Basdeo Panday is correct.
The “love, camaraderie, affection” which is displayed at Carnival time is quickly replaced with “hate, spite, vindictiveness, ethnic rivalry,” the former prime minister lamented.
Indeed, it happens each year.
The pulsating music, relentless and energetic partying and frenetic round of fun events bring together virtually all the people of Trinidad and Tobago.
We are a happy showpiece to the world and a model nation to our visitors.
This year, several soca artistes expounded on unity (while chutney singers stayed true to form on drinking rum and horning ‘ oman!).
We return to the shadows of intolerance after the national festival, with much of it is founded on ethnic bigotry and political narrow-mindedness, as evident in fanatical social media posts.
“What happened to us almost overnight, so quickly?” Panday queried.
“How we vote is not how we party,” David Rudder sang, with insight.
To be sure, T&T has never been the tolerant society first Prime Minister Dr. Eric Williams projected in his independence watchwords.
But there appeared to have been greater appreciation, respect and forbearance.
The widespread use of social media has unleashed the prejudicial beast in many, and this often has tacit support from rival political organisations.
Several commentators routinely peddle gross misinformation, coated with abhorrence for others who do not share their partisan backward, and often inane, views.
With the influence of social media, such odium and denigration have polluted the national narrative.
This is further exacerbated by often thinly-veiled commentaries of bias and chauvinism by some people of influence.
There is no evidence that hawkers of hate and dealers of disgust are censured by their cronies.
The situation is of concern not only because of T&T’s diversity but also because of the xenophobia which hit serene New Zealand and is spreading across the borderless world.
The marauding killer turned on Islamic worshippers because of his contempt for immigrants.
Note that Muslims are only one per cent of New Zealand’s population of 4.7 million, and that that country has been habitually heralded for its peaceful and liberal nature.
The country is customarily listed in the United Nations’ top 10 nations in which to live.
If intolerance and fanaticism could explode in placid New Zealand, what about the tinderbox of Trinidad and Tobago, where a crime epidemic is matched by growing small-mindedness?
“If we can only find the cause,” Panday proposed, “we might then be able to concoct a remedy for this most deleterious phenomenon…”
Progressive national leadership, with acknowledgement of T&T’s plural state and deep social enclaves, is arguably the best place to start.
Such leadership must also be displayed by the moribund church, labour and university, and self-serving business community.
Subduing the poison pens of social media, and equitably promoting nationalistic culture would also undoubtedly assist.
The atrocity in New Zealand has awakened an international debate on the terrorism attached to white nationalism and bigotry.
Trinidad and Tobago has to ensure that the “hate, spite, vindictiveness, ethnic rivalry” do not degenerate into such violent evil.