Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 12th 2014 Contents ON A RECENT morning I crossed paths with a neigh-
bour biking uphill with a bag in hand. We exchanged
greetings and knowing that he took care of the fam-
ily's donkeys I asked him if he was on his way to the
pasture. "No," he quickly answered, "I feed Sam's
chickens on a morning but today I came and they
gone. Somebody tief them."
I was horrified. We don't live in an urban area where
strangers pass through. We live in a small village lo-
cated in a once agricultural valley. Most of the vil-
lagers know each other and while another friend's
ducks were stolen a few years ago I am still shocked
whenever I hear about agricultural theft. Hard to be-
lieve it could be outsiders.
I stuck around while the boy told the chickens' owner
about the theft. I expected outrage. I expected anger.
But instead Sam shrugged his shoulders a little
higher than usual, threw up his hands said "Wah you
go do?" turned around and went back to his life. Con-
versing further with the boy I discovered that some-
one had stolen over 40 chickens sometime in the
night. And a few months ago someone had stolen the
same number of ducks from the same grower!
There was no report to the police --- I have learned
that several farmer colleagues suspect police to be
involved in these agricultural crimes, so no report.
There was no action. None at all. I'm not sure if Sam
is going to get more poultry --- hard to believe he
would but I've noticed the pull to keep animals, the
pull to plant is often stronger than the discourage-
ment from repeated incidents of theft. But what I AM
sure about is that this "Wah you go do?" sentiment
seems to have us as a nation by our throats.
It's understandable. Hundreds of years without
power, of being enslaved by the gun, ruled by the dic-
tates of poverty and unfair laws and a population
doesn't suddenly escape learned helplessness. Hun-
dreds of years of institutions quietly ignoring the
needs of ordinary citizens and the structures don't
suddenly uncoil like an awakened snake and slither
away leaving enlightened bureaucracies and an opti-
Trinidadians and Tobagonians feel powerless even
though we give opinions, we speak out in private
against injustice and we all have a theory, when in the
rumshop, as to what would make this country a bet-
ter place. It's good that we have ideas as to what to
do about the things that are wrong but it's not good
that we feel so powerless that translating thought
and feeling into action is so difficult for most of us.
Enter the typical classroom here --- not the prestige
schools where children may receive the support and
resources to think somewhat independently. The typ-
ical classroom comprises a group of children more or
less stationary before a teaching adult. Most class-
rooms have a ridiculous number of children --- close
to 40. Is it possible here to translate thoughts and
opinions into words or action? Teachers are doing
their best simply keeping the class away from utter
I have worked a lot over the years with schoolchildren.
The well-behaved ones were almost comatose and
sat hour after hour in classrooms with glazed eyes
just trying to stay out of trouble. But there was al-
ways a small group of "problem" children, restless chil-
dren with poor impulse control but usually the most
alert in the school. The troublemakers did not sit in
the "Wah you go do?" state, but did SOMETHING.
Unfortunately, that "something" was often poorly
chosen and got them into trouble.
School seems to be one of the big training grounds
for us to learn to be resigned adults. It's not worth en-
gaging or doing anything but trying to stay out of
trouble. As adults, that leads to simply rolling with
life's punches. Not resisting, not taking action, but
How can we deal with our national powerlessness
NOW? Obviously the institutions, including schools,
have to change --- but that's a long-term solution. One
of the most immediate solutions lies in taking collec-
tive action, in not acting alone
to solve problems, in forming
groups to protect and ad-
vance communities. We
should be starting parents'
groups, community groups,
men's groups and women's
groups, artists' groups, re-
tiree groups and small busi-
ness groups. In this small
place we feel very vulner-
able if we take individual
action. In the face of in-
action by a govern-
ment and an
lessness by a
cannot easily be arrived at alone.
Truthfully we're not great in Trinidad and Tobago at
the collaborative thing. Our history has ensured this.
But let's start to move in that direction. Talk with oth-
ers about the "Wah you go do?" mentality, share this
article, discuss forming solution-oriented groups. So
the next time something happens to you and you
open your mouth to say "Wah you go do?" something
else, a step towards action, pops out instead.
Write me! I love hearing from you. lianagoddard-
• Bad Collaboration. A somewhat amateur video but
• Good Collaboration. Collaboration in a place that's as
diverse as Trinidad and Tobago. Israel.
| INSPIRATION |
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