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Minding our business; Demming criticises name and tone of Dr Rowley’s address

‘Mind your business’ is the theme of the recent address to the nation by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley in his 40th month as our leader.

It was unfortunate in its naming, content and style. The fact that it is now popularly referred to as the Prime Minister’s ‘power point presentation’ is indicative of how it was received by some members of the population.

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley addresses the nation in January 2019.

The name speaks loudly to the intention of the authors. The use of the possessive ‘your’ versus ‘our’ indicates the lack of interest in the well-being of the nation as a collective and attempts to say it is someone else’s fault.

Permit me to say, Mr Prime Minister, it is ‘our’ business which you sought our permission to preside over. You applied for the job, so it cannot now be ‘mind your business’. It is ‘our business’. The naming of any presentation is critical because it frames and contextualises the intentions of the authors. Until you demit office, ‘our business’ is your business.

At the end of this two-hour missed opportunity, the content is still out of the reach of the man in the street. Despite the literacy rates we boast of, the average person would have struggled with the graphs and their conclusions. Some may have been stumped by whether it was a line or a curve and the difference between a vertical and a horizontal bar chart.

My MBA colleagues would laughingly remember when one of my lecturers concluded that the graphs were a signal for Dennise to sleep during class. Graphics are important but this was an example of how not to use graphics as a communication tool.

The style of this presentation confirms the obliteration of the line between governance and politics. Framing an activity as an ‘Address to the Nation’ raises certain expectations both in terms of form and function.

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley addresses the audience in his “Conversations with the Prime Minister” series in 2017.
(Copyright Office of the Prime Minister)

Former US President Barack Obama used technology and aced his addresses on every occasion. Why can’t our leader engage us and speak heart to heart?

The function of an ‘Address to the Nation’ is to speak to the collective, not to the tribe. We will regret the day that this line was blurred.

As of 7 September 2015, Dr Keith Rowley became the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago and not the Prime Minister of the PNM and its supporters. This address further alienated the approximately 340,000 persons who voted against the PNM.

Once again, the Prime Minister has failed to engage the hearts and minds of the population. As the curtain begins to close on this administration, I wonder what would be the lessons learned.

From my perspective, I have a greater resolve to focus on accountability, collaboration and transparency in an attempt to nurture a Trinbagonian identity despite our origins.

About Dennise Demming

Dennise Demming
Dennise Demming is an Adjunct Faculty Member at UWI, Media and Communications Strategist, TEDxPOS organiser and co-licensee for TEDxPortofSpain and Chairman of the Board at TTTHTI. Dennise, who grew up in East POS, also has a Business MBA and B.Sc. in Political Science & Public Administration and Mass Communications from UWI.

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49 comments

  1. So I speed read the article. I don’t agree with most of what she said. First of all there is nothing wrong with the name. I took the title to be an ingenious quip on the local slang “drunk or sober mind yuh business”. People could extrapolate that if they wish . As for the content I thought his explanations of the graphs were painstaking and clear enough to understand. But I accept that there are several adults in the population who either are incapable of following such a discussion, or perhaps were playing #birdbox while he was explaining. Either way I don’t believe they intended to reach everybody. Maybe the goal was to educate enough of the people who could follow a coherent line of discussion. Honestly I didn’t expect the throng of yellow dressed Kamla supporters who showed up at the Hyatt to support her motion of no confidence to ever make it past the first slide. And as for comparing Rowley to Obama in terms of delivery… Gosh.. Come on.. Obama really?

  2. Getting some/any information is good. Hope he keeps the information coming. KR could have done it better. Give information in real time. Don’t continually blame and denigrate others. It makes it sound like campaigning. Don’t use phrases like ‘Mind your own business’ delivered like you mean ‘mind your own business but if you really have to know then dummy’s this is how it went down – not my fault’. A bit of transparency about how the bad decisions got through without being stopped and proposed policy changes to prevent this happening again. Discussions about transparency and accountability and both sides of government working together in tough times would have been heartening.

  3. I want to add again, in relation to the info-graphic interpretation by the common man etc:

    In developed countries you often have NGOs and non-profit initiatives that exist to help the common person understand what’s going on.
    One of my favorite these days is marketplace.org.

    This is an area TnT sorely lacks, instead we have a whole lot of complaining, very little efforts for explaining.

    Which is why it hurts to see all the flak Fixin TnT got for questioning the CoP but hey, we digging our own hole.

  4. Crystal Ortiz here is the thing about that. There are Trinis who are proud of their ignorance and won’t do so much as lift a finger to learn something new often saying things like “I too old for that”.

    Economic policy tends to be influenced by this ignorance because they are the prime voting population. As a result, we have been paying the cost because most of that era is only interested in what they could get for themselves. After all, at the birth of the nation they were promised wonderful things.

