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Master’s Voice: Eyeballing the abyss; what prospects does 2018 hold for old colonials and new societies?

Mazlow, one of my Facebook friends and occasional adversary, loves to use that phrase by Nietzsche about staring into the abyss with eventually the abyss staring back. Our abyss is in the form of not so much failing institutions but institutions that were never set up to succeed and are now showing everyone just how deep goes the rot.

It’s also the cynicism generated by both the elites who maintain those institutions and those who, recognising that these institutions were not created for them outside of minion status, created their own subterranean spaces—many of which became criminalised.

Photo: Port of Spain South MP Marlene McDonald (left) poses with alleged gangster Cedric Burke (centre) and President Anthony Carmona after her swearing in ceremony as Minister of Public Utilities on 30 June 2017.

In came reactionaries and opportunists who use race and money—both of which are at the core of our corrupt institutions—to further very narrow agendas that have nothing to do with the betterment of the labouring people of this society.

I’m saying all this because that article of filth by Sally Radford—and the whole issue of re-naming relics and streets that glorified State-sanctioned criminals—has far-reaching implications, particularly if one looks at socio-political and economic developments in the regional and international spheres.

We will never handle our violent crime situation if we persistently refuse to connect what is a self-regenerating cycle of un- and under-employment, invisibilising and cultural debasement of an educational and a competitively individualistic economic system that breeds ideas of winners and losers.

Add to that a culture of impunity stemming from a normalising of aggression. All of this must be connect to the global system that needs a subservient tropical South if the parasitic North must keep its economies functioning.

Professor Oyeronke Oyewumi drew this to our attention here when she spoke about how the people who were subjected to Western imperialism under the guise of globalisation (aka “civilising missions,” Gospel propagation, democratising, human rights—in narrow Western cultural definitions—and free trade) are called upon to attend World Trade Organisation (and other international) conferences and talk about trade under similar dominative structures.

Photo: An African land grab.
(Copyright Polyp)

In my opinion, it’s important that we pay close attention to all this because, ironically, these rural communities—and, I would argue very strongly, many of the women who live in those communities—may very well hold the key to rescuing this society. But that can only be realised if we look at rural communities and self-help ventures in urban communities through fresh eyes uncontaminated by excessive Western indoctrination. That isn’t going to happen so long as these rural areas keep buying into the egregious idea that their salvation lies in becoming mini Port-of-Spains.

Historically, Trinidad had some Maroon settlements (the actual term used by at least one Roman Catholic priest, Abbe Armand Masse, in his diaries which were translated by M L de Verteuil) in far-flung areas of this country since the enslavement period. Additionally, since the 19th century, rural Trinidad was all but cut off from the capital during the colonial period.

Apart from the obvious neglect, these communities became remarkably self-sufficient and developed cultures with their own dynamism. But this self-sufficiency was subversive to governmental administrations that needed cultures of dependency twinned with centralisation to appear legitimate.

Then as it was in the medieval period, in recent history and to this day, food was a weapon. So it was during the colonial period and so it remained post-1956.

Fast-forward to 2018, just a couple hours old and we are looking at a plantation economy and society maintained by Afro and Indo-Saxons that is reeling under the weight of new absentee landlords who now reside not only in London as they once did but also in Washington and Bretton Woods.

Photo: Farmer Kumar Laltoo tends to his crop.
(Courtesy News.Co.TT)

Their demands are the same as they always were long before the superficial changing of flags in 1962: to extract what is here to enrich there and for you to ketch afterwards. That’s what got Jacobo Árbenz (Guatemala), Cheddi Jagan (Guyana) and Mohammad Mossadegh (Iran) overthrown and Patrice Lumumba (Congo) and Salvador Allende (Chile) killed: they didn’t follow the script; it would have been worse if they had anyway.

Hence the on-going battle for control of the minds. This is as much an ideological war as it is anything else. This is what is at the root of similar articles to what Radford has written along with what appears in supposedly respectable publications.

