The calculated viciousness of some of the responses to the news of the Prime Minister’s positive Covid-19 test is disappointingly revealing about the psychology of so many people, especially some in public life.
The fact that some, including the Opposition Leader, seem unable to rise above their political differences with Dr Keith Rowley to just wish him well, or to be silent if mere civility escapes them, is a worrying indicator of the base level at which even well-educated persons of independent financial means are prepared to engage the public without even a hint of embarrassment.
How ironic it is that persons wishing the worst on Dr Rowley, and even willing him to die, should consider themselves fit to lead this country and spout on issues of leadership. Perhaps we should be thankful that for all its ugliness, it is a glimpse into the truth about them. As the poet Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Dr Rowley’s positive test has indeed allowed many people to show who they are.
Even as politics, it is hard to see the logic behind the vileness. However, as some of our own politicians and others like Donald Trump have proven, it is possible to concoct a majority out of disparate elements of hate, anger, hurt and general disappointment.
It is also a fact that in the vastness of social media, hundreds of people have found public platforms hitherto denied them and a lot of what they’ve brought is not pretty. Online, people have literally murdered their victims, pushed others to suicide, sexually abused their victims, including children, taunted and bullied millions, and so on. Perhaps in a sick way this is how hitherto invisible people make themselves seen. If this is the leadership standard for winning political support in T&T, then we must be in a very sick condition.
It would be easy to dismiss this phenomenon of political spitefulness as something uniquely focused on Dr Rowley, but the truth is that it is only the latest in an undercurrent of cruelty in the national psyche that erupts from time to time, in the politics and elsewhere. Perhaps the closest parallel to the attacks on Dr Rowley was the baying for blood when Prime Minister Arthur NR Robinson was taken hostage and shot during the attempted coup of 1990. It is a stain on the collective psyche that people were openly urging the coup-makers to finish him off.
We in Trinidad and Tobago like to think of ourselves as easy-going, warm and generous. However, moments like these show how easily the mask of joie de vivre can be ripped off to reveal an ugly hatefulness which has much more in common with the criminal violence in the land than we would like to think.
Ultimately, the only antidote to this poison is the willingness of each of us to stand up, openly and publicly, against it, and for the silent majority to become the speaking majority, undaunted by the extremism of what we can only hope is an opportunistic minority.