Can mis­ery be ex­ag­ger­ated?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

How dis­heart­en­ing, after all th­ese years, to dis­cover we still have not learned that to keep ad­min­is­ter­ing the same failed chem­bois to our wors­en­ing prob­lems is pure mad­ness.

When will the mes­sage sink in, that to base our most im­por­tant de­ci­sions on no­tions to­tally re­moved from any re­al­ity is an open invitation to new dis­as­ters? When will we quit pre­tend­ing we’re close rel­a­tives of the os­trich?

Over the week­end a friend shared with me his per­spec­tive of life in Saint Lu­cia, in the guise of a re­view of some­thing he had read in last week­end’s STAR.

“You and your eter­nal ex­ag­ger­a­tions,” he scoffed with a chuckle. He had no way of know­ing his remark brought to mind a for­mer school prin­ci­pal who re­mains one of this news­pa­per’s most loyal read­ers. On the re­mem­bered oc­ca­sion she had con­fessed her en­joy­ment of my ar­ti­cles, even though she sus­pected that ev­ery now and again I en­hanced sit­u­a­tions just to em­pha­size a point.

“C’mon,” she said, “just be­tween us. You do, right?” I said: “You think so, huh?” “Oh, I do, I do, I do!” she howled. “The way you pic­ture peo­ple some­times is enough to make the dead stand up and scream.”

And I said: “So, I guess you’ll give me some ex­am­ples of my ex­ag­ger­a­tions?”

“I’ll be happy to,” she said, and cited, of all things, my cov­er­age of an in­ci­dent on an un­for­get­table July evening in 1979.

“The way you de­scribed Henry Gi­raudy wrestling a young heck­ler who had pulled away his mike in mid-sen­tence,” she went on, “I’ve known Henry for years. Hard as I’ve tried, I just can­not vi­su­al­ize him rolling on the ground; at least, not with ‘some doped-up Ras­ta­man,’ as you put it.

“Then there was that other in­di­vid­ual on a bike. The way you por­trayed him ca­su­ally ped­al­ing around the boule­vard and toss­ing ex­plod­ing small sacks of shit at the UWP plat­form . . .”

Ev­i­dently the images in her head were still vivid and ob­vi­ously quite hi­lar­i­ous eight years later, enough to dou­ble her over, eyes stream­ing. When she had re­gained her nor­mal com­po­sure I en­quired whether she had ever spo­ken to other eye­wit­nesses to the Wil­liam Peter Boule­vard in­ci­dent. She ad­mit­ted she had not, the sto­ries she’d heard were all third- and fourth-hand ac­counts; hearsay.

“In that case,” I growled, “how can you say I over­stated the facts? If you have no truth of your own to com­pare with mine, how then did you de­ter­mine they are ex­ag­ger­a­tions?”

I re­minded her that I was at the scene of the crime, so to speak, from start to fin­ish. I had the photographs that proved what she con­sid­ered “unimag­in­able” had ac­tu­ally oc­curred. does that money come from?”

I could’ve of­fered sev­eral pos­si­bil­i­ties, none of them re­lated to reg­u­lar em­ploy­ment. In­stead, I pointed out that pur­chases at the par­tic­u­lar su­per­mar­ket in Castries were no use­ful in­di­ca­tor of what went on else­where on the is­land. I also re­minded him of the of­ten­re­peated UNDP ob­ser­va­tion that even when the econ­omy is fairly healthy most Saint Lu­cians are forced to ex­ist be­low the poverty line.

I treated him to a few lines from the “Per­for­mance Au­dit Re­port of the di­rec­tor of au­dit on the Pub­lic As­sis­tance Pro­gram,” placed be­fore par­lia­ment on 17 March, 2012: jobs. My friend sug­gested the money splurged on su­per­mar­ket items quite likely came from over­seas rel­a­tives. As if to say I was mak­ing too much of our un­de­ni­ably dis­mal em­ploy­ment fig­ures, he added, “Many coun­tries sur­vive largely on re­mit­tances from abroad.”

I could hardly trust my ears: “Are you say­ing it’s no big thing be­ing out of a job and de­pen­dent on over­seas-based rel­a­tives? And what about the fast dis­ap­pear­ing small­busi­ness sec­tor?”

For his own peace of mind, I sus­pect, my friend held fast to his po­si­tion that though things could be bet­ter eco­nom­i­cally our sit­u­a­tion was not nearly as bad as the pic­tures I had

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