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Gilkes: Republic reflections; pondering difference between ‘de-colonial’ and ‘post-colonial’

“Politics is a game of fear. Those that do not have the ability to frighten power elites do not succeed.

“[…] The platitudes about justice, equality and democracy are just that. Only when ruling elites become worried about survival do they react. Appealing to the better nature of the powerful is useless. They don’t have one.”

Chris Hedges — “America, The Farewell Tour”

Photo: Mourners march down Frederick Street on 9 April 1970 for the funeral of the slain Basil Davis.
(Courtesy Embau Moheni/NJAC)

One definition of a republic is “[a] state in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives.” Another is “a form of government in which the country is considered a public matter, not the private concern or the property of rulers.”

All this is very interesting in a land like Trinidad and Tobago where Maximum Leadership—one person’s instructions—is pretty much the default model. A land where the politics moved from Picton as Governor-General to the Prime Minister as Picton. A land where ‘the people’ are routinely kept out of any details concerning political and economic decisions made in their name, with their money.

The wheeling and dealing is done secretly because this apparently is ‘international best practice’—really universalising of elitist Western models but who bothers with such irrelevant details?—and because, as another Governor said over a century ago “neither Coolies nor Africans are fit to be placed in a position where labourers of civilised countries may at once occupy…”

And of course, when it finally falls apart, it’s those people who are to bear the ‘burden of adjustment’ and lose their jobs while the ‘supremes’ go on with business as usual—see under Petrotrin, TCL, Mittal, CAL.

A republic is understood to be led by rule of law. Said laws are expected to be developed taking into consideration the cultural and historical realities of the people of that country; not, as in our case, continuing imposed Western cultural ideas and retaining repressive statutes created for the containment of certain groups but cloaked under establishing law and good order.

Photo: Queen Elizabeth II (left) greets Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (right) in April 2018.
(Copyright Office of the Prime Minister)

But then, such a society would not be saddled with ‘savings clauses’ insisted upon by the ‘departing’ coloniser—aided and abetted by local self-serving hopeful elites who were schooled in institutions created to train young men, and to a lesser extent women, to carry on the running of the Empire.

An Empire that intended to maintain its influence, extract whatever it considered valuable for its own economies to grow, and maintain a presence for geopolitical purposes—something these idiots who have been giving away our national assets evidently have no understanding of.

But most importantly, those laws should be based on a proper balance of cultural traditions and informed, reasoned ideas that were discussed and debated. Decontextualised, mistranslated myths, fairy tales and ‘nansi stories, given an authoritative cover of “god,” have no business influencing how a whole population must live, who they must love and/or have sex with or marry—if in fact they want to get married at all.

This is especially the case if said decontextualised, mistranslated ‘nansi stories belong to a faith that refused to participate in marriages for 900 years and even then still maintained an astonishing ignorance of human sexuality. An ignorance that carried on into contemporary times so that a bishop is still equating homosexuality with paedophilia—maybe the apparent widespread sexual abuse of choir and alter boys by priests of that same faith is the reason why he confuses the two.

And it should go without saying—but then again this is Trinbago—you will eventually fail if your solution to dealing with violent crime focuses principally on ‘zero tolerance’ and, even worse, the racist Broken Windows model.

Photo: A couple take part in a gay pride parade in Woodbrook, Port of Spain.
(Copyright Annalicia Caruth/Wired868)

The latter in fact proves that some influential people here have no knowledge of our colonial history—I’ll give the benefit of the doubt that it’s only ignorance. They’d otherwise know that we’ve been doing that since before the bigot Giuliani was even born; it didn’t work then, won’t work today, will only cause escalation.

Our crime situation is largely based on self-regenerating cycles of social and more so economic inequity and selective justice.

In that republic, where the main ethnic groups come from ancestral cultures that respected and moved with the natural surroundings, ‘development’ would mean looking at green spaces as green spaces. And, if it has to be monetised, doing so in a way that disrupts as little of the pristine environment as possible; recognising the cathartic—not to mention the ecological—importance of keeping the surroundings as they are because they do have a vital role to play in keeping us alive.

It does not mean erecting hideous, obscene concrete structures, altering already fragile water tables, ecosystems and aesthetics such as what we see now in Chaguaramas and Maracas.

