No, we can’t

By Raffique Shah
December 14, 2008

Barack ObamaEVER since Barack Obama shot into the limelight and coined the campaign slogan “Yes, We Can!” politicians of all hues and persuasions across the world have adopted it to suit their own agendas. Upon becoming President-elect then putting together a same faces, different administrations White House team, Obama ignited a passion for what many see as “national consensus” politics. That, too, has caught on, especially among politicians in opposition, those whose only hope for sharing in the spoils of office lie in accommodation by the lucky ones who have power.

As much as there is a measure of idealism in this notion of national unity, isn’t there a glaring contradiction in promoting this brand of politics? In Obama’s case, he rode to power on people’s deep dislike for Bush and his Republican cohorts. Most Americans who, post 9/11, supported the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, soon changed their stance when they realised their President had misled them into inextricable quagmires using a complex web of shameless lies. To add to their woes, Bush and his ruling-classmates have also taken the country into an economic crisis of unimaginable proportions.

Obama became an attractive alternative when he spoke out against the wars, when he promised to tax the super-rich and profiteering corporate giants in order to relieve the plights of other, ordinary Americans. What has happened since he became President-elect? He has retained Bush’s most recent pointman in the wars, Robert Gates, as Defence Secretary. He has named “hawk” Hillary Clinton to the powerful post of Secretary of State. General James Jones, another “hawk”, will be National Security Advisor. And many of the high-flyers whose corporate scheming ran Wall Street into a stone-wall, are on his economic advisory team.

So, did Americans who voted Obama get the change they yearned for? Many are prepared to allow him time to prove what he preached on the platforms was not mere rhetoric. They hope that instead of his Cabinet and advisors dictating policies, Obama would show them, and the world, that he is “The Man”. I wish I were as hopeful as they are. In fact, I hope that I am dead wrong in my assessment of Obama’s politics, my feeling that little will change under his presidency. He is young, he is bright, and he has what it takes to make a difference. Even so, I ask: Can he?

For those in this country who have latched on to the “we can” catch phrase in their quest to pursue power by any means, what are they signalling to an electorate that is far more gullible than America’s? If I interpret their notion of consensus politics correctly, they present several scenarios. First, some argue that the PNM Government should accept advice it receives from non-PNM persons-professionals, politicians and others. This can be useful to any government. But what happens when such advice runs counter to policies of the ruling party? If I may take the proposed Rapid Rail project as one example-and here I must declare my mala fides against the RR, proposing instead a Bus Rapid Transit system. The Government is fixated on it. Nothing will get the regime to change its position except the final price, and that will come after it has spent hundreds of millions on “studies”.

Others suggest a “government of national unity”. What does that mean? That we take some PNM policies and personnel, add them to a few UNCites and their agenda-items, and garnish the potpourri with some COPs? What changes would such a hodgepodge bring about? None, I proffer. This is but a badly conceived recipe for those who lost the general elections to nose their way into the corridors of power.

Yet others promote the coming together of “good people” from all political persuasions to get together and take on the PNM, remove it from power. I don’t know that I qualify, but if I did, the first items on my agenda would see me getting the boot. I would move against poverty with vengeance.

I would tax the super-rich much more than the middle class. Then, having created opportunities for people to climb out of poverty, I would demand productivity for pay. Those who refuse to work, and those who choose to remain criminals or look for handouts would feel the brunt of a military-style force they never knew existed. Do you see why they would kick my backside into the Gulf?

The bottom line is our politicians have no answers to the myriad problems facing the country. They differ only in how much they crave for, or revel in, power. Their cry for unity among the masses, which, in large measure, already exists, is as hollow as their platform promises. What the politicians are telling us is PNM in power, UNC in power or COP in power, we can expect little or no real change.Same difference, as some would say.

If Obama cannot deliver real change in America, can we expect any better from this lame lot in T&T? No, we can’t. In fact, we should tell them all to go to Hell and not bother to return. That would be heavenly.

15 Responses to “No, we can’t”


  • Trinidad and Tobago has a lot of potential to produce some great leaders/politician, but fear in their hearts is the impediment for them coming forward. For example: Manning had people spying on Kamla! How then, can anyone pick up the cross and attempt to carry it a foot without fear of who is walking behind them.

    Then you have the UNC-A and CoP who’s only motive for seeking leadership is personal gratification and the power that goes with it.

    Imagine having guns, ammo and drugs planted in your water supply just to shut you up! and get you out of the way. Who would want to bring that kind of drama into their families?

