Monday, August 31, 2015

Everybody panic!

Trinbagonians love to panic. It's our second favourite mindset after “not giving a crap”. Last week provided a gold mine of things to panic about. Firstly, people were panicking over whether or not the underwater volcano Kick 'em Jenny was going to erupt, triggering a tsunami.

As everyone knows, God stops hurricanes from hitting T&T. But his stance on major earthquakes and tsunamis is unclear. Kick 'em Jenny has erupted 11 times before with no fanfare. But that was before Facebook, so people didn't know that they needed to panic.

Those who rushed on Facebook to post hysterical status updates soon discovered something more horrifying, though. Kick 'em Jenny was not going to erupt. It was however going to disrupt underwater cables, affecting Internet connections. This threw everyone into an even more frenzied state of panic.

Meanwhile, senior citizens were all busy panicking over the new biometric cards from the Ministry of Social Development. According to news reports, senior citizens are afraid the cards are linked to the Devil and are part of an attempt to brand them with the mark of the beast.

Scientific experts from the Ministry of Education and the Parent Teachers Association said those fears are completely stupid and ridiculous, adding that the only way the biometric cards could summon the Devil was if senior citizens used them to play the Charlie, Charlie game.

Of course what caused the most panic last week was the brazen jailbreak that occurred at the Port of Spain Prison. Three inmates shot their way out of the prison, killing a police officer along the way. The escapees were all linked in some way to the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen.

It perhaps didn't help that Jamaat leader Imam Yasin Abu Bakr immediately held a news conference to tell citizens to remain calm and not to panic. That's because the last time the imam went on television to tell people not to panic he had just taken everyone in the television station as well as Parliament hostage.

What added to the panic regarding the prison escape was the fact that it occurred on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the attempted coup of 1990. Normally, Trinbagonians commemorate the devastating events of 1990 with solemnity. Like pretending to be impressed by the costumes at a Fantasy band launch. Or filling up the party section at a game of T20 cricket at the Oval. The thought that these events might be cancelled was too much to bear.

As we all know, the escapees' freedom was short-lived. One was killed during the escape. Another was found dead the day after and the third man, perhaps sensing a pattern, quickly surrendered. Soon pictures began to emerge on Facebook of inmates at the Port of Spain Prison doing all kinds of incredible things, like gambling, singing, and using phones to Skype women; not just ordinary women, but really good-looking women. This generated a whole new wave of panic with people asking, “Do prisoners behind bars in Remand Yard have more fulfilling and happier lives than me?”

Not to be outdone by escaped prisoners and former coup leader the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service also got in on pushing the panic button. A supposedly confidential letter purportedly from Police Special Branch found its way onto Facebook. The letter advised officers of a possible plot to attack the residences of the Prime Minister.

There was widespread panic with people wondering if the letter was real or not. The police, using all the urgency and expediency they are known for, took an entire afternoon to issue a public statement.

When they did, they confirmed the letter did in fact come from Special Branch, adding that it should have been obvious given all the spelling and grammatical errors it contained. The supposed plot, though, was just a rumour. There was no need to panic. Unless you're the cop who leaked it to WhatsApp.

Having all these things to panic about can feel overwhelming. If like me you are having trouble keeping pace, there are ways to cope. According to experts the best way to deal with panic attacks is to recognise when they're happening. If you feel yourself becoming anxious, stop and relax. Take deep breaths and count to five. Reassure yourself there is nothing to panic about. Personally though, I'm just going to deactivate my Facebook account.

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