What could be more ‘in­evitable’ than VAT?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

Ispent most of last Sun­day happy in the company of an over­seas-based es­teemed friend who also is first by a long shot on my short list of he­roes. A fel­low wor­ship­per had ar­ranged in his honor a spe­cial lun­cheon with other birds of our feather.

While the at­ten­dant wives and other fine ladies pre­pared a fish feast, their men re­laxed with choice li­ba­tions in the host’s sump­tu­ous ve­randa over­look­ing one of the more pa­cific sec­tions of the Caribbean Sea, shoot­ing the breeze, deal­ing de­lib­er­ate low blows to frag­ile egos, howl­ing at our suit­ably salted rec­ol­lec­tions of—to bor­row from Paul Si­mon’s You Can Call Me Al—“past in­ci­dents and ac­ci­dents, hints and al­le­ga­tions” that at time of oc­cur­rence were any­thing but funny. (What a great healer is Dr. Time!)

A par­tic­u­larly touch­ing mo­ment: the host has just shared a trea­sured mem­ory; a spe­cial kind­ness done him by a dearly de­parted, a re­mem­brance at once sad and in­spir­ing, par­tic­u­larly in th­ese de­press­ing days of dog-eat­dog. Our vis­it­ing guest of honor hears it dif­fer­ently. His fa­mous face sud­denly ex­pres­sion­less, the Looshan in the in­tel­lec­tual gi­ant groans: “That’s how a lotta bullers get their way!”

It wasn’t long be­fore we got to Lashawn Lam­bert, re­cently dragged out of anonymity into the lime­light. Our hon­ored guest had ac­tu­ally heard about the Bois Patat teenager: that while be­ing in­ter­viewed by me on TALK about the tribu­la­tions of Saint Lu­cia’s youth, he had let slip that some of his par­tic­u­larly frus­trated friends were “plot­ting to kill the prime min­is­ter.”

My hero had missed the par­tic­u­lar episode and although he had pur­chased the week­end’s STAR fea­tur­ing Lam­bert on its front page he had not yet read it. His wife had grabbed the pa­per and dis­ap­peared with it.

“That’s se­ri­ous,” he mused, “a plot to mur­der the prime min­is­ter? Did he say that on TV? The po­lice should look into this.”

The rest of us soon brought him up to speed. No one had ac­tu­ally said any such thing on TALK. The dis­com­bob­u­lat­ing ru­mor had been con­ceived at SLP head­quar­ters and dis­sem­i­nated by an un­think­ing me­dia un­der siege.

The truth was that an un­em­ployed friend of Lam­bert, frus­trated out of his mind, had blurted out to my young guest over the phone that he felt at times like shoot­ing the prime min­is­ter and then tak­ing his own life. I in­formed our guest of honor that a PAHO study of youth in the Caribbean had not long ago re­vealed too many kids were “sad, de­pressed, angry, sui­ci­dal, ir­ri­ta­ble” and so on.

The re­port blamed much of that de­spon­dence on fat­cat politi­cians per­ceived as al­to­gether dis­con­nected from the day-to-day re­al­i­ties of the young.

The last ob­ser­va­tion opened the Pan­dora’s Box of Caribbean pol­i­tics, at any rate what passes here for pol­i­tics. One es­pe­cially well-in­formed mem­ber of our group elected to ex­plain to our guest of honor how an over­seas fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tion could buy another coun­try’s debts (much of that sounded to me like Greek, although I am fairly au fait with what now con­fronts Venezuela’s Maduro).

“Good thing we haven’t ac­tu­ally bought oil from Petro Caribe,” said the fi­nance whiz on my right, “even though we signed on to that too-good-torefuse deal.”

Our spe­cial guest had learned from his gar­dener about the Labour Party’s most re­cent con­ven­tion. By all he said it seemed his in­for­mant was not all that sup­port­ive of the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion; nei­ther of the op­po­si­tion.

“In fact,” said our guest of honor, “the mes­sage I’ve been get­ting as I move around is that pol­i­tics in Saint Lu­cia has, well, gone to the dogs.”

“To the pit­bulls and the poo­dles,” some­one said, a loaded state­ment that I de­mys­ti­fied for the ben­e­fit of our over­seas-based guest, a process that some­how took us on a guided tour of the re­cently prayed over and opened $11 mil­lion Bois d’Orange Bridge that had been ex­pected to cost a lit­tle over $3 mil­lion.