    It is a shame what politics has come to in T&T. I have a feeling some of our politicians hail from Chicago, Illinois; if not, its darn close.

    Finally, like i’ve said in many occasions; Trinbagonians must grow some balls and take back their country. If they are waiting for a saviour or a deliverer, they will be disappointed and should brace for another century of opression such as the status quo.

  • “Trinbagonians must grow some balls and take back their country.” dasy100, I assume that you are referingonly to our politically ambitious males .What roles do you expect for our women beyond of course being bare feet streetside corn vendors , pregnant, or bump and wine advocates/ practicioners on Mastana Bahar , Pargwa , and Carnival?
    Am I understanding you correctly, Manning spied on Kamla Persad-Bissessar – the illustrous Lawyer, Sipiria MP, former AG & Opposition Leader of the UNC- , and as such she became so gutless and fearful to stand up and lead her party to political victory after first ousting the backward thinking political dinosaur Panday ,and his venemous sidekick Ramesh Maharaj? Such logic certainly proves that you unfortunately were unable to graduate beyond Barackpore High School, or perhaps mistakingly believes that readers on this blog are all fools that recently landed from Mars?

  • I believe that too many Trinibagonians don’t talk to one another directly about issues that concearn them without seperating and blaming one another. Blame is in the past the country ineeds a plan for the future. Power to the people should be the slogan behind the movement that runs the corrupt powers that be out of office. Any politician suspected of not keeping in mind the intrest of the people of Trinidad and Tobago should be removed from office. Trinidad and Tobago doesn’t have a budget anywhere close to the countries that it’s elected officials try to emulate. For Trinidad and Tobago to move forward as Trinidad and Tobago, it needs to stop glamorizing anything English or American and start promoting strictly Trinibagonian. Just work together for one another, thats all that is needed to find the best resolution to the problems that plague the nation. As a united country serve your own intrest. Get rid of the sellouts.

  • Hhahah Neal! that’s hilarious! If i didn’t know better I’d probably think you’re attacking my intellect, but it’s good rhetoric and humour. But it’s true, Kamla can’t lead her hand from her mouth to ear with her eyes closed, but using her name was just an example of how far the gov’t would go to preserve their measure of power. In any event, i’m sure you get my point in my piece.

  • Of couse dasy100. Just keeping it light , and I am happy you could see the humor as some of us take this forum a bit too serious . It is what it is – just an avenue to vent some of our historical fustration , and shed light into conveniently darken corners ,in the hope that someone who cares will respond in some tangible / positive way. Good job, and keep up the unbias struggle.
    Chao.

  • We need a new face, a breath of fresh, clean air. Manning and his lot and Panday and his lot are corrupt and both groups behave like children fighting for the same toys………power and control. The power is the people’s to change our corrupt government.
    There must be someone perhaps (Kamla Bissessar) who can make a go for it. Trinidad & Tobago is too beautiful a land to be destroyed by the likes of the evil and corrupt PNM and UNC-A.

  • Malsie is getting warm here, and just might be on to something re Mdame Bissessar. It is now imperative that she inform prospective ‘new’ ‘fresh’ ‘faces’,incline on bringing clean air to the political landscape , about one of the most fundamental tenets of politics that existed since Aristotle, Plato, were little Greek boys running around with their butts in the air – one cannot ‘bite the -in case some pretenders fails to catch my drift.
    If done, one is destine to remain in the political wilderness for a very long time especially in a society divided along such lines as ours. The Obama playboy is available for all to read , I am sure.

  • This column should have been in two parts as most of those who replied paid little attention to the Obama issue. I feel the same way as Shah he is on the ball with his comments about him, Obama is behaving likea political neophyte and retianing some Bushmen with whom the people want to break from. It is more important for he to push hisa agenda than to advocate for national unity. As for the TnT scene I think enough has already been said.

  • Cousin Dalglish, we fully understand both yours and Mr Shah’s obsessions about Yankee politics , especially that of present President elect.The fact that most of us have ignored such an angle , should clearly send a message that no one cares about the shenigans of nations of the developed North, while millions are stuck in the socialand economic quagmire – as a result the distabilizing influence of a 40 year Cold War struggles enhanced by the local efforts of elites pretending to be servants of the people. We are solely concerned with the travails of our 1.3 million citizens ,and in search of our own vibrant leaders with ideas to positively move the nation forward once the ‘political has beens’ of both parties- including the dormant ones- poised as editor at large or otherwise- are discarded by an awake and conscious people not prepared to be continually led like ‘sheep to the slaughter.’
    Perhaps if the young Shah back then was as savy , the pueso dictator Panday ,would not have hijacked the ULF/UNC Party that he helped create ,and the PNM’S Eric, Chambers ,and finally the ‘geologist political giant,’ would not have ran roughshod over our nation populace for as long as it did.