And as we talking ‘bout dem two main ethnic groups my republic will have its schools teaching from primary level the history that shows the close relationships between Africans and Indians that go back hundreds of years, before there was even a place called Europe.

They will know of the migrations from Africa to the Indus Valley, the trans-oceanic trading links—even the unsavoury ones such as slavery—that were well documented by scholars many people never even hear about.

Photo: The Siddi are an ethnic group inhabiting India and Pakistan, descended from the Bantu peoples of the African Great Lakes region. Some were merchants, sailors, indentured servants, slaves, and mercenaries.

Students will know of the relationships between African and Indian labourers in this plantation society (and what is a plantation society), the alliances they formed, cultural links they created and how and why those links had to be dismantled to bring us to the state we are in now, where many have no idea of the cultural traditions of their Hindu/Orisa/Muslim next door neighbour.

But then, such is the fear the elites have of people power. Levels of ignorance must be maintained if superficial power is to be retained.

This is why de-colonial education is vital in our Republic and that education must, by necessity, come from the ground level to the ground level; anywhere else afterwards. That education will be mostly non-traditional—i.e. grammar school model.

It has to be, as this population has long since functioned outside of the narrow, shallow confines of Western societal norms. Therefore, the various productions of knowledge, the creation of ideas that will eventually be put into action, must likewise be kept outside of the narrow confines of Westernised educational and analytical methodologies.

Long before we had a university with a political science department, we had Ole Mas on J’Ouvert Morning and calypsonians doing essentially the same thing. Long before the university had a Gender Studies Department deconstructing Western patriarchy and suffocating institutions like marriage in the Western sense, we had the underclasses already defying it in the form of keepers/combosses.

Our wirebenders, some of whom could barely read and write, understood physics and other rules of engineering creating huge mobile Carnival costumes. Maybe if we had them building bridges and paving our roads, we might not have have floods and potholes all the bloody time.

Photo: Carnival Queen Roxanne Omalo takes to the Dimanche Gras stage with “Lilith, Mistress of the Damned” at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain on 11 February 2018.
(Copyright Avalon/Wired868)

The harsh truth is that the institutions that were supposed to do this kind of work have all failed and/or betrayed us. So it’s useless to make these kinds of demands of them at this time.

There’s a difference between de-colonial and post-colonial; when those institutions figure out the difference, then they’ll be of some use to us.

We need to understand what certain words and terms mean for ourselves and not necessarily wait for them to be explained by others. We need to realise that certain words that are frequently thrown around like ‘republic’ and ‘democracy’ aren’t really compatible with capitalism. And I’m referring particularly to the neoliberalism free market capitalism that many people still speak about with amazing tone-deafness—as if the crash of 2008, the Occupy movement or the WTO Seattle riots a few years before didn’t occur.

This article, for instance, pretty much sums up what has been felt and expressed by the powerful magnates at high level meetings and summits since the de-colonisation exercises began in the 1950s.

If anyone saw the movie/documentary “Hero” based on the amazing life of Ulric Cross and what the West did in Africa to derail the independence movements; you will understand that much of what they did there, they also did here in the West Indies.

Read books like “Bankers and Empire” to learn how certain banks that still operate here, controlled, manipulated and destroyed the economies of Caribbean countries for over 100 years. The aim, then and now remains the same: have unfettered access to the raw materials and mineral resources they feel entitled to.

Photo: An artistic depiction of the encomienda system, under which the indigenous population was forced int servitude to the Spanish crown.

True democracy, which existed in Africa for thousands of years, is incompatible with that.

So, for this Republic Day, the next one and all the others afterward, serious revolutionary reflections are what is needed. Politics must be removed from the politicians, economics should be periodically taken out of the hands of economists and even education may have to be done at times without ‘educators’.

Almost all are schooled in the models, theories and values of the coloniser. Workers may even need to take Labour away from Labour leaders, if it comes to that. Remember, virtually all of our institutions that were supposedly emancipatory found themselves compromised and became predatory. To win them back is to wrest them back and more so create new ones.

Anything less and Republic Day will be as much a hollow farce as Independence has come to be.

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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One comment

  1. Earl Best

    If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again and again.

    You, brudder, is the original Trini calabash. Congratulations.