What price, national pride?

By Raffique Shah
November 08, 2009
Trinidad and Tobago News Blog

SPORT Minister Gary Hunt is convinced that the $2 million national flag that flutters over the Hasely Crawford Stadium would instil national pride in the populace. From the flak he has been subjected to ever since the issue first surfaced-the cost, that is, not the flag-he must be wondering what sin he has committed. In time, he argues, people would come around to understanding why his ministry opted for a 2,000 square feet flag hoisted on a 150-foot pole.

Sadly, neither the minister nor his boss, Prime Minister Manning, or any other minister (as far as I know) was schooled in history. Which is a pity, given that the country’s first Prime Minister, Dr Williams, was a renowned historian. It is often said that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat often-fatal mistakes of the past.

Had they studied landmark events in history like the fall of the Roman Empire or the French Revolution, they would understand why the majority among the population are angry that a government agency would spend that much on erecting a national flag. It is not because people do not care for the flag or they don’t take pride in our nation. It is simply outrage over misplaced priorities and mindless spending of public funds, something the Manning Government seems to have mastered.

They don’t give a damn about what the masses think. Let me take them back in history, to 1789 when the French Revolution started. France was a relatively prosperous country by world standards. But King Louis XV had brought the country to the brink of bankruptcy through a series of wars that were unnecessary, serving only to boost or bruise his ego.

By the time Louis XVI ascended the throne with Marie-Antoinette as Queen, the country had suffered famine and was stricken with severe poverty among its predominantly peasant population. The nobility prospered, as they always do. In the face of mounting discontent, the King’s financial adviser recommended that the royal family and nobility curb their conspicuous consumption. He was fired.

A bloody revolution followed, with the storming of the Bastille, the trial and execution by guillotine of the king in 1793, followed months later by that of Marie-Antoinette. Among the nobility, many heads rolled-some historians say 17,000-plus-into the basket as the guillotine separated them from their bodies. Out of that people’s revolution a new republic was born, and the tri-colour, the national flag, became a symbol of the new order.

Here again, a national flag played an important role in rallying the masses, just as historically, the flag (or colours) was used to rally troops on ancient battlefields. So the national flag does instil pride in people, but it could also spark anger when it seems to have been sullied by extravagance among the ruling elite. And that is precisely what is happening in this instance.

National pride, Minister, is walking through a capital city where the sidewalks are in near-perfect order, not ravaged by time and strewn with death-traps. Pride in one’s country is not having a virtual army of assorted vagrants to negotiate past, trying to avoid contact, possibly disease.

Sometime last year Minister Hazel Manning swore she’d rid the streets of these unfortunate souls. I warned her that I’d heard better cocks crow. Now she knows. They will still be around when she sits in her sky-high new office, staring at squalor not only in Sea Lots, but also at the ‘slumdogs’ on the sidewalks and almost anywhere else she turns.

You cannot have a country that has earned around $200 billion in revenue over the past five years, but still cannot provide basic standards of living for its population of 1.3 million. If we exclude the ten, twenty thousand ‘lochos’ who are content to live in squalor, what of those brimming with national pride who have no hope of having decent roofs over their heads?

The HDC, as I commented recently, seems to have a strange selection process in which deserving cases for national housing die before they see a key. Yet known criminals hold priority over hard working young families: how in Jah’s name could that be just?

Minister Hunt, in reflecting on the anger that flag has provoked should scan the increasing number of street children who stalk the nation’s highways and byways. How can a giant flag, sited at a venue they know nothing of and will never have the money to enter, engender pride in them?

How can Hunt or any of his Cabinet colleagues justify their smugness at weekly Cabinet-defensive-talk-diatribes, knowing that thousands of children go to sleep on makeshift ‘beds’, not to add empty stomachs? What would one or two or ten million-dollar flags do for their national pride?

I’ll tell him what. They will harbour intense hatred for those who squander their patronage on endless metres of cloth, while they suffer for lack of clothes. And they will come after us, matters not whether we care about them or we ignore them. Watch out for the wrath of those children. They will take pride in snuffing out lives of the innocent and the guilty.

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8 thoughts on “What price, national pride?”

  1. Thank you, Mr. Shah.
    Pride is an abstract noun. It is not a tangible thing. It comes from a lot of ways. Our history, our commitment, our performance and our accomplishments all contribute to our sense of pride be it nationally, in the work-place or in our family life.
    Shame on the PM, his Sports Minister and his government. The price tag for the flag was $2 million but someone was smiling all the way to the bank.

    We need “Change” real bad!

