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IN A FIELD OF LILLYS By Verna St. Rose Greaves

posted 19 Oct 2016, 08:00 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 19 Oct 2016, 08:06 ]
Dead bodies are all around us; they come by land and sea. The man who drowned himself in a reservoir of oil tells a poignant story of this nation. The slow draining of the tank in order to salvage his remains provides profound imagery. Our women are shot, chopped, maimed, and killed, some running for their lives from men they love.

Sadly there is no safe hiding space, no protection, and no peace. For others kidnapped and trafficked, clues run cold. Over many years, at home and in the care of the state, our children have been exploited and abused in the worst ways. Their appointed defenders through delay tactics make money from their misfortune.

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In our Parliament those s/elected to serve, they insult and demean us and each other, as they fight over the spoils of office. Caught up in promoting their self interest, hardly a thought is spared for the impact of their ugly behaviour on the national psyche. Even less concern is shown for the poor example they are exhibiting to our young people. The words are unkind, crude, disparaging, and brutal. The house provides a good training ground for potential bullies. To hide their ineptitude, they seize every opportunity to deviate from treating with the real problems as they affect people.

Hence the over the top responses to a random act of kindness exhibited by a young woman towards a citizen in need of assistance. As I commend Lillyann Williams for the care she gave so generously, I watch politicians and others as they suck the lifeblood out of her gesture of love and support. To them the beneficiary of her goodness, a man who uses a wheelchair is not even worthy of a dignified mention. Their lack of concern for persons with disabilities is manifest. One can only hope that after the glitter clears, meaningful work will be done to smooth the obstacle course that our society presents to persons who are disabled.

Just imagine that people were in awe when two students held a blind man as he crossed the street; then consider what it says about us. I think about Choc’late Allen the then 13 year old child activist who, in 2007, sought to bring awareness to pressing social issues which plagued the nation. The response then was much the same as today. Dignitaries including Prime Minister, Priest, Pundit and Public, all and sundry flocked to her. She was burdened with the tribulations and demands of grown men and women with little or no concern for her felt needs. They were too blinded then to recognize that in Trinidad and Tobago we live in a Choc’late factory, just as they are unaware now even as we stand in a field of Lillys.

It seems that Lilly’s grand gesture was a defining moment for many. I am sure that it would have been used for introspection and to remind us of our humanity and responsibility for each other’s well being. Such a moment must never be used as an opportunity to isolate or cancel out others. We must have failed at many levels when our response to a good deed is to question whether there are any other parents raising children who care. Where do our politicians live? Who do they talk to or spend time with? How do they not know young people who are kind and giving or those who keep on giving in the face of exceptional challenges?

As governments come and go they show themselves to be the enemies of the people. They fail to keep their promises; they talk down to us and handle simple matters in clumsy ways. Blaming and shaming as they go, they spew venom with ease and exhibit offensive and unkind behaviours towards us. At the same time they co-opt the overt kindness of one young person to prop up a nation.

How do politicians demonstrate and nurture compassion and caring when their decisions and pronouncements lack empathy and gratify their personal well being and that of their friends, family, and financial benefactors. The concept of learnt behaviour seems lost on them.

As a society our concern for human well being ceded precedence to the financial bottom line. Ours is not a war on poverty but rather a war against the poor. We do not fight for our children and young people as much as we fight with them. The eaves of our buildings have been sacrificed and bus stop benches outfitted to deter street dwellers. A proper plan to take care of them requires not only consciousness but kindness.
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Our state owned bank was one of, if not the first, to redesign its atrium (for homeless discomfort) retrofitted with jagged rocks and sharp metal prongs. The notion of caring and kindness seems absent from our systems of delivery for social services, health care , education, justice, child care, transport and everything in between. These are all areas of adult franchise.

We are entitled to live in a society where we care about each other and for all our citizens; and we have the ability to create it. We are entitled to a government that sees the population as a partner rather than a burden and that too we can make happen. We cannot continue to settle for governance that is arrogant and petty and the only good they see is in the mirror.

This country is ours and perhaps the greatest act of kindness we can give ourselves is to ensure that as we grow as a nation our best interests are served. One way or the other Parliamentarians as servants of the people must be compelled by us to do what is right and just. In doing so we must ask hard questions of ourselves and we must answer them honestly. Perhaps we can begin by asking what are we afraid of and why are we so afraid to take action. After all Lilly did.
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