Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 30th 2015 Contents | PRACTICAL INSPIRATION |
By Helen Shair-Singh
WHETHER WE ACKNOWLEDGE it or not, all of life is
linked...interwoven into one fabric of existence, and the whole
is only as strong as its weakest link. We cannot ignore an
atrocity that is happening across the ocean any more than
one that is happening across the street. Eventually, somehow
or another, it WILL affect us all. I saw a great cartoon some
time ago that illustrated this point brilliantly: there was a boat,
carrying two groups of people, that had sprung a leak on one
end and begun to sink. The group on the end that was sinking
was desperately bailing water out; the other on the opposite
end, which was now sticking up above the water, were just sit-
ting back and doing nothing to help. The text bubble that hov-
ered above this group read, "Thank goodness the leak isn't on
In 1963, Edward Lorenz, a mathematician and meteorologist,
presented a hypothesis to the New York Academy of Science.
He postulated that even a miniscule change in one state had
the potential to drastically alter the outcome in a later state.
He described the phenomena as this: the flutter of a butter-
fly's wings could set molecules of air in motion, which would
then move other molecules of air, in turn moving more mole-
cules of air, eventually capable of starting a hurricane on the
other side of the planet.
Even the smallest action can be a catalyst for major change,
but not by itself. In the last five years the world witnessed the
'Arab Spring' that turned the Middle East on its ear. The cata-
lyst for that upheaval was just one man: Mohammed Bouazizi,
a poor vendor who could no longer cope with the injustices
being wrought upon the citizens of Tunisia by its corrupt
leader. He was already barely surviving by selling fruit at a
roadside stand, when, on December 17, 2010, a municipal
inspector confiscated everything he had. An hour later he
doused himself with gasoline and set himself afire.
His death on January 4, 2011 struck the already raw and
bloodied nerves of the nation. Thousands of people --- includ-
ing university students and professors, political and human
rights activists, labor and trade unionists, lawyers, the masses
of unemployed --- united in grief and rage refused to let him
die in vain. The 'Tunisian Burning Man' was the spark that
exploded into the Tunisian Revolution that eventually crushed
the dictatorship of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and sent
him fleeing. Unspent, the flames of unrest then spread across
the Middle East. By December 2013 the tyrannical reigns of no
less then four dictatorships --- Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen
--- had been left in smoldering ruins.
Perhaps the best example of 'the butterfly effect' in all of
mankind's history is organized religion. The lives of men like
Jesus of Nazareth and the Prophet Mohammed significantly
and permanently impacted the human race and continues to
do so today, but they were each just one man, and would have
lived and died leaving perhaps only parables in religious tomes
as their lasting legacy, were it not for the masses who took up
the mantle with determined, persistent effort. Because of
that, the lasting consequences of the lives of those two men
are still affecting the lives of millions of people today.
Such is the inherent power in united human effort.
People have the power to move from being victims to being a
powerful force for change ... always, even on much smaller
scales. Trinidad & Tobago is a wealthy nation, with oil and gas,
fertile lands and abundant seas, and only 1.3 million people...
nobody should be going hungry here. We have industry
(Trinidad) and idyll (Tobago) side by side, and, accessible to all,
free education, freedom of speech, freedom of worship and
more public holidays than anywhere in the world... nobody
need be a criminal here. The intermingling of generations of
immigrants has given rise to the gorgeous, exotic and unique
beauty of our people ... nobody should need any label other
than 'Trinibagonian' here.
But despite all of that:
The CIA World Factbook (August 2014) reported that 17% of
our population live below the poverty line. Our public health-
care and social service systems are just a step above third
world. Senior citizens, poor people, orphans, 'at risk' youth, the
differently-abled and other special-needs persons suffer
because there is just not enough care or provision for them,
and we have an alarming number of street children and home-
less people. The incidences of corruption, domestic violence,
child abuse, rape, murder and incest are terribly high, and our
public buildings and spaces --- schools, hospitals and clinics,
parks, police stations, historical sites, etc. --- are in terrible
states of disrepair and decay.
Trinidadians and Tobagonians will "vote for change", but ask
who's willing to work for it, and most hands will go back down.
The majority of our citizens are shamefully ignorant when it
comes to our collective responsibility for what happens here.
Our favourite (non-)joke is "God is a Trini", i.e., we don't need to
worry about anything: somebody else is going to fix the prob-
lem and we just carry on as normal. There's always Carnival,
and lots of sandy beaches to bury our heads in.
Meanwhile, our country spirals further and further into dark-
ness. But there are lights in the darkness, held by some unre-
lenting warriors who genuinely have the best interest of this
country at heart and who put a great deal of their own time,
effort and resources into doing good for it. Were it not for
them we would already be in a more dire state than we are.
They are in our midst ...working in our downtrodden communi-
ties, the breeding grounds for the next generation of criminals;
in the many NGOs that work to alleviate the suffering of the
underpriveleged; in the organizations that take care of our
environment, and in many other places.
Their work benefits ALL of us. If more of us commit our sup-
port to them -- persistent, sustained support, not lip service or
a march around the Savannah -- we would be helping our own
selves, our families and the country as a whole. We could then
make real change happen, because we would be wielding the
most powerful weapon any country has in it's arsenal: the
power of the people. Then we would have a government com-
prised of people who actually care about this country because
we would BE that kind of people.
And we would be leaving a better country and a phenomenal
example for those coming behind us to be proud of ... we
would set our own 'butterfly effect' in motion.
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