  2. Is the flag and the pole made of some special material? I still haven’t gotten over the price. I’m sure that I could have gotten a deal that would have cost fraction of the $2 million dollar price tag paid. If the sports minister isn’t corrupt, then he is just stupid. Either way, he is not worthy of his office.

  3. Why is it that people continue to act as though the flag cost $2million. As the minister explained the cost is inclusive of the foundation on the flag is hoisted. But is typical of petty Trinbagonians to B & M over every single thing.

  4. Only a fool would believe that $2 million dollars is acceptable for the flag, pole, foundation and labor. Then again, is that $2 million TT?

  5. Well said Mr. Shah, I have been commenting on the Social Welfare of our country and taking care of our kids. Its time to own up why we have so many killings. If the money is spent on social welfare, community building our children will have no time to waste, it takes a village to raise a child. The flag then will then show our pride. I am amazed that we made 200 billion, whats up with our hospitals.

  6. “It takes a village.” Sounds good Shireen,this quote from an African saying that Hilary Clinton stole for the title of her best selling book on the verge of launching her political career.
    Tell me however, do you think that local politicians would be ecstatic to get on board a push for ‘social welfare’ and ‘community building projects,’ unless they feel that this would translate to votes or other financial returns? What role if any, do you expect from the generally selfish local business class, and the lethargic Civil Society in the process?
    The last time I check the Cancer Society was about to go belly up,and since the ‘intelligent’ George Chambers rocky post Eric rule,more valuable TT dollars have been siphoned out to foreign banks than that of the past 100 top global dictators put together.
    I just love these new age catch phrases that are repeatedly parroted by the well intentioned.
    Speaking of hospitals,I am doubtful many cares about this subject.
    It’s a nice day in our country ,for Carnival 2010 is well on schedule, and when the need arise ,those with means can fly to Cuba ,England ,and Miami for medical attention just like their illustrious PM and Opposition leader.Here is another perspective on killing, and time wasting kids as you so eloquently refer to one of many growing menace in the ‘land of the Hummingbird.’
    “Betty lue had six children with Sam, but like neither of them give a darm. They always fighting in front the children…… How they expect these children to grow up, if the parents and dem don’t stop? Lord it’s a burning shame…Think about the children, not later but now.”
    It would appear as if not only you Shireen had concern for our kids. So did Kaisonian Merchant. What was he charged for just before his premature death again?

  7. The following is a message exchange between the flagman and me

    Marlon RadioPolice 05 November at 09:23
    Sir, could you do us a favour and not insult the citizens of this country please. We deserve better, after all you people depend on us to vote for you so you can have all that you have at our expense. I am trying to be very polite to you, well not you your office, but its difficult, so I would end by asking that you find it in your hart, if you have one, to not insult us.

    Gary Hunt 05 November at 20:56 Report
    I think it was honest to lay all the facts on the table.

    Marlon RadioPolice 06 November at 09:03
    but Sir, the facts came in trances, listen, no one in this country rases these issues just to make others look bad or that we hate them and want to bring them down, But please sir, you must understand, if you were on the outside of this matter looking in as we are, I am sure that you would understand that from the outset it did not and cannot make sense. You first indicated that you were not too sure of the cost, but also indcated that Cabinet approved it, how could cabinet approve it without a cost. You then stated that it (the flag) cost 18,500, then eventuallly you indicated that the cost was approximately 2 million. How does this look to you sir, honestly? People in this country does have alot of national pride, but we do not need a flag to tell us that we are a proud people, we need water, good roads, safe communities with recreational facilities, to name a few. Again sir we rasie these matters for one purpose, and that is to force a change in the priorities. I do hope you can understand.

    Thanks for your reply anyways

    Gary Hunt 06 November at 19:54 Report
    There are many notes that come before cabinet. This year so far over 3000 notes have come before cabinet for approval!!! Last year when that was approved it was part of a larger work programme for the HCS and JPC. Difficult to remember numeric details of each note. The flag cost $15,600 + VAT. The structures required to fly the flag is what we clarified. Open and honest. SPORTT even took out and Ad in the paper and gave exact figures. Water, good roads, and safe communities and recreational facilities are constantly being worked on. Remember each dept. of Government is given an budget to operate. This year MSYA operated with very high efficiency. A lot more was done for a lot less. Millions was given back to the Minister of Finance by MSYA. National development is being implemented on many fronts.

    Marlon RadioPolice 10 November at 12:47
    For the past few days I have been trying to come up with a reply to this, but I cannot seem to come up with one, except to say, please sir – lets rethink how we D people money nah.

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