Views from a Breeze Maxi
By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
April 05, 2017
On Monday I attended the funeral services of Rochelle St. Louise, the granddaughter of Ulric "Buggie" Hayes, a districker, as the people of Tacarigua call themselves. The ceremony was held at the Arouca R.C. Church. At about 11:15 am I left the service, traveling in a Breeze Maxi from Arouca to Port of Spain. I am in the front seat of the maxi. I ask the driver the obvious question, "How yo' tink de government going, man?"
"You'se de second man to ask me dat question dis morning," he answers in an aggressive manner.
"OK," I responded. "Tell me what yo' tell de first man who ask yo' de question?"
"Ah tell him dey doing shi..." This time his answer is more hostile.
"Ah know dat, but tell me wha' yo' eh like about dem."
"Ah go give you an example. Yo' tracking a woman for months. She making style. Yo' get through. She allow you to carry she to dinner. Instead ah telling how nice she is and how yo' was looking forward to this day yo' begin to ask if she have a man or to tell you about she ex-man. She eh want dat."
"But dah is de PNM. For years dey talking about UNC and what dey go do when dey get in power. We put dem in power but all they could talk about is what UNC do and ent do."
Ah had to take ah step back even though ah was driving.
"All right," I said. "Tell me about the job situation."
"Dat too?" he exclaimed.
I answered: "But we have full employment."
He look at me as though I was crazy.
I continued: "De government eh have no money. When UNC was in power-ah sounding like PNM now-they had about $60 billion in revenues. Now, dey only have $45 billion to spend. Dat have to make ah difference."
"Boss," he says,"dat is true. But how come some people still making money and we eh getting nutten?"
Ah say: "In 2015, the government get $19 billion from de energy sector. Last year dey only get $2 billion. How yo' expect dem to take care of business?"
Yet, I sought to reassure him saying "Soon de govermnent shall be spending billions to build roads and bridges."
"Dat is good," he says, but then he asks,"You know the highway extension from Piarco Junction to Mausica?"
I offered a lame "Yes."
"Yo' see what happening dere?"
"Ah car remember," I responded.
"Well, ah go tell yo' what happening. Go to dat road and tell me who working dere?"
He was alluding to the fact that most of the workers on these projects are Indians. I promised to check it out.
All of a sudden, somebody from the back seat shouted: "De government doh like black people, boy."
"How yo' could say dat?" I asked.
"Who making all de money?" he countered.
I wasn't sure how to answer that question.
"Who getting all de contracts?"
For a moment I was stuck. I try to fumble an answer.
Without an invitation, another voice interjected, "De Syrians."
I had forgotten that there is no ordered protocol in a maxi-taxi discussion. Each passenger feels entitled to offer his or her opinion. Others just shrug off the discussion as a big distraction.
The voice that suggested the Syrians were the chief recipients of government contracts offered supporting evidence of his contribution.
"Yo' ever hear about 'Justice on Time'?"
He was referring to the Amalgamated Group of Companies.
"Dem getting a cool $100 million a year just driving prisoners to and from court."
I couldn't tell him that Amalgamated was getting twice as much annually for their useless work.
"Yet dey can't get money to pay poor people a little something."
He mused: "And de poor man eh want much you know! He only want a little something to keep he family alive."
In a flash, the discussion had gone from "government doh care about black people" to "de government eh care about poor people."
Interestingly enough, none of the passengers came to the defense of the government. Things had changed. Years ago, one could not say a word against a PNM government in a maxi-taxi on the east-west corridor without being assailed.
My journey had almost come to an end when a woman who was sitting inconspicuously at the back of the maxi blurted out: "Ah living here. Vote or no vote, is de same lacouray!"
This last interlocutor seemed disinterested to the whole process. I couldn't understand where she was coming from.
As I left City Gate, I wondered if those who govern us, riding in their high-end, air-conditioned vehicles hear or even listen to the views of those struggling members of the underclass who ride uncomfortably in open breeze maxi-taxis.
While the government coffers may be empty and while it may have grandiose plans to attack unemployment and crime, its message is not reaching those at the bottom of the society. They must do a better PR job if they wish to retain the goodwill of the people and return to office in 2020.
Professor Cudjoe's email is email@example.com. He can be reached @ProfessorCudjoe.
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