By Raffique Shah
August 14, 2019
It’s so easy for us to be so overwhelmed by our own mess—and there’s more than enough sewage there to drown us all—that we are unmindful of what’s happening in the wider world, developments that could impact our small island state negatively.
When the fallout from certain actions by powerful leaders hit us in the face with a bang, we will come awake startled, crying out: Oh Jeezanages! I was watching Marlene McDonald and her gang…ah didn’t see that bolt from Donald Trump (or Xi Jinping or Boris Johnson or Vladimir Putin) coming this way!
Yes, we are mired in a mess in Trinidad and Tobago—from an economy that’s limping along at age 57 looking more decrepit then a 75 year-old beset with multiple afflictions, to a virtual alphabet soup of politicians and parties that all have the solutions to our woes…until you vote them into office. We are under siege by hordes of criminals who are ruthless as they pounce on innocent people, robbing them of their few valuables, and in the process brutalising or murdering them. Our many public services fail to deliver to citizens in need although they are generously funded by taxpayers…I can go on and on.
So understandably, the majority of us ignore developments and trends beyond the boundaries of our cocoon-like society, thinking they do not or will not impact us directly.
One example that comes to mind is US president Trump’s racist anti-migration policy that is targeting not just Mexican and other Latin American migrants, legal and illegal, but non-Whites who merely seek to vacation in the US or visit friends and relatives who are studying or residing there. The embassy in Port of Spain has quietly summoned selected visitors’ visa-holders and cancelled their multiple-entry visas, giving them no explanation. More first-time applicants are being denied entry, including young people who have been accepted by colleges in that country.
As the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, prodded by White House directives, arrest and deport illegal immigrants who have lived and worked there for decades, we can expect a significant number of Trinidadians and Tobagonians to be deported home—whatever that may mean for crime and additional burdens on our services.
Trump’s racist rhetoric, as I mentioned last week, has already fuelled deadly attacks on Latinos: it’s only a matter of time before his rabid rednecks direct their race-hate towards Afros, Indians, Chinese and other non-white ethnicities that have made America their homeland, chasing the elusive American dream. Those of us who have witnessed the savagery of the Ku Klux Klan and similar white supremacists mobs, either first hand or through books and movies (check Gene Hackman in Mississippi Burning), can only shudder at what lies ahead for Americans, Whites and non-Whites, who do not subscribe to this primitiveness being perpetrated by Trump.
The resurgence of racism and fascism is not limited to Trump’s America. Over the past decade, a latter-day Hitler-like fascism has resurged in Europe. The influx of refugees fleeing the NATO-instigated anti-Assad war in Syria, and its Islamist progeny, ISIS, disturbed the equilibrium of Europe, where asylum-seekers averaged 250,000 per year up to 2012. The numbers spiked during the crisis in the Middle-East and certain countries in North Africa. An estimated four million refugees landed in Europe between 2014 and 2017, the overwhelming majority of them being non-Whites.
The sheer volume of refugees provided a fillip to right-wing fascist and nationalist parties which, for the first time since the end of World War II, won significant numbers of seats in Parliamentary elections in several countries in Europe. In the most recent elections, nationalist parties polled more than 20 per cent of votes cast in Hungary, Denmark, Switzerland and Austria.
Emboldened by such support, the right-wing rhetoric has grown strident. Last Friday, in an interview with an Italian daily newspaper La Stampa, Pope Francis said “…recent political rhetoric has echoed that of Nazi Germany…I am concerned because we hear speeches that resemble those of Hitler in 1934,” he said. ” ‘Us first. We … We … ‘ These are frightening thoughts…”
In Italy, where The Vatican is located, Matteo Salvini, leader of the right-wing party, The League, is considered the most powerful politician in that very fractured society. He considers himself a Trump protégé and, as deputy prime minister, he has clamped down harshly on refugees and migrants.
As if these Hitler-clones do not pose enough worries over the future of the world, India’s Narendra Modi has unilaterally altered long-standing constitutional provisions in the volatile state of Kashmir, triggering outrage among Muslims in that sensitive border region. There is no shortage of Taliban-type Muslims who may seek to strike back, especially with Kashmir sharing borders with Pakistan, China, Russia and Afghanistan.
The timing of Modi’s provocative action could hardly be worse: it came on the eve of one of Islam’s holiest days, Eid ul Adha. Interestingly, in another provocative move of a similar nature, the Israeli government debarred Muslims from accessing Islam’s third holiest mosque, al-Aqsa, in Jerusalem, which they share with Jews. This year, both religions’ holy days coincided. The Israeli government denied tens of thousands of Muslims access.
These occurrences may seem to be too far removed from our country to have any adverse effect on us. I need remind readers that when we first heard of Muslims from T&T joining the ISIS jihad in countries and a war-torn region totally alien to us, we doubted it. We later learned that hundreds had gone to war in a saga whose final chapter has yet to be written.
I haven’t touched on the situation in Venezuela, Trump’s crippling sanctions against Iran, which has struck back at powerful NATO countries, or the US-China trade war that will inevitably affect us.
Today’s world is truly a global village in which issues that loom large for us—criminal charges against ex-ministers McDonald and Anand Ramlogan—amount to small fry.