concept of a student institution that also included workers and ‘outsiders’ as one integrated whole, much too revolutionary for its liking.
As a consequence from that juncture Birdsong’s campus tenure and legitimacy was under threat. Arguably the University’s most successful and most tangible projection beyond its campus fences was deemed too radical to have a home within the embrace of those self same fences. University policy was not flexible enough or progressive enough to deal with the ‘new’ hybrid that was Birdsong in the 1970’s and 1980’s.
It was indeed ironic that a steelband whose very name - Birdsong - was inspired by the potential contribution a university-based steelband could make in the area of experimentation and research, was not welcome on the University campus. The next logical option was to relocate from a University that considered its presence superfluous to a neighbouring Tunapuna community with which Birdsong had been building a strong organic connection.
After a temporary sojourn on the Eastern Main Road the band eventually moved to its present location at the corner of Connell and St. Vincent Streets in Tunapuna.
There for almost three decades Birdsong built an organisation that represented its community in Panoramas and Music Festivals; formed symbiotic relationships with schools in its catchment area by making its panyard available for co-curricular music projects; established income streams and employment opportunities to fund its activities and create jobs and developed the concept of a panyard academy that has offered music literacy and tertiary education opportunities to generations of young people, many of whom have carved out careers in the music industry.
Birdsong has also been working assiduously on fine-tuning its own model of sustainable development which includes purchasing a property as a permanent location for its varied activities. But the truth is capital formation is a tenuous process for steelbands. As essentially cultural institutions they do not ‘qualify’ for loans from financial institutions.
While so many of us claim particular steelbands as ‘my band’ at Panorama time, the recurrent expenditure that is needed to produce musical excellence is prohibitive. Steelbands because of the realities of the social and economic strata that spawn and support their existence do not begin their existence with inheritances of tangible capital resources.
Birdsong has not stood idly by and relied on third party solutions for their sustainable development. The band has been proactive, focussed and determined in seeking solutions.
But without an enabling policy framework, the steelpan’s ‘national instrument’ status rings hollow, when issues of security of tenure have to be addressed as individual ‘private’ occurrences and responsibilities without a defined countervailing public responsibility that gives tangible recognition to their right to existence. No one is advocating ‘rights’ without responsibilities. But the concept of cultural creativity as a ‘free’ public service that must be provided and subsidized as a ‘labour of love’ by cultural activists must be challenged.
It would be a travesty of justice of the highest degree if the policy issues of security of tenure for all steelbands in general and the massive and inspiring contribution of Birdsong over so many years, in particular, are reduced to the summary resolution of a bailiff armed with a demolition order.
Surely there must be room for a win-win resolution, which respects both private and public interests, long term tenancy and the opportunity to put policy solutions on the front burner. Birdsong is too important to our national agenda in so many ways for good people to stand idly by when its existence and proactive contribution stands in the balance.
The passing of Chief Servant Makandal Daaga brought back some very
We, as political detainees, had to confront the prison authorities on a number of occasions, in defence of the rights and privileges which separated us from the regular prison population and which we had no intention of relinquishing without a battle.
There were sixteen of us whom the government of the day thought it necessary to detain for, as they say, "creating ill will and disaffection amongst the masses". There was a group of powerful national figures among us but, the man Makandal seemed to command the respect of all. He was the de facto leader.
During our stay, we were able to influence a lot of changes to some prison conditions. Daaga, under the banner of the National Joint Action Committee (NJAC), contributed to major changes in the political landscape, affecting in a positive way the consciousness and awareness of all the peoples of Trinidad and Tobago and by extension, the English speaking Caribbean.
He was quite an eloquent and influential orator, who I believe, could have, in those days, sold ice to Eskimos. Outside of his influence over the masses of young people on the streets in those hectic days of the so-called Black Power revolution, l had a firsthand experience seeing him in his element during the development of a precarious situation one day at the Gaol on Frederick Street.
