Expat Guilt

I’ve been grappling with the reality of moving back to Trinidad, and of giving up everything I’ve built up over the past six years.

My employers are unimpressed, and are making me offers no sane career minded individuals ought to refuse. And at the other end, the Trinidadian end, the powers that be seem to be hell bent on making me regret this decision.

So this quote from Adam Andrews, blogging over at D Blue Pill, seems particularly relevant:

It becomes difficult to find the balance between caring about a nation and preserving the self. I question my motivation, should I be concerned with what my country should do for me, or should I be concerned with what I can do for my country? [From “Split Me In Two“]

Exactly. I’m going back because I care about my country, and what I can do to contribute. So why are [certain unnamed and deeply hostile bureaucrats] making this so damned difficult?

I’ve been preparing myself for this, and I can’t say that I haven’t experienced this kind of small-minded ineptitude before.

But the reality is still bitter. And disenchanting.

Thoughts on .tt

Why are .tt domains so expensive?

According to the breakdown over at ttnic, theliminghouse.tt would cost USD $500 upront, and then an additional USD $500 every five years, from the third year after registration.

And that’s if it were registered from a local (i.e. Trinbagonian) address; applications from a foreign address would cost twice that. Ouch.

None of the limers here have that kind of cash to splash out on a domain name (though donations are welcome…), but Matthew “WordPress” Mullenweg does – and he’s now the proud owner of ma.tt.

Mr Mullenweg blogged about his .tt acquisition, and some of his observations are worth highlighting.

Like the “90s-era” design of the ttnic site.

And the fact that

…to register a domain in Trinidad/Tobago you have to do an international wire to their bank, they don’t accept credit cards…

Or this little tidbit:

So about two weeks ago I went to the bank, wired the money to their foreign account and then… didn’t hear anything for a week. At first I wondered if I had been scammed 419-style, but then I got an email from their admin that everything was set up.

I’m sorry, but that is just – ghetto.

It is not even remotely acceptable that setting up a domain should require a trek to one’s bank, particularly when one is already having to cough up several hundred dollars. And having to wait a week for confirmation? Really?

This is a fine point, given the crimedrugsfailinginfrastructurepoliticalgimmickryetc with which Trinbagonians already have to contend.

It is also indicative of how much work there is to be done before T&T can truly call itself developed.

The road is long.

Social Fora Fatigue

The World Social Forum is coming, and already I’ve had to politely decline Facebook invitations to participate and/or care in some way.

There. I’ve said it. I don’t care about the World Social Forum, which purports to be:

an open meeting place for reflective thinking, democratic debate of ideas, formulation of proposals, free exchange of experiences and inter-linking for effective action, by groups and movements of civil society that are opposed to neo- liberalism and to domination of the world by capital and any form of imperialism, and are committed to building a society centred on the human person” [Porto Alegre Charter]

Shivonne Du Barry offers a more more concise take on the WSF over at her Ramblings and Reason blog:

… more than anything, it enables discussion of critical social issues that impact us, especially given our place in the global economic structure.

Fair enough. Except that in my experience of this and similar fora, there is very little reflective thinking or democratic debate; nor is there the free exchange of anything except leftist propaganda.

Back in 2004, I worked as a volunteer translator/logistics guru/general lackey at the European Social Forum in London. I’d been talked into by a couple of socially-minded friends of mine, and in any event, it was a very LSE thing to do (a bit of self-important saving the world action coupled with a good line or three on the all-important CV, etc).

I started out with the very best of intentions. By the third day, I was sick to death of people trying to persuade me of the evils of globalisation-as-imperialism.

These non-conformist-conformists – overwhelmingly white, European, “dreadlocked”, hemp-clothed and DC-shod – all evangelizing about evils of capitalism (and selling £20 t-shirts), environmentalism (while covering the streets of Bloomsbury and the halls of Alexandra Palace with forests of paper and pamphlets) and Saving Africa (because I’m so into Bob Marley, and he was African, you know?)

If this is an exaggeration, it is only a mild one. I went to the ESF hoping for some of that much-vaunted conversation, for discourse, for an actual exchange of ideas. What I got was reactionary rhetoric and sometimes disturbingly extremist left-wing propaganda.

As for freedom of expression? Not quite. Subhi al Mashadani, leader of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions, was shouted off the stage by hecklers who accused him of “collaborating” with the US.

Security had to usher him away while we hapless volunteers attempted to get people out of the room.

And the people shouting him down? Europeans who have never themselves lived under occupation, and many of whom are career activists who never miss a WSF because they don’t actually need to work. What need have they of a trade union?

And all this talk of changing the world? It’s just talk. Because all the petitions, all the Facebook groups and all the clever t-shirts in the world will not make a jot of difference. Fora like these are sops to the liberal conscience. Why wait for the WSF, or ESF, or ASF?

Change something right now – walk instead of drive, buy vegetables from your local farmer/parlour/vendor, support your local artisans, stay home and help your children with their homework instead of lining the pockets of fete promoters…

I digress. But the point is that change involves doing, and doing involves a lot more than screaming “collaborator” at someone with whom you disagree.

Yes, another world is possible, and another T&T is possible. But we have to come better than this.