By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
November 14, 2022
“There’s no hidin’ place up there,
Oh, I went to the hills to hide my face,
The hills cried out, ‘No hidin’ place;
There’s no hidin’ place up here.”
—An Afro-American spiritual
Things have been warming up (or deteriorating) lately in the political arena among those who see others as pothounds; those who consider themselves as thoroughbreds; and those who accuse challengers of the established order as possessing sinister motives.
Stuart Young, Minister of Energy, demeaned PNM members who offered themselves for leadership positions in the party’s forthcoming elections. He claimed that since 2015, some of them have done nothing but criticise the party leaders “like little pothounds barking at our ankles as though they are the opposition and now they want to put themselves forward and call themselves firstly PNM members and then secondly want to be PNM leaders”.
Not to be outdone, PNM PRO Laurel Lezama-Lee Sing questioned “the motives of those who abandoned the party post-2010 and along the way… are taking the opportunity to ride the PNM to fulfil maybe sinister political agendas and for personal aggrandisement”; while Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly reminded party members that she, Young and Faris Al-Rawi are “the diamonds in the PNM that were created by you, the people”.
The Urban Dictionary defines a pothound as “an extremely hungry dog of unknown parentage typically found wandering in the streets of T&T. This type of dog mainly chases food and will do anything for food”. Thoroughbreds, on the other hand, are smart horses that are intelligent, energetic, and possess a strong work ethic. Accusing one of having “sinister motives” presumes that one’s intent is harmful or evil.
Laventille is a PNM stronghold. Recently shots rang out in the vicinity of Rose Hill RC Primary School, forcing pupils to duck under their desks for safety. Fitzgerald Hinds, the Minister of National Security, suggested the pupils were not in any imminent danger and that teachers overreacted to the incident.
In his response to Parliament, Hinds stated: “I have indicated that the intend driven (sic) by intelligence to ensure there are more static patrols, in other words, they remain on that and surrounding locations, far more permanently, and they intend as well to have some counselling sessions with the staff and the students and that the IATF Hearts and Minds Programme of the Police Service will work with the school to develop and educate and expose the children and the staff to other things and to reach out to the general community because that problem is symptomatic of other issues in the general community as members of the community indicated.”
Even if one forgives the clumsy prose and convoluted logic of Hinds’ remarks, are we willing to argue that one is/would be a pothound if one criticises this obscene response? One observer, dismayed by the emptiness of Hinds’ response, retorted: “A village tucked away from humanity, on a mountain far away, just lost an idiot. He was just found uttering gibberish in Trinidad.”
Even Prime Minister Keith Rowley and Camille Robinson-Regis denounced Karen Nunez-Tesheira’s effrontery in contesting the position of political leader. Nunez-Tesheira responded: “To PM Rowley and lady vice-chair Camille Robinson-Regis, I will say the PNM needs more and expects more from you than mudslinging at a time when clear vision and leadership is desperately needed… It is not bad-mouthing one’s political party to point out deficiencies. Instead, it is your duty and responsibility to do so.”
The traditional Afro-American spiritual, “There’s No Hidin’ Place”, tells of the futility of human attempts to hide from the wrath of God in mountains and in rocks when judgment day comes. That same condition may be the refuge of politicians who make irresponsible statements. They will not be able to hide from the wrath of the people who are suffering from the Government’s failures to control the rampant crime and constant flooding in the country. They are beginning to understand that the PNM has failed to create a safe environment in which they can live.
Even Ann-Margaret Robinson, daughter of the former president of the Republic and principal of Tranquillity Secondary School, next to PNM’s Balisier House, felt the effects of this growing social disorder recently. Soon there will be no place to hide for former prime ministers as there is no place to hide for ordinary citizens.
It is remarkable how inept these young PNM leaders are in articulating the goals of their party and formulating a philosophy that speaks to the needs of the 21st century. They simply follow the example of the older leaders who are stuck in repudiating and insulting their opponents, whether they are inside or outside the party. They all seem to lack intellectual substance and are uncharitable to those who see things differently from them.
In the introduction to his insightful novel, Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison noted that it is impossible to create a truly democratic society without developing conscious, articulate citizens who can express the aspirations and shortcomings of that society. Neither party is doing that very well at this time.
Speaking the Word truthfully and respecting one another are indispensable aspects of democracy. Bob Marley, our great philosopher, warned about “passing dirty remarks” against one another, and asserted: “There ain’t no hiding place from the Father of Creation.” Revelation supports this position. It asks, when “the great day of His wrath is come who shall be able to stand?”
PNM members ought to consider Nunez-Tesheira’s prognostication: “The truth of the PNM is that the message coming from the current leader(s) has grown stale, and the majority of the people have closed their ears to what is being communicated.”
A word to the wise should suffice.