In the Caribbean, the manifestations of Eurocentric racism have always been much more than just no-go areas for persons of skin colour—the realities of black/brown numerical majority in the islands meant different social dynamics had to be developed. It was always primarily about psychologically projecting ideas of the inherent inferiority of black and brown people and the primitiveness of their ancestral ways of living—the exact same ways that Western academics at the behest of industrialists are now re-examining with the intent of exploiting and extracting for the benefit of economies of the North.

Professor Horace Campbell tells us that as we speak, corporations are in southern Africa among the San and Khoi-Khoi people, who are descended from the very first people to walk this earth, learning their languages, which they are using to improve artificial intelligence (AI) systems.

Photo: A satirical take on robots in the job market.

For the last 30 years, many of those same corporations have been exploring and siphoning off indigenous forms of knowledge in herbal remedies, farming and soil preservation, patenting key parts of that knowledge, and then criminalising the ancestral practices. (I recall attending an Emancipation Support Committee lecture in 1995 in which Dr Ralph Henry warned the listeners about this happening to us in the Caribbean).

Now we stare at an abyss where robots are replacing humans in many metropolitan countries and where there are increasing calls for a retreat from fossil fuels. Many people are now seeing clearly that, in the capitalist model, everyone is expendable.

As the New Year approached, the analyses of everyone—from Michael Harris to Mariano Browne—not to mention financial reports from foreign media houses predict a financial meltdown. These will have the side effect of renewed physical violence that will, of course, impact on social conditions in already vulnerable and marginalised rural communities across this country.

If history is any guide, that will in turn open the way for further exploitation of racial/tribal and gender insecurities. Strange how all that is left out of most discussions concerning the “radicalising” of youths who ended up in Syria.

So in 2018, I hope more people see this and look at ourselves through our own eyes for once. We have deep pools of innovation to draw from. What we need are de-colonised minds so as to create breathing spaces.

If the West is looking with covetous eyes at Africa and India, studying every aspect of ancestral cultures, traditions, forms of engineering, food production, why the hell are we not doing likewise? Long before the opening up of the Middle Passage, the Ganges and the Nile flowed into each other.

Photo: A satirical second look at globalisation…

But because we still take instructions from the coloniser and the imperialist, we have not even begun to explore the ways our ancestral cultures can benefit us in these modern times.

Will 2018 see us write a new script or, at least, re-examine some old ones? We shall see.

About Corey Gilkes

Corey Gilkes is a self-taught history reader whose big mouth forever gets his little tail in trouble. He lives in La Romaine and is working on four book projects. He has a blog on https://coreygilkes.wordpress.com/blog/ and http://www.trinicenter.com/Gilkes/. Vitriol can be emailed to him at coreygks@gmail.com.

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30 comments

  1. The Cape results are for Gopiesingh.

  2. Hope the wise ministers and former ministers listening and stop regurgitating statistics about Cape results have improved because that is not where the problems are

  3. LOOK AT THIS GADAHA PRESIDENT THIS FOOL SAY HE HAVE POWERS WE DONT KNOW OFF FAILURE

  4. Very well put. Hope your piece reaches those those who should really put into practice.

    • You’re right, it is ideology. Most of the other ‘ologies’ as well as the writers of Caribbean history books have made a royal mess of things because they only came with theories and scholars grounded in North America or Europe and have next to nothing to do with the dynamics of *this* society. I with my ideology have interfaced for years with the people in every single fishing village in this country including the feared ‘train-line’ in Marabella and St Margaret. If *you’ve* done that, if *you’ve* seen young men catch pelicans in the stink waters by Sea Lots fish market because they can’t afford to buy meat, then come with your smug attitude and talk to me, otherwise run along and go answer Dr Fergus’ reply to your foolishness, he’s waiting on you.

  5. This article suffers from a surplus of name-dropping and a critical lack of editing (and in some places, proofreading). Some interesting (valuable) nuggets, such as the urban/rural disconnect in colonial times, suffer the collateral consequences.

    • As always, mate, you are free to rebut. Or perhaps all you know to do is throw words. I am fairly certain that you have more formal schooling than I do, so use it for once nah and show me all where I am wrong in the history or the interpretation.

