A common contemporary trend is to move religion and religious tradition out of the public forum but when the Mathura’s story of being haunted by a ‘buck’ plummeted into the national psyche, it promoted a national conversation that exposed our fascination with the mythical or spiritual.
The episode which had seeped into mainstream media, presented more positive outcomes than anticipated, and reiterated values which united rather than divided our people. It revealed, in the widely divergent reactions of the rationalists, the religious and the recreationalists to the ‘buck’ phenomenon.
The rationalists—poised under their umbrella of learning—sought to rationalise ‘the buck’ phenomenon through metaphysics, psychoanalysis and a revisit to our cultural consciousness. Supernatural experts emerged to offer help to the family.
Stories of local folklore, closeted for years, were recounted by grandparents and elders who recalled tales surrounding the La Diablesse and Lagahoo, Soucouyant and Saapin. The young increased their repertoire of folklore characters. Some rationalists focused their attention on the possibility of mental illness and the impact of social isolation.
The ‘buck’ allowed us to demonstrate the many faiths practised: the religious freely proffered prayers and rituals whilst callers on call-in radio programmes besieged the public with advice on spiritual warfare.
The Trinidad Guardian dated March 22 claimed, “Since the T&T Guardian broke the story, more than thirty spiritual leaders and visitors from all the major faiths have visited the family. All sorts of rituals were also done” (A5).
Christian pastors, Muslim healers, Hindu pundits and Orisha practitioners reached across the boundaries of belief to exorcise the evil that tormented the Mathura family, offering their faith and spiritual intervention to bring tranquility and hope to the family from Gasparillo.
Through social media in particular, the ‘buck’ provided entertainment for the recreationists. The story drew ridicule from some, laughter from others. The humour relieved tension in a situation many could not understand. Some people used their time and talent to create hilarious memes, and videos, while others constructed a Twitter account and a Facebook page for the ‘buck’ to tell its side of the story. Imagination and creativity flourished.
The ‘buck’ episode is partially the story of a rich folk culture revisited, partly a story of religious practice exercised beyond the boundaries of diverse faiths and somewhat the story of the triumph of creativity, though masked by uncomfortable laughter.
Indeed, the ‘buck’ allowed us to demonstrate that difference is not necessarily divisive. There are taken-for-granted innate abilities that exist in the Trinbagonian persona which can be used for the benefit of the many.
Frequently though, the easiest route is walked, either for personal or political gain, and there is abstention from self-responsibility to blaming others. The proverbial buck is passed. The ‘other’ is responsible for our current condition: parents gave bad examples; the ‘system’ is unfair; the one per cent controls everything; the other political party ruined the country…the list goes on.
The point has been arrived at now where to create a cohesive, functioning society a new way of thinking has to be adopted. The ‘buck’ story inadvertently exemplified some of the best of who we are, and in many ways, what we have shown in other moments of crisis: a rallying to help regardless of person, position or faith.
We showed humour, powers of analysis and critical thinking, and most of all compassion. It’s time to stop passing the buck and actively improve our country.