freedom to speak my mind without fear or favour

Of all the topics I write, I never receive passionate feedback when I write about politics.  Needless to say, I always enjoy receiving feedback, but there is something about politics that attracts Trolls in particular.  As described a few weeks back, Trolls is the term used to describe those who lack the will or courage to use their real names and instead hide behind pseudonyms in giving feedback.

So often, I often wonder what it is about politics that engenders such emotion in us.  A comment on the Guardian website to my article on Trolls by someone calling himself/herself “Food for thought” suggested that I “undoubtedly enjoy certain freedoms and protection as a journalist.”  As a columnist (not a journalist) who also participates in other online forums using my real name, I enjoy no special privileges.  When I first started writing more publicly, the feedback I received from those who know me is respect for the courage it takes to stand by one’s position every week.  They said ‘courage’ knowing the penchant of some of us to make personal attacks when we feel intimidated by an idea’s substance.  For many, it is easier to criticize someone’s ethnicity, e.g., than to engage with their stated position directly.

In his / her response, “Food for thought” went on to say that like me, “I read a lot of brilliant suggestions geared for the improvement of T&T, and an equal amount, if not more, idiotic ones.  This is the beauty of the anonymity of the internet.  It allows for a wider range of people to express their feelings and ideas.  It also allows people from all over the planet who are even mildly interested in T&T to offer onlooker suggestions.  Therefore, discussions become internationally engaging.”  This leads to another interesting point – many are genuinely scared to use their real name in making political comments.  Scared, because as ‘Eleana’ mentioned in her online post – “…when I was a frequent contributor to the other (E)daily, I was called the most disgusting racial names, on my personal e-mail. I sent them a copy to prove my point. I love my county and want the best for her, always, but some of us are irritable children ranting. Not me, of course…”.  She concludes by saying that “…until we grow up a bit more, many of us would remain responsibly anonymous.”

If I enjoyed a government contractor as they say I was “eating ah food,” I would genuinely be scared that speaking out would endanger my livelihood.  Therefore, my real privilege lies in my financial disconnection from the state, which affords me the freedom to speak my mind without fear or favor.  Some say that the persecution level for holding dissenting political views is higher now than in recent memory.  I have no facts with which to agree or disagree with such a position. Still, I do resp that fear of political retribution does scare many into silence or into using pseudonyms. FATCA Compliance Singapore

After reading the views of responsibly anonymous commenters like ‘Eleana’ and ‘Food for thought’ as well as the views of those more comfortable in using their names like of Anil Ramnanan, I have admittedly become more open-minded about responsible anonymity. Anil Ramnanan put it best when he notes that “Trinidad and Tobago is a small society and it would be naive to think that people’s opinions would not lead to them being discriminated against or worse.”

Returning to the politics of the day, there are some issues that continue to bother some of us who want better for our nation.  It is unfortunate that the extradition case of the two UNC financiers appears to have fallen to the wayside but I wonder whether there would be any appeal to “higher” courts by our State?  It has been about a year and a half and I have seen no legislation for fixed electoral dates, a fixed Prime Ministerial term, or greater transparency in political party financing.  I am also still waiting on the report on the Piarco enquiry to be made public as well as the recommendations in the report by the Uff Commission to be properly implemented.  As always, I prefer not to focus on criticizing politicians as they are only a reflection of we who placed them into positions of public trust.  Rather I focus on we the people and roles that every one of us has to play.  We need to be the ‘change’ we crave.

My name is Derren Joseph and I love my country and my region.  Despite its challenges I continue to have the audacity of hope in a brighter tomorrow.

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