    • You really do flatter yourself. If you think my legitimate observations regarding the editing is an attempt to “throw words” then that really says more about you than it does about me. I decline to take you up on your non-sequitur regarding “the history or the interpretation,” but will instead focus my response on fleshing out my initial critique.

      1. “I’m saying all this because that article of filth by Sally Radford—and the whole issue of re-naming relics and streets that glorified State-sanctioned criminals—”

      What article? A link would be helpful… certainly more helpful than a rudimentary Google search has proved. (Edit for context)

      2. “…has far-reaching implications, particularly if one looks at socio-political and economic developments in the regional and international spheres.”

      What are the “far-reaching implications”? They are never identified, let alone expounded upon. (Edit for clarity)

      3. “We will never handle our violent crime situation if we persistently refuse to connect what is a self-regenerating cycle of un- and under-employment, invisibilising and cultural debasement of an educational and a competitively individualistic economic system that breeds ideas of winners and losers.”

      There appears to be a grammatical disconnect to this sentence. From a logical standpoint, it seems you’re attempting to say that our attempts at (handling) crime will fail unless we reconcile un/under-employment (etc.) with the “individualistic economic system…”

      The thought is derailed somewhat by apparent randomness of the statement itself, the run-on nature of the sentence, as well as the seemingly truncated ‘…debasement of an educational.” The thought seems incomplete. (Edit for completeness/clarity)

      4. “In my opinion, it’s important that we pay close attention to all this because, ironically, these rural communities—”

      Which rural communities? They have not heretofore been mentioned, identified or introduced. (Edit for context and clarity).

      I could go on, but hopefully by now you’ll accept that my comments had a great deal more substance and function beyond some mere desire to “throw words.” What perhaps could have been a solid intellectual contribution disintegrates upon analysis into a tenuously linked stream of conscience proffer of ideas, superficially structured around the concept of inequality.

    • Hey Nigel, you are the one who referred to me as…..what’s the term you used, “insufferable”…. since the days of Islandmix.com (which was a while ago I must say)

      And I’d hardly say that I am flattering myself if I say that I am certain you have more formal schooling than I do. Maybe I read the dictionary wrong.

      But let’s look at your points:
      ***************************************
      “If you think my legitimate observations regarding the editing is an attempt to “throw words” then that really says more about you than it does about me.”
      What it says is that in the past all you have ever done was to make snide remarks and when i challenged you to refute or point to proper information, you made no reply. You have selective memory.
      ******************************************

      1. “I’m saying all this because that article of filth by Sally Radford—and the whole issue of re-naming relics and streets that glorified State-sanctioned criminals—”

      What article? A link would be helpful… certainly more helpful than a rudimentary Google search has proved. (Edit for context)”
      Clearly you have not been paying attention to the discussion that has been going in for a few months now involving the Cross Rhodes Freedom Project, the issue of calls to change the names of Milner Hall in UWI, certain street names tat were named after colonial figures all of whom were enslavers, outright racists and/or mass murderers like Winston Churchill, Lord Kitchener of Khartoum, Lord Picton or Lord Harris. You are unaware of the responses by Gerard Besson, Michael Anthony and more so by Dool Hanomansingh, Kamal Persad and Sally Radford on a website called ICDN.com. Dr Fergus responded, ad so did I as well as Shabaka Kambon. That you are unaware is interesting given that this was going on for a couple months well both on the FB page of Cross Rhodes as well as wired868 not to mention the radio programme Ndaba on 91.1fm.

      Having said that, I have to say here I a bit disappointed in Lasana Liburd as in the original article, I *did* link Sally Radford’s piece for context along with a couple other links. The only one I saw in the published article was the link to Professor Oyewumi. The same article, however, is also on the Notes section of my profile with all the appended links.
      ***********************************************
      2. “…has far-reaching implications, particularly if one looks at socio-political and economic developments in the regional and international spheres.”

