Dr Marlene Attz Sooping-Chow
For the life of me I can’t understand the frenzy associated with a Trini Christmas. There is a penchant, particularly among females (but also among some males), for “turning the house upside down”, the chaos on the road as persons rush to buy paint, vinyl, cement, bricks, curtains, bottles of alcohol, seasoning for pastelles, plastic flowers, kitchen mats and other ‘necessities’ which all signal that Christmas is here.
To add more flavour to the season, all that frenzied activity is taking place amid the music drifting (or blasting) from the radio. It’s either “…Beginning to look a lot like Christmas…” or someone, somewhere is “…dreaming of a White Christmas…”
A third popular seasonal rendition, one of my favourites, is about ‘paranging the wrong house’. I have to admit I am partial to the local soca parang—old and new. This year given all that is happening in the country, my pick for the season is ‘Paranging the wrong house’!
Notwithstanding the hand-wringing and complaints about the foreign exchange shortage, somehow, as if by a Christmas miracle, an awful lot of foreign exchange is spent on imported fare —ornaments and food, at a number of establishments. It is abundantly clear that those who patronise such establishments, with shopping carts overflowing and beads of sweat glistening on furrowed brows, are not only dreaming of “a white Christmas” but also dreaming of another time and space in which US dollars are aplenty. They must not be living in Trinbago.
The lamentation about the shortage of foreign exchange is at variance with the reality that confronts us, a reality according to the Central Bank. The Central Bank’s recently released Monetary Report says that “…within the consumer credit sector, lending to consumers for the purchase of motor vehicles slowed (4.2 per cent) for the seventh consecutive quarter in September 2017”.
It slowed yes, but clearly didn’t grind to a screeching halt as one would expect in the current economic climate. In case readers missed it, the reality is that between October/November last year and now, we have gone through four car license plates – PDN, PDP, PDR and now winding down PDS! That’s about 40,000 NEW vehicles on the road and plenty foreign exchange! Guess some real paranging (and use of foreign exchange) went on by the car dealerships!
At the national level the spiralling crime rate—murder, violence against women, violence against children—suggests that many should be paranging in the jailhouse for this Christmas and then some. But alas, detection and conviction rates remain low and many murders go unsolved, except of course if you are caught on camera and the video goes viral on social media. Then the real paranging starts!
Our parliamentarians also are showing themselves to be true, true parranderos. They’ve diversified from ‘kicksin’ in Parliament to ‘paranging d wrong house’. These elected representatives spew vitriol, play games and repeatedly show that they are less concerned with the welfare and well-being of Trinbago and more interested in grandstanding.
Serious discussions like the anti-gang bill and the importation of baby formula descend into puerile trivia while the economic stillness envelops the country like a dense fog. Workers are gripped with fear over job security, salary payments and general uncertainty about their future, but cuatro-strumming and paranging continues in Parliament!
Amidst all of this though, we should pause to reflect on the reason for the season—not the black cake, not the ponche de crème, not the ham, not the pastelles and certainly not the long lines at supermarkets.
For me, Christmas represents a period of hope “… for unto us a child is born…”. Let’s not lose sight of the real reason for the season. We in Trinbago will need to cling steadfastly to that hope in 2018.
I close 2017 by wishing all readers and their families, peace, joy and love this Christmas. I hope you enjoy de parang, Aye, Aye!