    I mean I just heard CEPEP workers are getting a raise. CEPEP was never supposed to be around this long and most times I see older people in them coveralls.

    What “mind your business” did was give us a chance to elevate the discussion when it comes to policy. So we could talk about how we move from a centralized state with most people directly or indirectly dependent on the government to one where anyone can be successful in the business or profession they choose.

    • Lasana Murray the thing is you pointed out people who are suffering from learned helplessness but there are many who are not.

      Do you know any people over 60 who dreamed of a high school education and never got it because they could not afford it and were not, by law, entitled to it?

      Are you aware that this was at a time, within many lifetimes that continue, the majority of people?

      Are you aware that most of those people, disadvantaged as they were, are still alive today? Watching KR on TV?

      Do you know that there are many hard working parents and grandparents who have functioned through several roles in life who have never read a novel?

      A lot of questions, forgive me but I’m curious to know why the response to our serious literacy problem as an effect of being a young, post- colonial, post-plantation state, is the conservative one (pointing out bootstraps to pull instead of recognizing the absence of boots altogether).

    • Crystal Ortiz I am aware of our literacy problems. I’m also well aware of people who took matters into their own hands and learned to read by their own effort. They did not wait for a government program to do it and were not afraid to ask for help when they needed.

      I’m also aware of older members of our society who showed signs of being studious or enterprising but because it was not the popular thing to do, they were either ridiculed or discouraged and abandoned ship.
      Basically a case of stay stupid like the rest of us.

      My point is that the heard mentality in T&T is way too strong but it’s up to the individual to reject it. As long as you are able to move about and your mental faculties are in order of course.

  5. “Mind your business” is not a national picong piece.

    It is an international embarrassment.

    Do you think any other country with a reputation it cares about, will allow its figure of leadership to show such a chronic lack of emotional intelligence? Do you think we, the ‘intellectuals’, should allow, defend, gloss over, or ignore a leader’s blatant refusal to develop it?

    What we allow will continue.

  6. There are 12 types of intelligence.

    How many of them can you count?

    How many of them do you possess?

    How many of them do you lack?

    Do you know that poor infographic communication shows a lack of a very important type? This is why teams of advisors are important, and also why it’s even more important to choose said advisors carefully.

  7. Q:

    How many members of our adult public do not have a high school education?

    How many of our adult public do not have a primary school education?

    https://rgd.legalaffairs.gov.tt/laws2/Alphabetical_List/lawspdfs/39.01.pdf

    This law is 52 years old.

    How many people do you know that are older than 52? I’ve acquainted with quite a few myself.

    My parents are much older than this country’s sovereignty. Are yours?

    Are you?

    Do you think that someone who was formally educated up till 10 – 12 years of age, if at all, and then put to work or survive, can comfortably understand, manipulate, extrapolate and infer with the data Dr. Rowley shared in his presentation?

    20/20 spectacles don’t cure myopia.

    We could advance as far as the UAE, but as long as some of us have been left behind, we have arrived NOWHERE.

  8. I was writing a comment and then saw someone asking if anyone read the article. Decided to read it…..now I am so so sorry I backspaced my comment. What utter nonsense.

  9. I think Lasana really need stop posting anything from Dennise Demming. She’s pointless and attention-seeking. She decides to criticize the name and still got it wrong? Geez

  10. Did everybody commenting on this thread, read the actual article or just the headline?

    • I read it. As others pointed out she missed the point of the presentation’s title.
      While audacious it was meant to point the public’s attention to the data he presented rather than the opposition’s agenda.
      I also find the parts about the graphs in the article disheartening.

    • Ok. So you’re one body, not everybody.
      And while I disagree with her regarding the naming of the presentation, I do think she has other valid points — the use of an address to the nation to talk to the collective vs the tribe, whether everybody watching on tv would have been able to grasp everything (although I felt that bit was condescending) — yet, there are those in the thread who are dismissive of everything she had to say and seem intent on painting her as a nothing but a woman scorned.

    • i actually thought your comment was the only one that seemed like it came from somebody who read the whole article tbh.

    • I only heard of the author recently, on the radio at a petrotrin forum. She made good points, arguably it was not the right forum.

      The sense I’m getting from the comments is that might be a trend?

  11. Can we at least hear some insults that aren’t sexist? “She doth screech too much” is so tired and very well spent.

    • Where are you getting this from?

    • Can we hear something substantive that she had to say about the speech? Or should we wait until you climb out of your trumped up box of sexism for you to weigh in with more than reactionary defense of the indefensible?

    • Some people have me mistaken for someone who thinks I owe strangers the privilege of stressing me. Full disclosure: I’m not.