      “What are the “far-reaching implications”? They are never identified, let alone expounded upon. (Edit for clarity)”

      Noted. Have you been paying attention to the removal of Confederate statues in the US (and the backlash that has been resulting from that activism?). Link that to the agitation that has been going on continuously since the 1960s in post-colonial countries as well as in the US for addressing of the Eurocentric content of history, including the history elements in economics, sciences, religion, sociology, politics. History is more than just remembering dates and events, but an understanding of what people and cultures are capable of. The withholding of the history of African, Indian and indigenous peoples’ contribution to the sciences and human advancement is interwoven with Western pretensions to hegemony. When the peoples of subjected societies learn what they are capable of by seeing the accomplishments of their forbears, they do not submit to Western ways of thinking, authority, etc. and that is why so much effort is being made to keep certain histories out of school books even at university level.
      *******************************************************
      3. “We will never handle our violent crime situation if we persistently refuse to connect what is a self-regenerating cycle of un- and under-employment, invisibilising and cultural debasement of an educational and a competitively individualistic economic system that breeds ideas of winners and losers.”

      There appears to be a grammatical disconnect to this sentence. From a logical standpoint, it seems you’re attempting to say that our attempts at (handling) crime will fail unless we reconcile un/under-employment (etc.) with the “individualistic economic system…”

      The thought is derailed somewhat by apparent randomness of the statement itself, the run-on nature of the sentence, as well as the seemingly truncated ‘…debasement of an educational.” The thought seems incomplete. (Edit for completeness/clarity)”

      I am not the only one who has made the point that unemployment and under-employment is connected to violent crime along with an education system that projects the notion that one is a failure if one did not succeed in certain narrow fields.

      TAPIA has been saying this since the 70s, Ramesh Deosaran has been saying that, George Beckford, Selwyn Ryan, David V Trotman who I have cited over and over and over; his book “Crime in Trinidad: Conflict and Control in a Plantation Society 1838-1900” should be required reading for all students doing any social science course in order to make the connection to the present and see the self-regenerating cycle I am speaking about. Read Deosaran’s last book “Inequality, Crime and Education in Trinidad and Tobago”. He makes the point on pg 19 (among other pages) “In his Foreword to David Lowenthal’s 1972 book, Philip Mason stated: “The Caribbean was one of the most colonial of all societies: here the deepest wrong was done. The mass of people had no target to aim at, no ideal vision that was not self-defeating.” He added “As it eased out of colonialism, this country remained muddled by tensions over colour, class and race and the hypocrisies that inevitably help to smoothen relationships and decorate the tourist brochures” ”

      Furthermore, the capitalist system is built around individualism and competition. One of the links left out was to an article on a site run by the Mises Institute that attacked the idea of collectivism in a very ahistorical, disingenuous way. No mention was made of the long history of collectivist societies stretching back thousands of years, not only in Africa and the Americas but even in very ancient Europe. Walter Mignolo in his book “The Darker Side of the Renaissance” and the lectures given by Ramon Grosfuguel speak about the way Western thought associates the lack of private property as an indication of a society’s backwardness and thus, justification for Western domination and control.
      *******************************************************
      4. “In my opinion, it’s important that we pay close attention to all this because, ironically, these rural communities—”

      Which rural communities? They have not heretofore been mentioned, identified or introduced. (Edit for context and clarity).
      Pick one, any one and trace their history. Be it Toco, Mayaro, Moruga, Siparia, etc. They all were self-sufficient at one point. Raymond Ramcharitar made that point on page 5 of in his unpublished thesis “The Hidden History of Trinidad: Underground Culture of Trinidad 1870-1970” He wrote:

      “Trinidad had all the marks of a frontier colony…the road network was underdeveloped, and indeed, large parts of the country were semi-autonomous satellites, economically connected to the colonial hub of POS, but socially and politically on their own. The relative isolation of the major segments of the population – the Indos, Afros and the complex of Black and Coloured middle classes and white and brown upper class classes in POS and S/F’do created a situation where various cultures operated in parallel, unified only be inevitable geography and intersecting because of economic interests.”

    • A Corey Gilkes, I didn’t edit the article but forwarded it to be edited by Earl and the hyperlinks might have been lost in that transition. So I will go back to the original and include.
      You can always contact me if there is an issue as it would never be intentional.