A confrontational situation between the authorities and us had caused us to dismantle our beds, small tables, and all other items found on our block including plants. We took them out the cells, and threw them outside in the yard. We believed the situation was serious enough, and warranted strong action by us to send the message that we would not compromise our position in any way.
The next morning when we came outside the place was clear, everything thing was removed. Everything, the long bench and tables where we would sit and eat; everything was moved out and one could feel the tension in the atmosphere. Soon information came to us that the prison authorities intended to come down on us with full force, in order to show us who was boss and who ran things inside, in spite of our status.
We were told that the officers who worked the earlier shift were not released, but were being held back to join and strengthen the evening shift, so that they would subdue and teach us the lesson that all prisoners know and understand.
They had already subdued the mutinous soldiers who were incarcerated on the other side of the Gaol awaiting trial for mutiny. Who the hell these fifteen civilians think they are, to be giving all this trouble? (Jack 'the Red' Kelshall, who was one of the original sixteen, was already released due to failing health, and was then under house arrest). ‘
Some time after three in the afternoon, while we were breezing in the yard, the gate opened, (this is the only entrance to and from our area and it is situated between the condemned area which we occupied, and the Remand Yard) and in marched a battalion of about thirty grim looking prison officers with long menacing looking riot staves in their hands. They silently took up a position with their backs against the wall near the gate.
The majority of us became very agitated and started to look for anything that could be used as a weapon or defence against blows. The officers said nothing to anyone, but we could see that they just wanted to get it over with and go home. They were the ones who had worked the earlier shift, and were only awaiting the senior officer's orders.
However, while they stood there awaiting instructions, Daaga choose to address them on the social issues affecting the country; the present prison conditions and the adverse effects they were having on them and their working conditions which were not conducive to prison reform and prisoners’ rehabilitation, and the fact that our presence there was not on account of criminal activities, but on account of us seeking betterment for all.
Apparently, the senior officer took too much time to come and give the attack order. By the time he came in, he too realised that he should save face and not embarrass himself. Daaga had already subdued his troops with gunshot lyrics, and had he given the orders to attack us his men may have hesitated and may not have obeyed such instructions. We saw the effects even before he had entered. Daaga had saved the day and lives because we were prepared to die that fateful day. Thanks Daaga! Rest in Peace amongst the ancestors! The struggle continues! Power to the People!
An ill conceived campaign ends in loss for a young history making gymnast at the Rio 2016 Olympics. Trinidad and Tobago's Marissa Dick may have legally won a place as the first female gymnast to represent T&T at the Games but alas in the eyes of so many she did it illegitimately.
The result as she foundered on the bar is/was seen as poetic justice by many. In our parlance "God doh sleep'' and the reality is it is a result many fervently wished and prayed for. Eventually she will be remembered for all the wrong reasons
Her tears and disappointment will solicit very little sympathy outside her immediate circles. How does one commiserate with an athlete perceived as a cheat, even a racist cheat by some? The poor young lady is out there alone sans the fractured federation and her team of supporters who themselves must be running for shelter if not blaming everyone from her coach to the judges. Rio must have been a cold place for the athlete.
Will things like this happen again in local sport? Of course given the leadership in local sports! In track and field there is the big club/small club context where the leadership of the big clubs sit on the executive. For some of the track and field coaches out there this is their 2nd or 3rd Olympic outing. God help the federation if they contract Zika before the 2020 games!
The debacle/s in cricket, football, basketball administrations are well documented so there is no need to expand. Swimming, cycling and sailing seem to be on the way up. Even when there are hiccups they are handled differently or not played out in the media. Why? By virtue of their class background and training and education these administrators are better prepared to manage and organise!
The sports that put us on the map in years gone by are now desultory. We were world netball champions. We beat Argentina at hockey in the 1966 Pan am Games. In track and field we set world records and won more than 2or 3 medals at Games. Before Buxo we had world champions in boxing…real one with real belts won in real fights.
