Wed | Aug 23, 2017

Tony Deyal | The shape of things to come

Published:Saturday | September 3, 2016 | 9:20 AM

Today, you can go on Google Maps and find the village of Carapichaima where we lived until I was 11 years old. If you go west from there, past the abandoned railway station which for a long time tracked its way across the dusty main road, and the still-standing Anglican School I attended, you will, like Napoleon, meet your Waterloo. No Iron Duke there to give out rations of rum to his troops, but enough rum-shops with sufficient stocks of Puncheon (Overproof) rum to satisfy all the in-transit sugar workers and fishermen as well as the huge number of people going to, or more likely coming from the nearby open-air cremation site and need to get the taste of ashes out of their systems. Heading south, you will arrive at Exchange which, as the British say, is no robbery although that has changed significantly over the years as serious crimes, which according to the police do not include murders, have escalated and there have been more than 300 murders in Trinidad and Tobago so far for the year 2016.

If instead of heading west, you go east, perhaps in one of the horse-drawn carriages that were to be found outside the railway station in the old days, you will come to the village of Freeport which, as far as I know, has always been landlocked. But this is Trinidad and here Elite is a brand of shirts, Reform is a village and Independence either an Avenue if you go South or a Square if you head North. But we will head northwards towards the Capital City, Port-of-Spain which was once the Capital of the West Indies Federation.

 

WEST INDIES FEDERATION

 

Here, if you are seeking for it, you will find Federation. The hopes and dreams of the late fifties now have their final resting place as an upscale Park where many of the rich, famous and foreign embassies hide behind heavily guarded and security-patrolled premises. The names of the initial constituents are still here. The Forensic Science Centre where daily all the autopsies of the many murdered are conducted, and the inevitable police vehicles, hearses and mourners gather early every morning, is on Barbados Road. This is most likely a grisly concession to the first Federation Jefe, Sir Grantley Adams, and the ill-fated attempt of the Barbados premier, Errol Barrow, to save the Federation from the inevitable doornail status to which it quickly succumbed. Looking around you can find Antigua Drive. It is circular and not very long, perhaps as long as Dr Eric Williams entertained the demand from Antigua's Vere Bird that his province would only be in a federation with Trinidad as an equal partner, not as "a little Tobago".

Grenada Avenue and St Lucia Street are there as well as Jamaica Boulevard. Given the ill-feeling at the time, Jamaica is lucky to have a place in the Trinidad Federation that is not a gallows or parade ground square where the firing squad is billeted and bulleted. The Calypsonian, Mighty Sparrow, grudgingly conceded, "Jamaica has a right to speak she mind, that is my opinion" but then attacked the unbelievers, saboteurs and blasted traitors with, "But if you believe in democracy you will agree with me." In the only concrete Federation around, Trinidad is fittingly a crescent - the term used to describe the lit side of a spherical body that appears to be less than half illuminated.

The question we all should ask is, 'If Independence is a square, what is the shape of things to come?' If Federation is now a Park, what caused it to be so much like the two vast and trunkless legs of stone standing in the desert as the last remnants of Ozymandias, King of Kings, who boasted, "Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!" What, if not Divali, would cause the whole of Trinidad to be illuminated so that it will not fall victim to history? If Federation is a Park and CARICOM is an irreversible and universally acknowledged failure, what next?

 

LOOKING BACK

 

Philosopher, poet and author, George Santayana, wrote, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." I was 12 on January 3, 1958, when the West Indies Federation was launched. The customary bottles of champagne were drunk with gusto as were most of the celebrants in all the islands except, perhaps, distant Jamaica. The ship of state sank on May 31, 1962, and while not the Titanic, it did leave a trace or, at least, that Park where the ghosts mostly roam the Forensic Science Centre and most of us pass through Barbados like the dose of salts Michael Manley used as a simile for the waste that exemplified Trinidad and Tobago's management of its hydrocarbon resources.

Even though I consider myself a futurist, it is difficult for me, looking ahead, to see the shape of things to come. I have lived in several of the English-speaking Caribbean countries. I have worked in or spent time in all. This newspaper column is in the major newspapers of four countries and picked up by the people of the Diaspora in places like Britain, Canada and the US. They are, in some ways, more concerned about our future than we seem to be. We know that our little bits of sand and rock, with or without petroleum, cannot long survive individually. Wednesday, August 31, 2016, Trinidad and Tobago celebrated its 54th Anniversary of Independence. The bands played, the soldiers marched, the people danced, the prime minister gave a speech. But as I sit here writing I look at an interesting sidelight to history. Wikipedia states flatly, "On January 14, 1962, the People's National Movement (the Williams-led Trinidad component of the WIFLP) passed a resolution rejecting any further involvement with the Federation. Williams himself stated that "one from ten leaves nought"in other words, without Jamaica, no Federation was possible. Trinidad and Tobago became independent on August 31, 1962."

- Tony Deyal was last seen on Jamaica Avenue in Queens, New York, where if you stay for the day you are likely to meet more than ten per cent of all the people you know.