    • A Corey Gilkes and Nigel S. Scott, sorry for the delay and the hyperlinks are now added.

    • The “flatter” comment was made in reference to your suggestion that I pay (extra?)attention to your posts for the sole purpose of “throw[ing] words.” I find having to read “as ‘so and so’ have said and insufferable exercise. I don’t recall saying that I found *you* personally to be insufferable, since I don’t know you. To the extent that I did, I should clarify to say that I find your writing ‘insufferable.’ The gratuitous appeals to authority (“so and so said it, so it must be true”), even within your response here tends to induce (at least in this reader) copious bouts of eye-rolling. As much as I enjoy Dan Brown’s writing (“The DaVinci Code” etc.) I find reading his books a chore for the similar way he tends to “knowledge drop” (“the word ‘Assassin’ comes from the ‘Al-Hashashins’…”). Just write the narrative w/o trying to convince the reader how well-read yuh is… if true it will be self-evident from the writing. But that’s just me.

      “What it says is that in the past all you have ever done was to make snide remarks and when i challenged you to refute or point to proper information, you made no reply. You have selective memory.”

      Even assuming arguendo that I am indeed guilty of ‘selective memory’… what does that have to do with the present observations? Could it be that just as you assume that the present criticism were made derisively (made in effort to “throw words”), that so too have you made assumptions about the nature of my previous observations? What you now posit as prior ‘challenge[s]’, I interpreted, and still interpret as invitations, ones which I saw little reward in accepting. At any rate…

      *************************************

      1. I am very aware of the conversation that has taken place surrounding the Cross Rhodes Project and the larger movement to reaffirm the preeminence of indigenous and formerly colonized peoples over their oppressors, by removing vestigial monuments to the latter. That does not mean that I am intimately aware of every commentary or article written on the subject, and as such, the Radford article is foreign to me. As intimated, I did a cursory Google search and it yielded nothing. As a reader (and this not being an academic exercise) I shouldn’t have to do my own external research to understand the context or substance of the point you aim to convey. If you say the links were omitted during the editing process, then I think we can both agree that my point was well-made.

      2. This context would have been helpful to the article, even if only referentially (“…far-reaching implications, such as seen in the wake of the related movement to remove Confederate memorials in the US…”) as without it the reader is left to postulation and conjecture.

      3. I don’t discount the well-established connections between poverty and crime. When poor people are left with little to no viable options they may have no choice but to resort to crime. That being said, it would seem that your anti-capitalist bent leads you to prematurely and disproportionately blame the system for a number of ills. But that is beside the point being made about the sentence.

      “We will never handle our violent crime situation if we persistently refuse to connect what is a self-regenerating cycle of un- and under-employment, invisibilising and cultural debasement of an educational…”

      An educational what?

      4. There were no references to these “rural communities” until the sudden juxtaposition with the comment about “Western imperialism under the guise of globalisation.” Unless these rural communities were referenced Professor Oyewumi’s hour-plus lecture in the linked video then I as a reader cannot appreciate the context in which they are being discussed within the article. To the extent that they *are* indeed referenced by the Professor, again, I shouldn’t have to sit through an hour-long video in order to understand the context.

    • “The gratuitous appeals to authority (“so and so said it, so it must be true”), even within your response here tends to induce (at least in this reader) copious bouts of eye-rolling……Just write the narrative w/o trying to convince the reader how well-read yuh is… if true it will be self-evident from the writing.”
      Oh so let me get this straight, Nigel S. Scott, when the sources are *not* cited, questions are asked whe yuh get that from, when sources *are* cited, it’s name-dropping and to convince people how well read-yuh is. Maestro was right in his calypso “Mr Trinidadian” yes.

      Well, hard luck; I’ll continue to cite sources because I am hoping people go and do further research. As it is in this society we already have too many political, religious and academics who talk one setta shit and insist that it be accepted because *them* said so. Debate among ordinary people are not encouraged. I not on that. So best yuh ignore all what I write because I eh changing to please you.