    • Seriously? I thought this was forum with intelligent discourse?

    • Lasana Murray i wasn’t addressing you in that last comment. So you needn’t worry.

      Also, “intelligent discourse” doesn’t require exchanging insults, rude remarks, or character attacks (much like the gentlemen on this thread seem to relish hurling at Denise and anyone who contests such behaviour). So there’s no need to imply you can’t get it from me, it’s just that you won’t get anything from me at all if you come from a certain angle.

      Puffed up egos and book sense make an ugly pair. And it gives people the illusion that everyone else they brace will have a self-esteem so low, that they will accept such treatment to appear unbiased, brave and intelligent. It’s regrettable.

    • I too recognize the inability of Trinis to disagree without devolving into insults and sarcasm. It shows a lack of confidence and understanding in one’s own opinions.

      Still I think the author needs to explain her position a bit more, not to please anyone but because doing that well enough may very well squash the hostility.

    • Lasana Murray I fully agree that it will help to explain her position (and believe me, I actually understand her position as I read her whole article before I first commented, and it is a very profound point), because there are people here who are actually confused at her angle.

      But at the same time, if I were being insulted by a group of people I would not feel encouraged to explain myself to them. I also don’t know that her explanation will stop the hostility since some people seem to enjoy the feeling of being hostile. Lacking any actual power over Ms. Deming (and other individuals, and their opinions by extension), they mistake unwarranted, uncontrolled aggression for the same.

    • “But doing that well enough may very well squash the hostility”

      Why is she incumbent to correspond and engage?

      Why is there hostility toward her?! From an article of her opinion?

      Why is she being policed, bullied,? And demanded? By —- young enough to be her pickninny???!!!

      Sometimes we write major indictments

      I cant and wont go into what those two statements mean from.”the better one”?” On this thread

      Then, the phrase: “someone thinks I owe strangers the privilege” is so profound for me, then the very said engagement privilege with dark forces.

      Its also not lost on me to be here writing on someone elses defense / it is because I know worse would be upon me if I was l was lesser

      I go back to the hostility. And ponder silently how one would write that as if entitled, and I wondering why, over someone else’s views, shredding their experiences

      And still I know this, my writing is all futile. I do it for me. This is one time I chose not to bypass the toxic fire flaming

      The world is a scary place. Even the distance of fb strangers

    • Yes m’am.

      We are allowed to arrest or leave situations that do not serve us. At any time, Anywhere. Always. Not even if you feeding me do I owe you my life force.

      People just too disrespectful and hide behind intellectualism so they don’t have to grow.

    • When you wrote about that too struck me…”intellectualism”

      A lot of material to self measure and check.

      Thank you again
      We really must stand up and vanguard, no matter what

    • A pleasure. All of life is ego. Ecclesiastes says it best.

    • Great reference. One of my favorite books

      Fb not letting me love that comment, so.more writing again

    • Maven Huggins when you write something, put it in the public domain, and exchange opinions with readers, you are have engage in communication, which can help the growth of us all.

      When you write something, put it in the public domain and refuse to engage with readers you are either talking to yourself or practicing a form of tyranny. Ironically the same form of tyranny politicians have engaged in for decades possibly up to the PMs presentation.

      Talking to oneself and tyranny are both anti-social behaviors that if practiced enough can lead to all sorts of mental health issues.

    • I take careful note of your admonition!
      Thank you

  12. Such an intelligent individual dabbling in bullshit.Within recent times Mrs Demmin comes across as a woman scorned.

  13. Many Trinidadians always side step important issues for that which is irrelevant.

  14. 868, you really let you informative and otherwise thought provoking space be used for this?
    This is not a place for washing sour grapes. Dont drag your flag 868.

  15. “This person is not saying what I want to say on a national issue therefore she’s got nothing to say.” -some people

  16. Dennise Demming I think you should take in the presentation again. The graphs were approachable and we should actually seize on this opportunity to make a PM putting figures in the public domain a new norm.

    There are a lot of questions to be asked and answered but I think what is needed is a bit more time for the claims and figures made to be analyzed/verified.

  17. Blame anyone but oneself and talk down to the citizens seems to be the ‘normal’. It is ‘your’ business when it is going bad. Secret business when the many of the bad decisions were being made. How dare you all question ME. That’s what I heard.

  18. I at least wanted to see a critique on the content but lady had an issue with the style???…that’s it???? the style of the delivery???? did she have anything to say on what he said???…no????

  19. of all things she criticise the name? lol

  20. I think Demming missed the point

  21. Big wet watery steups to Dennise Demming. I guess some people just have to find something to say.

  22. Classic case of just looking for something to criticize.