He elab­o­rated: “That’s what’s so sad about this coun­try. We’re flat-ass broke but that has not stopped the ge­niuses at the fi­nance min­istry from bor­row­ing to pay our ev­er­mount­ing debts, which is how we landed in this cesspool in the first place.”

The par­tic­u­lar view­point, in one guise or another, dom­i­nated our post­pran­dial ex­changes. Our guest, who in si­lence had been pa­tiently lis­ten­ing, abruptly tossed an ag­gres­sive curve ball.

“So what are you guys gonna do about all that stuff you say has been go­ing on un­in­ter­rupted all th­ese years?”

Our host shrugged, lazily leaned for­ward in his chaise longue, dead eyes fo­cused on his san­daled feet: “Noth­ing. What other choice is there but to wait for elec­tions in two years?”

I in­ter­jected: “So now it’s you who de­ter­mines when the coun­try goes to the polls? What’s to pre­vent Kenny from call­ing elec­tions in April? You know, im­me­di­ately after a job­sjobs-jobs and mil­lions-for-all Bud­get?”

Our guest of honor re­turned to his unan­swered query. “What dif­fer­ence will it make who wins the next elec­tions?”

Our host again: “None. No dif­fer­ence what­so­ever. No one can do any­thing.”

Eyes wide with sur­prise, our guest per­sisted: “So ev­ery­one will just sit on his duff while the coun­try goes down the toi­let? Is that what I’m hear­ing?”

“We’re al­ready down the toi­let,” said our host, as if shout­ing from the bot­tom of a deep pit in the ground.

“Is that why you guys are so full of shit?” asked the guest of honor, no longer calm. “Don’t you care about this coun­try of ours? Don’t you care that you’re break­ing my heart? You’re my best friends. Don’t you care how I feel when you tell me the sit­u­a­tion is hope­less? This coun­try has been and con­tin­ues to be ev­ery­thing to me. It’s all we have. Are you just gonna sit there and let it die while you talk a whole lot of shit about there be­ing no an­swers, no so­lu­tions, and noth­ing any­one can do?”

Our host groaned, fee­bly: “Our courts don’t work. Our po­lice are un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion for mur­der. We have one crim­i­nal-court judge. Cit­i­zens are rot­ting in prison, with­out even a trial date. Rapes oc­cur ev­ery other day. Fif­teen-yearold girls hang them­selves in their clothes clos­ets. One man alone has the power to make a dif­fer­ence, if he wants to. And ob­vi­ously he does not.”

I thought about Thomas Paine, re­fer­ring to Ed­mund Burke: “He mourns the plumage and ne­glects the dy­ing bird.”

In self-de­fense, I said: “I’m do­ing some­thing. I write weekly, I talk, I go on TV, I call the ra­dio sta­tions, I meet peo­ple, I . . .”

“That’s not good enough!” our guest of honor bel­lowed. “It’s ob­vi­ously not enough. Oth­er­wise Saint Lu­cia would not be in the shit hole all of you tell me we’re swimming in.”

I tried to duck the up­per­cut en-route to my nose. “The so­lu­tion lies in our young peo­ple,” I said. “They need to or­ga­nize, they need to . . .”

“That’s what they said in Nazi Ger­many . . . and we know where that went. That’s what hap­pened in . . .” Des­per­a­tion, dis­gust and deeply felt dis­ap­point­ment were ware­hous­ing in his artist’s soul.

Some­what sheep­ishly, I said: “But this is dif­fer­ent. I’m not talk­ing as Hitler did of the Jews. I’m talk­ing about get­ting our young peo­ple to un­der­stand and be­lieve they are not only the lead­ers of to­mor­row, they’re also the lead­ers of now. What they in­herit to­mor­row will de­pend on what they do to­day!”

“Then you bet­ter steer them right,” said our guest of honor, head­ing for the head. “Oth­er­wise we’ll all be left with just one al­ter­na­tive . . . and still more trou­ble!”

No one dared to ask what might be this one al­ter­na­tive. I sus­pect we all knew only too well!

PM Kenny An­thony: Does he have what it’ll take to re­di­rect the com­ing tsunami?

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