      “”We will never handle our violent crime situation if we persistently refuse to connect what is a self-regenerating cycle of un- and under-employment, invisibilising and cultural debasement of an educational…”

      An educational what?”

      I was saying “an educational AND A competitively individualistic economic SYSTEM that breeds ideas of winners and losers.” There is no difference between the two in that regard. I’ll concede my grammatical error here.

      I will also concede that I made another error when I wrote “these” rural communities; I was speaking about rural communities in this country; traditionally they have been neglected and used as political footballs. My point was that if they were allowed to develop — which does *not* mean urbanising them — they and the self-sufficient cultures many of them once had may well rescue this society. But as Dr Susan Craig pointed out in a TAPIA article way back in 1971, that is the one thing no government here has any real interest in doing – the dependency model is more favoured.

    • A Corey Gilkes Thanks for the clarification of Nigel S. Scott’s comments. The content of contributions such as yours are one of the reasons I enjoy Wired’s articles and so I did miss the context which you clarified in your statements. I take it for granted that the author has more knowledge than me on this particular topic and so I too felt as though I was missing crucial information. And thanks Lasana for the other links.

    • “I eh changing to please you.”

      Corey, not sure why you insist on personalizing this. This is not about you changing to please me and I never suggested you stop citing your sources. If you did not grasp the gist of my comment regarding the ‘name-dropping’ then cool. We can move on.

    • Nigel S. Scott, if you want to see it that way, cool, but I have noticed that you do that a lot, not only with me, but with other contributors. Unless I am wrong, wasn’t it you who rubbished someone’s argument that the Haitian Revolution had an internationalist or at least regionalist bent as well? It’s as if the works of Gerald Horne and Prof. Bayinnah Bello, who *is* Haitian, are irrelevant. But maybe I’m nitpicking again.

      Go have a Bake-n-Shark on me 😉

    • You clearly have a problem distinguishing disagreement from disrespect. In that thread the assertion was made that one of the aims of the Haitian Revolution was regional and international liberation of enslaved/colonized peoples. The claim was unsupported inasmuch as the quote being relied upon pointed to inspiration from the American Revolution rather than an aim of Pan-American liberation.

      Rather than take up the discussion there, you choose instead to introduce it here, minus context, and mischaracterizing the nature of my disagreement in the process. The ad hominem undercurrent of your response to reasonable criticism has now fully coalesced into a concurrent narrative.

      I’ll leave you to paper over the cracks in your ego if you think that a better alternative to addressing the substance of the criticism. At least one presumably impartial observer has derived benefit from the experience, so that’s a positive.

    • Nigel S. Scott I’d so love for you to point me to one academic piece or blog written by you anywhere that serves to educate or enlighten on any social issue. Please, Bakes, really would love that so much.

    • How would that aid the present conversation? What purpose would sharing my academic presentations or contributions serve, other than to satisfy your curiosity?

    • Nigel S. Scott, it’s not different from the Islandmix days. For me, whether I was right or wrong, it always was about the persons who read and followed the discussion either getting info that strengthened their ideas or made them think long enough to change them. You, as always, was never about that. Whatever works for you oui.

  6. Thanks for providing this vehicle for reflection and personal and collective self- examination.

  7. Earl Best

    I get the sense that you want us to believe, Mr Gilkes, that the arrival of January 1 has some transformative power that will somehow magically make possible what has not happened in half a century. Tell me please, how is January 1, 2018 different from January 1, 2017 and each January 1 going all the way back to 1963?
    Where in history has the arrival of January 1 made such a dramatic difference in the way a society sees itself? Mythology may be littered with examples of miracles but my experience suggests that there’s little reason to expect either miracles or magic in the current millenium.

    • No such illusions, Mr Best, I am long since past being *that* immersed in myths, especially when it concerns this country.

      Consider this my form of venting. 😉

  8. The biggest issue is detection of crime and prosecution of the few that are actually caught

  9. The only science the authorities apply to the muder rate is addition.
    By the way, how many murders have we racked up so far today?
    I’m guessing 5!