In July 2021, I wrote: ‘There is now an urgency also to get real about ourselves in light of the nasty, and now what seems a dangerous and emotionally unbalanced feuding between the Government and the Opposition.
‘The country has descended almost exclusively into the practice of the poisonous politics of demonisation. There is no point carrying on exchanges about who started it or who is worse. It is embedded in both parties.’
Sadly, our elites and persons of perceived stature have not, and will not, say or do anything to try to influence our political contenders away from that poisonous path and several other dangerous paths we are on, including indifference to narco and human trafficking.
Once Starbucks selling, fetes pumping, and status touting—regardless of who gets left behind in the socio-economic imbalance—things are nice. My Starlift compere reminded me recently to check Brother Valentino’s song Dis Place Nice, dealing with our chase ‘for oil dollars and plenty showcase’.
In these circumstances, on Tuesday last, my heart soared when I read the comments of the head of the Emancipation Support Committee, Zakiya Uzoma-Wadada, and the president of the National Council of Indian Culture, Dr Deokinanan Sharma on the current controversy about names and their origin.
These leaders had the backbone to say something chastising to both sides about the inflammatory nature of provocative exchanges and mocking tones and to caution against a lack of self-control, which is required when you are representative of groups within the society. (Newsday 7 June 2022)
The Head of the Emancipation Support Committee stated that the occurrence of these provocative exchanges ‘is part of the cultural challenges that have resulted from colonialism’ and it may be useful to refer next to some recent seminar remarks of the Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley—although reference to her may bring out the monster of jealously in some of our rulers.
PM Mottley said: “There was a barrier I was born into. There is a barrier that every small islander inherits, especially after colonialism. It is the barrier of self-contempt.”
She explains that self-contempt is a concept that she learned of from Peter Minshall, whose work she describes as world class and the equivalent of ‘moonshots’—that is sending persons to the moon.
She refined the concept to ‘lack of cultural confidence’, which she feels is a ‘more balanced phrasing. She asserts that ‘from political unrest to gun violence to the bleaching of skins, the root of so many of our regional problems boils down, I believe, to issues of identity and lack of cultural confidence’.
PM Mottley continued: “Without identity and confidence we will go nowhere. I do not see identity issues as irreversible character flaws. Our family, our parents and our extended family, our community must help nurture us in the choices we have to make.”
Undoubtedly, however, our Governments must play a significant facilitative role in this nurturing. It is my view that our leaders in Trinidad and Tobago have never properly assessed and fashioned policies to meet the challenges that have resulted from colonialism—being primarily focused on simply buying the acquiescence of the population with energy sector dollars.
For example, the education system has failed. It gives our children only a poor or poorly modified version of a colonial grammar school education, with insufficient emphasis on our own history and multi-cultural and diversity studies.
Analogous failures reside in the Ministries of Culture and of Development by whatever name, Community, Social or Youth Development. Brother Valentino laments not knowing our worth.
Meanwhile, the UNC has a compounded political problem because it has tied itself to the low credibility leader, Kamla Persad-Bissessar. She is now front and vulnerably centre of the name-calling controversy.
This is not a good position at a time when the current PNM Government appears to many to be on a shaky and frequently ill-tempered course, but continues to feel able to insult the intelligence of the population in attempting to dodge accountability for appalling mistakes.
For the more neutral population, this means that our democracy is currently burdened with the deadweight of no credible choice.