  • Neal I have to disagree about,” local efforts of elites pretending to be servants of the people”.

    Efforts of the local elites to be servants of the people haven’t gone unnoticed in Washington because those are the people that they serve. I am bewildered at the obvious pandering that local elites and politicians go through to be like imperfect corrupt U.S. and English politicians and business leaders. It’s pathetic and yet they the Trini perpetraitors think that they are on level or cool or something. It’s no wonder more Trini’s live outside of Trinidad and Tobago then in Trinidad and Tobago. It is what it is and until the country can look at itself and question the route it’s going with the current administration at helm, nothing will ever change besides the people suffering more.

  • Neil…do you have an email add…that I can get a hold of you through? If you’re reserved in divulging that info. can you contact me via my email addy? Dasy100@gmail.com…thanks

  • “It’s no wonder more Trini’s live outside of Trinidad and Tobago then in Trinidad and Tobago.” Are you saying Curtis that we have destroyed the record of Guyana and Jamaica with regards to nationals fleeing their blessed lands of birth Curtis? There was a time not so long ago – perhaps you were still in short pants- when a Trini national would simply hold a Yankee Green Card like a spare tire for his car, or handkerchief to blow his nose when the occasion requires, and would only take the occasional trip to New York, Boston, Connecticut, or Miami, for a few days to ensure that the said card remains valid as per immigration requirements. I assume that those days are long gone correct?
    I wonder who we have to blame for that. I know, post 1986 NAR regime, when the impatient vindictive man that lost the bid to become “1st amongst equal,” -with his 10 as opposed to ‘aw wee boy’s’ 2 Tobago seats – encouraged every one of his fervent sheep like -party supporters to run to the Canadian and Yankee immigration authorities and cry crocodile tears about being -what was sensibly recognized by the astute respective countries-as phantom victims and social pariahs in their own lands, when caught in the luggage sections of a plane as a pathetic store away.
    Your point on the collusion roles of the local elites with the foreign representatives is well taken, and I am in agreement. It is the reason why I have requested that efforts be made to foster some level of patriotism outside of narrow carnival/ entertainment and tribal areas, starting with our young people- perhaps via a volunteer / national service drive using some form of paramilitary compulsory training as we tweak the neocolonialist 15th century education to satisfy our own needs. Unfortunately, all this
    old school education created is more ungrateful, educated, country hating ‘booboolees,’like world renown V.S. Naipaul merely concerned with picking up stupid foreign accent, and condescendingly pontificates from afar , or perhaps a few pompous
    returning ones- very low on ideas, but high on expectations as if someone owes them something.
    . It is difficult for our country’s people to as you put it collectively “look at itself, and question the route it’s going,” until national pride and patriotism become ingrain in their psyche. Hang in there my friend, for “a million miles begin with the first step.”So said an African proverb, or was it Chinese?
    Regards.

  • Guyana and Jamaica have a tough record to beat. They are also larger than Trinidad and Tobago. as we know. Jamaica’s problems may not all be their own. After all it was the World Bank and U.S. backyard capitalism powered by colonial Eurocentric democracy that has ravaged Jamaica.

    I remember being proud to tell my American class mates that my father was Trini. I didn’t exactly know what that meant. As an Adult and wanting Trinidad to be the best it can be, mediocrity and less as it is now doesn’t rest well knowing that Trinibagonians deserve so much better at home.

    The idea of a few holding so much power but refusing to use it for the greater good for the future of that nation is sickening at best. The mere fact that some Trinibagonians would rather trade their nation for a more imperfect nation is terrible when clearly it is evident that all nations have social issues. I can hang in there Neal because I’m not there. I would love to come “home”, but I don’t know how trading one corrupt place for another would help my family and I. The next four years of U.S. politics may be the determining factor for me and how the copycat pandering leadership of Trinidad and Tobago try to mimic England and the U.S.

  • You do not have to physically be present in our country to make a difference in its social political and economic development. Read leaving Microsoft to save the world by John Woods, Bill Clinton’s giving , Bono’s forays in Africa and countless other caring and committed students that are doing something noble.

  • when can we ever have a life with person been perfect.

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