But I am certain of a turnaround. What we are seeing is the passing of an old order, the necessary death of mediocrity and ignorance. Circumstance will compel persons in the sports to ask the hard questions as we flounder and smaller nations with fewer resources surpass us and we realise the stimulus for change must come from within and from below, especially those who still see sport as an avenue for upward social and economic mobility.
So I re-iterate that what happened to/with the young lady at the Olympics is a triumph of ignorance and stupidity, the latter which Franz Fanon described as an extremely dire condition. Saying 'it good fuh she' might assuage feelings but it is not a way forward.
I am sitting at the St. James Cancer Treatment Centre, looking at the badly hung pictures of the President, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Health. The man in the middle is the focus of my attention. Why? Because, as far as some people here and beyond are concerned; he too is a ‘victim’ of the dreaded disease.Diagnosis by gossip pinpoints throat cancer, and as evidence they cite the hoarseness of his voice. As I plead for his good health, I reject the notion for many reasons including my own experience. You see several years ago I had to deal with the commiserations of those who assumed that my bald head was as a result of cancer treatment.
I guess the basis from which their hope springs is that if the PM is standing in their shoes he will better understand their plight. Sadly the symbolic shoes are decidedly different. While his shoes have the means to transport him beyond our borders and means, they are confined to stand in theirs and wonder.
The stories here are heartbreaking, as in many other parts of the health care system. As I am wont to do I listen, I observe, I feel deeply and assist wherever I can. I hear the cries of patients who must go without medicine week after week. Insurance and savings have been used up; what next should be sold; the car, a second mortgage, or pawn last pieces of jewellery perhaps, never to be recovered.
A first time mother reels from the shock diagnosis which does not afford her time to bond with her newborn. Regular painkillers no match for her constant excruciating pain; her discomfort made worse by the two hour journey to the clinic. There are no drugs so chemotherapy regimens are aborted, leaving people confused with mounting concerns of serious damage as a result. Patients with dangerously low blood counts cannot receive much needed injections.
The mood is sombre even fatalistic; fighting the disease is one thing fighting the system another. One woman represents the view of many when she says ‘We just have to pray more’. In a valiant effort to be kind, I seek distraction in the fabulous gilded earrings framing her beautiful face. Attempts to explain the untenable situation include the thievery and wastage of the last government. Others humble and forgiving in their vulnerability apologise for their impatience. They feel guilty to complain because they are aware of the exorbitant cost of their treatment and do not want to be ungrateful. Never mind Life Sport happened or the cost of their treatment is less than food or flowers for a workshop.
Those in authority cannot continue to sit in their offices and theorise about solutions. There must be an ongoing physical presence of trained and competent agents in these spaces sitting, listening, observing, paying attention, checking, analysing and thinking through objectively where the kinks are, and where the responsibility for them lies. There is need for actionable and effective solutions at the individual, institutional, and ministerial levels. It is what I like to call the what, where, when, who and how of IMPLEMENTATION.
On any workday they will find the facility overflowing, as young and old struggle to get through one day, one procedure at a time. They manoeuvre a complex pattern of practice, moving back and forth through the inconvenient location of a number of vital services in a totally inadequate space.
Most importantly they would see real leaders at work, doctors, nurses and support staff who continue to press forward in the midst of these atrocious situations. The value of the staff- patient relationship model, developed over the years cannot be missed. People committed to a cause, working without the tools and materials they need to perform at maximum. They speak positivity and hope and encourage open communication.
They press on in spite of failed and non functioning equipment, no generation capacity, to deal with electricity outages and water shortages, burst sewer mains, out of order and clearly inadequate toilet facilities. They renew their commitment even as their dream of an oncology centre continues to be just that.
Like me they would fall in love with and learn from the group of dedicated women who in serving refreshments can teach our leaders what servant leadership is all about. Maybe then we can begin to address the cancer of neglect.
