As 2020 comes to a close there is no more apt description than Charles Dickens’ time-honoured opening line from A Tale of Two Cities. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...”
In this year of the Covid-19 pandemic, many have had to endure the unthinkable pain of knowing their most loved ones were dying alone, without a last embrace and a final kiss. Families were torn apart, separated across oceans by an extended closure of national borders; thousands put aside pride to join queues for food hampers while thousands more filled out application forms for State grants for food, rent and loss of income; thousands of children lost the happiness of school days with the abrupt transfer to online education; cohorts of youths graduated into a recessionary economy shedding jobs by the day; masks became mandatory wear; sporting activities went into an extended lull while our legendary love for big fetes and mass gatherings was forcibly subdued.
Almost overnight, T&T made the switch to a different way of life described as “the new normal”. Despite the occasional reports of breach, by and large we demonstrated an incredible adaptability and willingness to comply with measures designed to protect ourselves and each other. More than that, Trinbagonians displayed a resourcefulness and generosity that have made all the difference in carrying the society through a period that has proven to be far lengthier than originally budgeted for by many, including the State.
With the Government repeatedly warning that there is no money for funding repeat tranches of the Covid-19 relief measures, many have turned their hands to self-employment initiatives developed in kitchens, boudoirs and backyards. The fruits of those labours were evident over the Christmas season, which saw an explosion of home-made and hand-made food and craft products. As the proverbial mother of invention, necessity once again delivered a blossoming cottage industry to which investors, both private and public, should be paying close attention.
With the country’s foreign exchange resources crunch to ever lower levels, the capacity being shown by our people in using available domestic resources to support livelihoods should be taken seriously in building a template for diversification. However, many are no longer waiting for the Government, choosing instead to cut a path onto the global digital economy.
Once again, we must also remark on the generous spirit of the population which has come to the aid of those in need. When State grants were not reaching people, it was individuals and community organisations that mobilised on a national scale to get food to those in need. Then, when the Ministry of Education took all classes online without ensuring that pupils had the requisite tools to access online education, individuals, NGOs and the private sector stepped into the breach to fill the need.
It has been a trying year in which many have had to carry heavy burdens of grief, loss and despair. However, we can also take comfort in knowing that when it mattered most, we found the capacity to rise to our better selves and to help others in doing so.