Saturday, October 29, 2005

It's not included in the online edition, but today's Guardian reports on 3Canal's concert last Thursday night at Bois Cano:

Rapso artiste Wendell Manwarren weaved a stinging commentary into his group 3Canal's Kapok Hotel performance on Thursday night, lashing out at junior National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds and critics of the Death March....

3Canal was one of the groups that performed free for the march.

"It was about people doing something for a change," he told a selection of T&T's art, music and media elite.... Manwarren, working in his comments at the end of one of their songs, also challenged criticisms that the march was for the middle and upper classes and not the poor black community, the source of the majority of the country's 310 murder victims.

On this point, band member Stanton Kewley retorted, "What wrong with being middle class?"

Hammer, nail, direct blow to the head. "What wrong with being middle class?"

I entirely understand the causes of the vituperation with which the (sometimes self-appointed) representatives of the working class, black or otherwise, have responded to the Keith Noel 136 Committee & last Saturday's "death march". But surely the only route out of the crisis we're all snared in starts with recognising common concerns, common hopes, a common cause--& believing that these outweigh our differences and grudges?

The middle classes are frightened & angry, & last Saturday they did something dramatic to express that fear & anger. (When last, outside of Carnival, did you see white people marching through town in the hot sun?) To dismiss them out of hand is to say that blind loyalty not so much to class or ethnicity but to the PNM is more important than the good of our society; that party trumps country. And very little that the PNM under Mr. Manning has done suggests that the party has any meaningful goals apart from holding on to executive power. Ditto for the UNC under Mr. Panday. Maybe that's what it comes to--party or country? It's a symptom of our crisis that, it seems, there can be no coincidence of the two.

And here's the thing about the middle classes: they have been the least prone to blind party loyalty, switching their vote to whichever group seems most likely to address their concerns (remember the ONR? the NAR?). There's nothing wrong with that--that's the foundation of politics, seeking your own interests, but also recognising that often the best way to get what you want & need is to learn what your friends & rivals want & need, & find compromises that achieve a common good. The alternative is to allow selfish interests to tear our society apart--& that is exactly the crisis we're in. All are guilty: working, middle & upper classes, black people, Indian people, white people, everybody. "More unites us than divides us", read one of the placards at last Saturday's march--lyrics from "Trini to de Bone", of course, a song whose cliches still make me cringe, but cliches often derive from truths.

What unites us most urgently now is that few of us feel safe, few of us feel we're truly benefiting from the massive energy boom convulsing our economy, & few of us feel the party politicians care about our concerns. Can we not agree on a common thrust to address these matters on everyone's behalf? And does it matter who starts or leads that thrust?

Remember this: Henry Alcazar, A.A. Cipriani, Albert Gomes, even Eric Williams, were all men of the middle class, & they all led battles on behalf of the wider populace. There's nothing wrong with being middle class.

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