A Comrade of mine remarked to me that each footstep on the picket line has its own agenda. Given that on Thursday 11th August, 2016, we have been called to embark on a demonstration as we as members of the OWTU say: Settle ALL outstanding negotiations, Stop victimization and No retrenchment, I feel somewhat moved to state the agenda of my footsteps. What I hope to achieve is some sort of alignment to the ideas that I have.
To be concise, we have lost time and benefits thinking about the money we did not fight for. Our focus was lost on Job Evaluation settlement money, which does not affect us equally as the Collective Agreement negotiations does. We somehow thought that settling the negotiations for an expired period was no big thing, because Job Evaluation money "go be big."
When we saw that the Commission's management stymied the payout awarded by the Industrial Court, we returned our focus to the negotiations when it was nearing entry to the same Industrial Court. We got bamboozled by the Commission's management when they made the rounds to convince us to convince our Branch Officers and by extension our Executive Officers to implement the Job Evaluation as it it was at the time because they presented a spreadsheet with monetary figures on it.
Some of us did not care what our job duties entailed, we just liked how the back pay looked. We must not let the "Dog and the Bone Syndrome" overcome us Comrades.
This is my agenda this upcoming Thursday. I want us to think about the people we work with and alongside as the Comrades that we are supposed to be. Correct them when they do things against their interests, as well as encourage them to seek and improve their interests. I want us to move away from the narrow minded way we approach our issues. I want us to overstand that money is not the most important aspect of our negotiations.
To properly attack the contractor issue and the temporary worker issue, we need to have a current Collective Agreement and not an expired one; the flaws in the system are being exploited because of this. Most of all I want us to be more conscious about what we need to do in order to make T&TEC and the OWTU work for our interests. For we are employees and members of both organizations whose mandate is to seek the best for us. Time to take our destiny into our hands and guide it to where we see ourselves in the future.
This is what I will be marching for on Thursday 11th August, 2016, in front of the Central Bank.
Once again US imperialism and its "Triple Alliance", formed by the governments of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, seeks to reissue "a kind of Operation Condor" against the homeland of Simon Bolivar.
On this occasion they try to stop the full exercise of its presidency pro tempore of the Southern Common Market MERCOSUR under the invention of a fraudulent claim, through which they mask the illegal proceeding based on the false assumption of vacuum in the Presidency Pro Tempore.
This claim is clearly fictional and fraudulent, since our country legally exercises its legal right of President Pro Tempore, starting on July 29, with its rights and duties, as it has duly informed the States’ Members by NOTE PPTV 01/2016.
This Triple Alliance, formed by Argentina, Brasil and Paraguay governments harasses and criminalizes our model of development and democracy, producing an aggression that does not hesitate in destroying the institutional basis and legality of MERCOSUR.
Behind this plan are those who have always conspired against the South American union in order to impose the Washington Consensus in the false conviction that it is time to get rid of the Bolivarian Revolution. It is the Triple Alliance of the right-wingers and the Condor Plan against Boliviarianism and socioeconomic achievements of our people.
Retrogressive and neoconservative forces try to bring back the disastrous neoliberal policies that plunged the peoples of the South into poverty, misery, inequality and the restrictions on their human rights. This serves as an alert to the people of MERCOSUR against the lies of the enemies of integration and unity of our region, who disregard, with their duplicities and omissions, the letter and the spirit of this common history, in which the workers have a leading role.
The people of Venezuela, evoke as unequivocal guidance for the exercise of the Pro Tempore Presidency of MERCOSUR, based on the thoughts of President Hugo Chavez, who commented: "That is why today we are in that exact historical perspective, this is our world, our place in history, this is our place, this is our essence, South America and within this great homeland the Mercosur as a great engine. Venezuela reaches the Mercosur completely, with all our passion, will and desire to integrate with dignity into a new mechanism of integration that goes beyond trade."