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Trinidad and Tobago
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Beware the ideas of March

BC Pires
BC Pires

TODAY IS what the ancient Romans called “the Ides of March” – the 15th – and the big idea I have this Ides is that the world seems to be going mad but Trinidad cannot join in, largely because Trinidad went mad a long time ago.

When you’re in Trinidad all the time, you don’t notice the lunacy, just like you don’t hear the crickets chirping at night if you live in the countryside. Someone from “foreign” has to sit next to you and ask, “What the hell is that noise?”

And you look up blankly and ask, “What noise?”

But then you tilt your head and kind of rehear the crickets – or, if you live in a city, the traffic – and you wonder, briefly, how you manage to fall asleep/get anything done in this din.

But, in a minute or two, you tune them right out again and just don’t hear them.

And your visitor, in a couple of days, goes deaf to them, too.

So no one here may notice the insanity any more but that doesn’t make Trinidad even one crackpot less than completely stir-firetrucking crazy.

And “stir crazy” is the right expression: mental derangement resulting from long imprisonment. Trinidadians, whether in their big houses or the plannings, have lived behind (burglar-proofing) bars for so long, they can no longer tell the difference between going to jail and residing there.

Similarly, when the whole place is an asylum, you’ve got to expect the lunatics to take charge at some time.

When I tell people in Barbados or in England – or anywhere but Trinidad, really – they seriously doubt me that, at the gym I belonged to (at Ellerslie Plaza in Boissiere Village), part of my workout/entertainment was watching the car crashes through the plate-glass windows in front of the elliptical machines.

When I go on to say those head-on collisions resulted from drivers deliberately driving the wrong way down a half-kilometre of one-way street, forcing oncoming cars travelling at up to 80kph to swerve out of their way or crash into them, they think I’m lying, or at least exaggerating.

It’s irrational.

It’s insane.

In Trinidad, however, it’s the norm.

If you’re driving out of Maraval ten minutes before the Saddle Road in Boissiere officially stops being a one-way street and reverts to two-way traffic, you half-expect to encounter a car coming from the Savannah.

Even the “assessment” Trinidadians pretend to go through before driving into Boissiere’s one-way morning traffic system is itself half-cracked. My friend Gillie says Trini drivers look at a sign reading, “No entry until 8.30 am,” look at their watches, which read 8.17 am, and say to themselves, “Well, it’s nearly 20 past eight, which is practically 8.25, which is almost exactly 8.30, Christ, it’s nearly nine o’clock!”

And they go through hard.

It’s simply dangerous to drive 400m down Saddle Road, dodging oncoming cars like Spanish bulls on the run, in the hope of making it to Anderson Terrace without a crash.

To put so many other people at risk, you need to be fundamentally, ruthlessly, comprehensively selfish. Your self-absorption must be Catholic. You must take nothing into consideration apart from personal advancement or advantage.

Additionally, you have, somehow, to view yourself as as being above, not just the law, but mortality itself.

So you can’t blame people from “outside” who come to Trinidad and conclude that Trinidadians see themselves as demi-gods…when they’re really only nearly insane.

“Beware the Ides of March” is recognised by even semi-literate people as Shakespeare’s warning in his play to Julius Caesar, who, in real life, was stabbed to death.

Today, a trinity of ideas sweeping TT will put it to death as surely as Brutus and his gang of senators did Caesar.

One is that the Commissioner of Police can do no wrong.

Another is that the Minister of National Security can excuse any wrong that the commissioner does do.

And the third nail in the coffin is that the judiciary can demand that it should not be mocked by others when it labours to make a mockery of itself.

Those three will themselves beware this idea of March: that people with no axe to grind can cut to the chase, and remind people with real power that they sometimes only imagine they are right.

But then, talking reasonably to powerful people in Trinidad is like driving the wrong way down a one-way street.

BC Pires is bending over backwards to look forward to the Kalends of April, the apparent birthday of Trinidad’s ruling sector

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