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The Greatness Within

Sunday, August 26, 2012

There have been many times within the last few years where we felt as though we had reached rock bottom, only for the ground underneath our feet to open up and swallow us whole. Faced with a certain volatility and unpredictability that has come to characterise everyday life here, many people are simply happy to float about in a sea of apathy; not saying or doing anything that could potentially rock the boat.


It is apathy, and the corruption which it spawns, that ensures the continued election of governments who only ever have the interests of a select few at heart. It is apathy, too, and the mediocrity it breeds, which enables a diplomat to speak using a language and tone more suited to some dingy Nelson Street rum shop, rather than an international conference.


Every so often, however, an individual or individuals come along who challenge the status quo. They produce acts of sheer brilliance that are acknowledged the world over; forcing even us to sit up and take notice. By the sweat of their endeavours, they tell us that our daily manna of partisanship and “bobol” needn’t be so.



They remind us that there is still greatness to be found within this blessed land; if only we dare believe in our collective potential. In the words of the writer Marianne Williamson, it appears as though, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”


In 1932, a young man left Trinidad to go to the prestigious Oxford University in England to study. Whilst there, he turned what had passed for contemporary wisdom on the subject of the slave trade, completely on its head. Whatever we may now think of Eric Eustace Williams, the politician, his thesis on capitalism and slavery, though widely debated, has never been debunked.


It was in the early 1940s, when everybody else around him saw a mere discarded oil drum that was good only for banging and making “ole noise,” Winston ‘Spree’ Simon envisioned an instrument of the sweetest musical harmony. The year after Hasely Crawford won gold in Montreal with speed, muscle and power, Janelle Penny Commissiong’s beauty, elegance and poise meant that she left Santo Domingo as the first black woman o be crowned Miss Universe.



In 1994, a man from Santa Cruz went out to bat for the West Indies in Antigua, and returned to the pavilion the next day with a world-record score of 375 under his belt. In 2001, Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul, who was born in central Trinidad before migrating to the United Kingdom, won the Nobel Prize for Literature.



There are many, many others whose exploits on the world stage over the years have also done us proud. With one almighty throw of his javelin, a 19-year-old boy from Toco became the latest to write his name into the annals of national greatness.


The simplicity of greatness is that it never concerns itself with a person’s racial or economic background, what their politics or religion are, how many Cabinet members they know, where they live, or any of the other tripe that we constantly pull from the bran tub of nonsense and pass off as serious debate. Unfettered and unchallenged, true greatness stands alone. I commend this government for extending congratulations to Keshorn Walcott on behalf of the entire nation, and for affording him the financial and material recognition that his momentous achievement surely deserves.



But let us be honest with ourselves. We have never really needed much of an excuse for a party, and would therefore do well to understand that a people cannot live by the spectacle of bread and circus alone. It is not as if we have not been down this road before. Truth is, if bandwagon-jumping were an Olympic sport, Trinidad & Tobago would have won gold long before Keshorn Walcott’s remarkable feat.


Anybody care to remember the Soca Warriors, a national football team that hailed from these parts circa 2006 AD? Remember the outpouring of national joy and the elation felt by all when they qualified for our first World Cup? Remember how we called them heroes, and how our politicians and other hangers-on milked the moment for everything it was worth, and then some?


Following the short-term triumphalism, however, no concrete plans were ever made for the long-term future of the game, as the twin brothers of naivety and foolishness combined to leave us thinking that Jack Warner and his golden Concacaf goose would continue for all eternity. We sang, danced and partied like there was no tomorrow.



The irony now is that for the Trinidad & Tobago Football Federation, there really might be no tomorrow. Astonishingly (read: conveniently) bad accounting, combined with the still unresolved pay dispute between the organisation and several players, leaves it teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. Say what, at least the lime by Trotters during the 2006 World Cup was “bess,” ent?


With London 2012 now over, and the baton having been passed seamlessly (Michelle Lee Ahye and Kelly Ann Baptiste please take note) onto Brazil for the next leg, the focus in Great Britain has already shifted to cementing a lasting legacy on the foundations of a very successful Games for the host nation. There, the search is already under way to find the next Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis, and Chris Hoy.


In Trinidad & Tobago, it must surely be hoped that when the euphoria wears off, and we regain a sense of sobriety, that someone somewhere has a blueprint that will allow future generations to build on Keshorn’s success in London. We are nearly 50; it is time we grew up and started acting our age.


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