We Could Drown In What Our Eyes Refuse To See!

Are we in­ad­ver­tently be­com­ing the Venice of the Caribbean?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By Christian Wayne

It’s funny the way peo­ple re­act to cer­tain words, de­pend­ing on who’s ut­ter­ing them. The word nig­ger im­me­di­ately comes to mind as I re­call the last hip-hop con­cert I at­tended in the U.S. One of those seedy lit­tle bars, you know the type—the kind of venue where your shoes be­come glued to the river of the cheap beer gush­ing across the floor; like mos­qui­toes stick­ing to sweet fly­pa­per. The per­former stood on stage amidst a psy­che­delic glow of neon lights and pro­ceeded to scream nig­ger at the crowd for what felt like an eter­nity. The in­ter­est­ing part though, was the crowd’s ex­u­ber­ant re­sponse, throw­ing it back at him like a church con­gre­ga­tion in the heat of a mov­ing or­a­tory.

I thought to my­self as a feel­ing of hypocrisy slowly crept down my spine: What if it was some white fella up on that stage yelp­ing nig­ger at his au­di­ence for 45 min­utes? Know­ing the an­swer, I waded through the chant­ing crowd and pro­ceeded to see my­self out.

I know. You’re think­ing: “What an ob­vi­ous ex­am­ple!” So let’s con­sider an­other, per­haps more rel­e­vant to the Saint Lu­cian ex­pe­ri­ence: “No govern­ment is per­fect.” Again, the crowd’s re­ac­tion would de­pend on the speaker—and yes, maybe even the gov­ern­ing party. In some ears, “No govern­ment is per­fect” might sound like tacit ap­proval; a kind of wink and nod: “Well, you know, I think they try to do right by the peo­ple, but hey, no govern­ment’s per­fect, right?” But com­ing from Joe Sh­moe who has no party af­fil­i­a­tion, some might take “No govern­ment is per­fect” as a more pointed con­dem­na­tion of politi­cians across the board.

What­ever the cir­cum­stances, be it po­lit­i­cal or in per­sonal life, peo­ple tend to ac­cept un­ac­cept­able be­hav­ior once the com­mit­ter has some­thing good go­ing for them. Lead­ers tend to get away scot-free with all kinds of hor­rors, as long as they’re per­ceived as gen­er­ous to their sup­port­ers. Maybe it’s hu­man na­ture to fo­cus on what we see as good, while ig­nor­ing the bad, and in­ad­ver­tently per­mit­ting it to get worse.

Op­ti­mism can make the worst days tol­er­a­ble. But what if such op­ti­mism grows ir­ra­tional? Con­sider the bat­tered woman, caught be­tween the need to es­cape and the re­al­ity that keeps her im­pris­oned. Most of us know at least one such vic­tim. You’ve sug­gested that she leave her abuser and never look back. Her usual re­sponse? “I know, you’re right. But re­ally he’s not al­ways bad. He loves me. He re­ally does. Be­sides, no one’s per­fect.”

But could that in­her­ent op­ti­mism of ours be more than just hu­man na­ture, how­ever twisted? Have some of us been pro­grammed to cope with the worst of abuses? A de­fense mech­a­nism? Could the bat­tered lover sur­vive her cir­cum­stance with­out that built-in delu­sional op­ti­mism?

Con­sid­ered in that light, op­ti­mism is more of an

ad­dic­tion than a virtue, isn’t it? Ah, I di­gress.

Back to “No govern­ment is per­fect.” What about a pop­u­lace? The body-pol­i­tick? Could we be the equiv­a­lent of the im­pris­oned bat­tered

woman? If so, then why don’t we just pick-up and leave? To bor­row from the abused, “it’s not that sim­ple.” Most peo­ple can’t just leave. More of­ten than not it’s the most bat­tered, most abused among us who are the least able to just pack-up and go.

So, then, what to do? Well, you could quit try­ing to con­vince your­self that “it’s not all bad” when you know damn well the op­po­site is true. Imag­ine Barack Obama open­ing his State of the Union ad­dress with a buck-passing “No govern­ment is per­fect” line. Many peo­ple (ex­clud­ing the op­po­si­tion politi­cians, of course) would prob­a­bly ac­knowl­edge the morsel of truth in his state­ment, es­pe­cially if the Amer­i­can econ­omy was en­joy­ing an all­time high with un­em­ploy­ment at the low­est in years.

But what if it were Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte telling you that no govern­ment is per­fect? The point is that de­spite the fact that true per­fec­tion is nearly im­pos­si­ble to at­tain, it doesn’t mean its pur­suit is any less noble. The per­sis­tent pur­suit of per­fec­tion may very well be what sep­a­rates the Oba­mas from the Dutertes of this world; what sep­a­rates the he­roes from the vil­lains. Sad to say, too many have ac­cepted the no­tion that they were born to be some­body’s door­mat—which we all know is just a po­lite way of say­ing born to be some­body’s else’s slave . . .

Ev­ery morn­ing as I drive through Cas­tries and its en­vi­rons, I won­der: how many peo­ple see what I see? A city beg­ging for at­ten­tion, preg­nant with ig­nored op­por­tu­nity, pop­u­lated by young men and women hun­gry for change, their faces etched with the scars of frus­tra­tion. The com­mu­ni­ties of Bois Patat, Bar St. Joseph, Bish­ops Gap and so on, they do far more than just wit­ness these things—they feel and live them ev­ery sin­gle day.

But I won­der about the peo­ple like me, the peo­ple who only skirt the perime­ter of Cas­tries out of ne­ces­sity—who try to avoid get­ting too close, as if sim­ply step­ping over pud­dles on the side­walk, afraid of get­ting even a lit­tle dirty. The level of ne­glect by our lead­ers is ob­vi­ous, but how many of us hear the cries of the peo­ple? Ne­glect, as we all know, is a form of abuse, isn’t it?

As for the city it­self, we drive through it as quickly as the crip­pling traf­fic and cav­ernous pot­holes will al­low— our tinted win­dows rolled right the way up. As the say­ing goes, when it rains it pours, but in lit­tle Saint Lu­cia, when it rains it al­ways seems to flood. In­stead of de­mand­ing change, I fear many of us just pre­fer throw­ing on our rain jack­ets and Welling­tons be­fore slosh­ing through Cas­tries’ as­phalt ravines, the ones we’ve dug for our­selves.

The seat of our coun­try is crum­bling be­fore our eyes yet we refuse to see, pre­fer­ring in­stead to look the other way. As I write, it oc­curs to me that our two groups—those who hear the cries for change and those who are ar­mored in rain jack­ets—are not all that dif­fer­ent; sim­ply dif­fer­ent sides of the same down­cast coin. Is Cas­tries our bat­tered lover? Is He­len? More im­por­tantly: Have too many of us per­mit­ted our­selves to be­come ac­cus­tomed to the faces of ne­glect, dis­fig­ured by the bruises of abuse?

For­get about the ro­mance. Are we in­ad­ver­tently be­com­ing the Venice of the Caribbean?

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