The nation goes to the polls as this editorial is written. We pray for free, fair, and peaceful elections.
The biggest challenge facing the new government is the economy and COVID-19. The economic future is gloomy, and we are not facing recession economics but, as Dr Roger Hosein says, depression economics. We may even be seeing a devaluation of the TT dollar before the end of the year.
COVID-19 has brought with it the expression ‘the new normal’. The irony is the old normal was very abnormal in many ways. As Church, we were continuing as normal while the abnormality was staring us in the face—an 86 per cent non-practising Catholic population, parishes lacking in technological capacity and losing its young at an alarming rate, a Church out of touch with the pervasiveness of its poor, and Masses that were failing to bring about genuine conversion.
On other levels we had gotten accustomed to the abnormal normal—class prejudice and injustice, critically low crime detection rates, a poisoning of the environment, a widening gap between rich and poor with such worrisome disparity showing itself above all in who progresses in education and who remains at the bottom of the ladder.
This abnormality stretched into the area of politics as well with the two major political parties being unable to avoid the evil of racial voting, and even using it to their political advantage when it became expedient to do so.
The two major parties continue to see themselves as enemies of each other such that one cannot praise the other over the good that the other did. The other is always the enemy. There is therefore need for a new politics to mark the new normal. Jesus gives us a clue.
In today’s gospel we have an abnormal situation. A courageous non-Jewish woman, an outsider, comes to a Jew and a Rabbi for help. He initially treats her as ‘the other’, making her feel ‘abnormal’. But she persists; she wants something better for herself and her family. In the end Jesus not only capitulates but praises her for her “great faith”.
The new political normal must mean ‘I will help you because you are a citizen of the nation’. It must mean ‘I will help you with your roads, water supply, flooding, housing, reports of crime etc. because you are a citizen and as your MP I have an obligation to help you and enhance where you live’.
We treat people like people. This is necessary to bring about a true patriotism and healing that President Paula-Mae Weekes recently spoke about at the National Day of Prayer.
Politicians must not treat prayer at their party events as icing over the cake, a kind of social legitimation of the status quo, ‘a nice thing to do’. Prayer is serious business. It demands conversion. It is uttered so that what is not yet may be.
If only we can take the serious professionalism of the medical fraternity in the face of COVID-19 and transfer it into political maturity and good citizenship.
Such would also be an act of “great faith” and help establish a new normal very much unlike the old abnormal.