Sunday, March 23, 2014

Signs of the times - the Peter O'Connor commentary

I was disappointed, but not surprised when two of our “institutions” who should know better placed flashing electronic billboards on their lands. The Forestry Division and Queens Hall proudly erected flashing electronic signs to desecrate their and neighbouring surroundings and to create an ongoing threat to our easily distracted motoring public.

I cannot recall seeing one comment about these ugly intrusions that was complimentary or supportive of these billboards. Everyone who took the time and commitment to write or speak of them has condemned them. It should have been easy enough for the people responsible for spending the money to purchase the signs with taxpayers’ (who are objecting) dollars, to have simply apologized and said “OK, bad mistake, we will remove them”, but that will not happen.

The arrogance of authority embedded in all of us who rise into any position of petty officialdom cloaks us with infallibility, so we will never retract anything we say, or change anything we have done. We succumb to the purveyors of things which we do not need, and are conned into erecting these things in unsuitable places because we are persuaded that it will make us look “modern”. 

But the businessmen who sell these billboards, and the advertising agencies and businesses who pay to have their propaganda flashed on these screens will never allow them on their street or outside their homes. And that is the standard we should apply to the erection of these things. If they are not accepted in Goodwood Park and Haleland Park, then they should not be allowed next to the Botanic Gardens or in front of Queens Hall, or along the roadsides.

Of course, the flashing billboards are not alone. Anyone with (or even without!) a piece of land along roads or highways can, and does, erect the flimsiest pipe frame to “sell” the space to advertisers. New ones keep going up ALL OVER THE PLACE. Two frames are “offering” space for sale on Lady Young Road, the scenic entrance to the capital city. These, when sold, will block beautiful views of the Cascade valley and the City. Again, the people who “buy” this space will give no thought to the desecration of our beauty. And I will boycott their products, but I am only one.

These are the physical signs of our times—the “littering” of our roadsides and views with crass advertising billboards. And they proclaim not just the products for sale, but the total indifference of our corporate sector towards the beauty of the land of their birth and where they made their millions. This is their “right”, and in words long since famous in this Wonderland, they are “not breaking any law”.

So no wonder then that we can read all the other signs of our times in the statements of sector leaders, in the moods and anger in the streets, and in our tea leaves? And what we are reading is that in the face of our self destruction, the pigs are now fighting at the troughs to take more and provide less.

And why not? The signs are all around us: the bastion of political stability (which does not translate into competence), the PNM, is shaking, clearly incapable of accepting democracy within itself. They were founded and have always survived as a colonial dictatorship, and may not be able to survive internal campaigning and free speech, so we watch them in wonder.

And the governing Peoples’ Partnership is in… what? Divorce proceedings? The COP is the only spouse still in the house. Surely Tobago’s TOP knows they are only there until the next election. The hope we mistakenly (or desperately?) placed in them all in 2010 has long been dashed on the rocks of incompetence, nepotism, and the general feeling that we are being governed by “vaps”, as cabinet plays musical chairs and projects are conjured out of thin air.

Labour, having been granted the increases with which the PNM refused to treat, is now stating openly that its mission is to bring down the government, to disrupt life and scare away investment.

Business, already branded by international observers as having almost no sense of Corporate Social Responsibility, is sharing the trough with the politicians while whining about crime—blue collar, black collar, blood collar crime. White collar crime is their way of life, and by sharing with the politicians they will never be called to account. The flag of Section 34 flies high and proud!

And as the merry month of May approaches, Party elections, anniversary celebrations and labour disruptions are promised, for we are heading into the electoral homestretch of 2015. For whom can we vote when that time comes? That, and the 1990 Coup Report, for another time.

In the meantime, read carefully the signs around you.

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai