Darcus Howe fails to spread goodwill in the Caribbean

I try to spread goodwill in the Caribbean but am assaulted and abused for my pains

I arrived in Tobago just before Christmas. The island seemed serene, with hardly a ripple on a calm Caribbean Sea. Christmas here is Christian. As far as the locals are concerned, Christ died for Tobagonians and Trinidadians, and so his birthday is celebrated with great enthusiasm. Although I am an atheist, I am not uncomfortable in this setting. I could live with the general slogan: peace and goodwill to all men (and women, too) and I like the idea of a moment when the rich think of the poor and downtrodden.

In this spirit, I invited a poor, one-parent family with which I had a long connection to spend the evening at a restaurant and bar. It all went smoothly until the eldest son, a 22-year-old, suddenly exploded - over what, I do not know. He swept the drinks off the table and aimed a bottle at my face. I ducked and dived from several missiles before being struck a vicious blow to my right arm.

The police were called after he sank a brick into the back window of the proprietor's car. He was nicked. I went along to the police station with the proprietor but refused to give a statement against this vicious bastard. He was nevertheless charged with criminal damage.

His mother paraded at the police station, announcing that I was anti-police and that I had a reputation from the 1970s for creating social disorder. She ranted and raved, spitting expletives and false allegations against anyone she could think of. I kept my mouth shut.

After this ill-fated attempted to spread goodwill, I flew within hours to Trinidad, where I had arranged to spend Christmas with a friend while visiting my brothers and a sister who live there. My friend met me at the airport. He is not rich, not even fairly well off, yet his truck was stacked with hampers that he was off to deliver to the poor. I accompanied him to the rural villages of the most oppressed. I was hugged and kissed by those who would not have had a Christmas meal without his kindness. Now I could forget the family from hell. I had found a true seasonal generosity.

Yet, soon afterwards, I heard that gang warfare had exploded in the community where I grew up. A young man died after receiving nine bullets from his enemies, who could not be older than 20. Just two days earlier, he himself had executed another young man - because he did not like the look of his face.

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