Louis, Peter and Pat – three heritage soldiers whose life stories and interests might be different, but whose focus were very similar to each other. They summoned their creative energies to negate the similar frustrations: dinosaur institutions, individuals touting change, but unwilling to take the necessary actions to effect them, then falling into their comfort zone only to replicate bad habits.
Louis, Peter and Pat – three lagahoos – sleepless, tireless explorers and proponents of heritage as essential to endowing the next generation with a sense of place and identity, but also sustainable sources of livelihood from the self initiative, innovation and creativity that spring so naturally from our communities.
Peter was a discoverer, of heritage. He tried to lodge his findings with institutions which reduced their significance to the narrow confines of the myopic limitations these institutions impose on themselves – post independence notwithstanding.
Louis was a hoarder of heritage. His anxiety that they would be lost to the ignorant, or the marauding development bulldozers, meant he was often only-too-willingness to cut, sometime dangerous, corners, as I had pointed out to him in relation to the Ganteaume tombstones in Mayaro which we subsequently found out were in his museum and several other issues that arose on the committee.
Pat Bishop was a creator of heritage.
‘T&T is a place that if you wanted to listen to a concert, you have to create one,’ she would say, and she created concert after concert. Louis wanted a place where our history and heritage could be preserved so he created a museum. I got the message: if I wanted people to read my books, to read local authors, I should create my own literacy and literary movement – and that means, in the absence of accessible systems to do so, inspire literary appreciation, educate, research, write, publish, market, distribute, promote, cajole, lobby, etc; that, and expect potential heart failure.
That is our social culture. It is a cultural norm that we do not acknowledge. In not acknowledging it we cannot address it. The story of inertia in the heritage, culture and tourism sectors – still largely viewed as cruise ships and flag waving – while our frustrated youths, seeing the unfulfilled potential around them, take up arms. It is not much different for any of our other sectors and the systems in the functions and attitudes that govern them.
That is also in our political culture: if you want changes in governance, create a political party. If that party falls short, you create another one. It is the same dynamics that have generated the mushrooming of more than 7000 civil society organisations across the country – a CSO/NGO each for less than three quarters of a square kilometre if one wants to get statistical, each championing a cause seen more relevant to the several others it may be duplicating.
Inflexibility and the absence of commitment to transform, change, and evolve; the lack of proper mechanisms, infrastructure and facilities for national assets that will ensure adequate protection of our national assets, including heritage assets encourage citizens to take actions in our own hands.
That void is adequate breeding ground for vigilantes.
When state systems fall down civic-minded citizens are left to take up the slack, until even the state begins to support corner-cutting, because it fulfils its agenda for politically expedient quick fixes, while the preparation of the substantive mechanisms and infrastructures are put on hold. By whatever name one wants to call it, it is vigilante action, fostered because the existing institutions charged with those responsibilities show little interest, understanding or willingness to take the necessary actions to transform themselves to become more relevant to evolving and dynamic social changes and expectations. The vigilantes become heroes. That’s what happens on this side of the fence, of those like Louis, Pat and Peter, who worked to protect, secure, build a future in villages and communities for other generations.
It is not rocket science, if we connect the dots. It is no different and just as much the cultural norm of what happens on the other side of the fence: those other community leaders, gang leaders, those propagating another kind of laga-hoodlumism, the other kind of vigilante justice…
The race is on and the bets may be already fixed on who’s going to win the war; and who will die trying!
If only we knew ourselves…
R.I.P. Louis. Peter. Pat. Happy Independence! From those of us independent, but still dragging lagahoo shackles on this side!