Trinidad and Tobago is no stranger to campaigning. Unfortunately, the only campaigns we hear about in our nation are unions singing “We shall overcome” for a pay raise. I could do with a pay raise, trust me, but our country is in need of so much more that I’m willing to focus on other things.
In a perfect world, campaigning would be unnecessary, because the powers that be would have no need to be cajoled into doing what’s right. If you ever find that world, please send me a ticket. Trinbago, however, is in need of some hard-back campaigners, willing to take one (or three) for the team.
By now you have had the experience of riding the emotional Kony 2012 rollercoaster, from wanting to go to Uganda yourself and have Joseph Kony’s head, to feeling a bit embarrassed about inadvertently supporting the unsavoury spending habits of Invisible Children. If not, I’m concerned about you living under a rock. Lack of sunshine isn’t good for your skin.
I am amazed, however, that a video, which focused on the working of an armed religious fanatic, Kony, in central Africa, was able to send ripples around the globe, even to our tiny twin-island republic, inciting people to action. One Facebook group is actually planning to “Rock the Promenade” in support come April 21st – Harris Promenade, in case you were wondering.
Wow, right? I wonder whether the vagrants on Harris Promenade would join in the fun.
What I think we don’t yet understand is that all things are directly and indirectly connected, and to neglect any area of our nation’s existence negatively impacts the others. Joining a global movement is copasetic and all, but when domestic issues remain unaddressed, I feel like we have become so acclimatised to our own problems that we have to outsource them.
But I say that there is no need, because we’re all capable of coming up with a to-do list of our own. Here are four areas I think we need to campaign for:
Campaign for campaigners
The campaigners exist, but they are not effectively publicised. Few people know about these groups because our local media seem too overwhelmed with crime and Duprey to deal with things of this nature.
We can only get out of this rut, if campaigners make more noise and are given more airtime. My grandfather, George Weekes, was President General of the OWTU in the 60s and 70s, and the things these men did to get attention were crazy. Unless you’re willing to slash at your arm in court, like he did, to prove a point, I’m not asking for crazy. I’m asking for loud and outlandish.
Campaigners need to move beyond just having a Facebook group and the ever-so-often article in the papers. We, the people, need to make way for these campaigners by putting their faces out there as much as possible in our blogs, statuses, photos and bumper stickers.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transsexual rights
Since the latter half of the 20th century into the 21st, the world has been receiving constant doses of campaigns advocating for the recognition of the human right of this community. It has been a long and sometimes bloody road, with much more to go, but humanity has come far in small pockets around the globe.
Trinidad and Tobago, unfortunately, has been missing the moral memo.
Homosexuality is a “sexual offence” in our law books and it still bars homosexuals from entry into the country. Admittedly, it is not enforced, but it is still written, and gave religious fundamentalists the legal justification for wanting to keep Elton John away from us, and the support for this was not lacking.
Our laws on domestic violence do not protect a person if they belong to a same-sex relationship. Groups like the Coalition Advocating for the Inclusion of Sexual Orientation (CAISO) has been advocating for this locally, and they need our support.
Local politics is in need of so many changes that I thought twice before choosing to write on it, at all. The one foremost in mind, though, is a change to our electoral system.
Currently, we have a ‘first-past-the-post’ system, which ensures that the candidate with the most votes wins a seat in a particular constituency. Sounds perfect, I’m sure, but the problem with this is that the demographics of constituencies are so varied, that a candidate with less than 50% of the votes may win the seat, while a person with just 2% less than him, wouldn’t. This can lead, for example, to a winning party having 40% of the total number of votes, but a majority representation in Parliament, the judgement seat of our nation’s decisions.
The alternative is proportional representation (PR) elections, which seek to match the number of votes solicited by a party to the number of seats. That way, they’ll have representation in Parliament. For instance, in our last election, the People’s Partnership (PP) got approximately 60% of the votes. Under a PR system, the PP would have gotten 60% of the seats, which are 25 seats as opposed to the 29 they’re now successfully warming.
It may not sound like much, but countries that the world looks to model itself after, like Norway and Denmark, have adopted this system successfully. It shifts the focus slightly from a politics that is unnecessarily adversarial in the quest for maximum power, to one that has its eyes on representing the public as well as possible.
I’m sure it would also stymie the levels of tripe we hear resounding in Parliament, giving our ears some much needed rest.
Asa Wright Nature Centre starred in the headlines last week, when it highlighted massive and unsightly quarrying. I’m happy that the Government stepped in to put a stop to the extreme bulldozing. However, this quarrying business is not new, and I can put my head under a potong’s behind that I’m not the only one who knew. But did we care? Humans have the unhealthy habit of not caring about these mundane issues until they backfire on us, too late.
Our coral reefs that help protect our beaches are slowly dying, if not dead. Our forests, which literally hold the earth beneath our feet together, reducing the probability of land-slippage and flooding, are being hewn down…and we are busy sharing a Kony 2012 video, which produced a media storm that allegedly gave Jason Russell, co-founder of Invisible Children a nervous breakdown, allegedly causing him to run around vandalising cars in his underwear, and making sexual gestures.
Trini Eco Warriors advocates for the environment and they have been doing a commendable job. Look them up, share their videos and photos and support in whatever way you can. That means money, as well. It would be great if my children could have clean air to breathe.
We need to breathe life to this campaign spirit, and stop thinking of it as that thing other people do. I am one of the first in line to support international campaigns, but I have a suspicion that people in general prefer lazy activism to buss-back working.
Kony 2012 allowed us sit behind our laptops, one tab for Facebook, another for YouTube, and click to save the world. This is far from sufficient.
I think what is keeping our nation from realising its fullest potential is apathy – our near absolute unwillingness to get off our @sses and work – and the suspicious eye we cast on people who are. So, what’s the moral of the story? This is me telling you to get of your @ss and do something in our local context. If you can’t actively get involved, like most working people, at least actively support those who are involved.
So tell me. What are your ideas for causes we need to campaign for?