Dem old people and dem does say: ‘when yuh neighbour house on fire, wet yuh own’. So I trying to wet mine, with this open rant to Lasana Liburd and my not-so-secret crush Dr Sheila Rampersad. Because we Trinis doh learn, we doh like to connect things and we love to live in denial.
So de two of allyuh hear dis. Some people in the media on real shit—with seasoning. And I’ll always be particularly harsh with them because, like academics in the universities, they have had more formal schooling than I did, and have access to resources and sources I could only dream of. And yet they on shit with seasoning.
They just don’t seem to understand the power they have to sway minds one way or another and so make an extra effort to be properly informed.
A couple late nights ago, I had an unproductive exchange with a young journalist over the violent protests in Minneapolis and I found her ignorance astonishing and her insistence on expressing certain views although clearly uninformed on the subject really irritating.
And I know she is by no means the only one like this: Ralph Maharaj is still on radio and Darryn Boodan still writes for the Express. And they have ardent followers, some of whom truly believe these people actually know all wey dey talking ‘bout.
Of course, it’s very likely that me and all eh know what I talking ‘bout neither. But I do try to be guided by my readings of those who do know what they’re talking about and by history. I don’t believe we have the luxury of time, so we post-colonials need to make vital connections that link supposedly diverse, unrelated events—most of them actually are not—and not just parrot narratives from old colonisers and imperialists.
One of the main threads that link us in 2020 back to the 16th century is the idea of entitlement. Specifically, the notion that certain people are entitled to possess the resources of a given place, even if said resources do not belong to them—and, worse yet, that other people live in those places where the resources are located.
Hence the flip side: namely, the notion that other people are not to receive the material wealth or any other kind of benefit from those resources and must be separated from them.
From Columbus to Churchill, from Kant to Kissinger, they’ve openly expressed these sentiments in writing. Anyone can access them on—what was that condescending thing she said?—oh yes, the ‘University of Google’.
Interlaced with that is the idea of modernity, a linear concept of advancement, and the belief that what existed before is irrelevant, backward, primitive and should be discarded.
Zygmont Bauman in his book ‘Modernity and the Holocaust’ made the argument that it was only logical that the Jewish Holocaust happened in Nazi Germany given the capitalist ethic and its impatience with limitations and moreso, tradition.
The Jewish communities, many of which for well over a thousand years were the outcasts of Europe, were—because of their firm groundings in traditions dating back to ancient Palestine, Egypt and Babylon—seen as threats to the aims of the Nazis.
We can find very easily similar rationales underpinning the exploitation and extermination of Native Peoples in the Americas and Africa; their matri-axial customs that disapproved of competitive individualism and private ownership, their collectivist ways of living and the way the feminine was given prominence in the social order were considered backward, outdated but, more ominously, threatening and corrupting.
That is what forms the bedrock of what is happening in Minneapolis and what has happened before in Watts, Tulsa (remember the Black Wall St?), Charlottesville, and Ferguson… Trust me when I say the list is looooong.
One of the things that I found annoying in that exchange is her refusal to make simple connections concerning the unrest and the looting to the legacy of police and state-sponsored violence against subjected people and capitalist exploitation. I mean like really?! You don’t see the link?
With that level of shallowness it’s no wonder why the public at large remains uninformed about just how illegal are the antics of the US against Venezuela—if people like her were doing their jobs, they would have informed the public that this drama has been going on since the late 19th century—Chavez’s grandparents weren’t dating yet when the Venezuelan economy was in a mess.
The other annoying thing was her name-dropping of Dr Martin Luther King Jr and his non-violent stance. This has become almost standard procedure now: the pimping out of a commodified, sanitised, decontextualised projection of Dr King, and Nelson Mandela, as a pacification tool to water-down the rage of the masses responding to years of inequity and physical and psychological violence.
But this is the same Dr King whose quote about riots being the voice of the unheard is being used ad nauseum of late and who critiqued capitalism and its central role in the problems of poverty, dispossession and militarism.
But forget all that, and set aside for a moment her ignorance of what is called redirected aggression, something that has been observed among exploited people herded into confined spaces.
We’ve seen this among Jewish, Irish, Puerto Rican and Mexican gangs in New York ghettoes in the early 1900s. We saw it among the people of Laventille, Morvant, Tivoli Gardens, Watts, Harlem, Rio de Janeiro.
Let’s set aside all that and we still have to contend with her complete lack of understanding of what really took place during the Civil Rights (and apartheid) era. She has no clue of the militant consciousness raising activities that took place before (aided in part by thinkers from Jamaica, Trinidad, St Thomas) and no clue of the armed resistance groups that existed even before the Black Panther Party. Or the role of Cuba and Tanzania in terms of military assistance, training and shelter.
All she knows to do is to pontificate and lecture people about how they must process their rage.
And then there was her piece de resistance: her statement that ‘All Lives Matter’. The most subtly racist-through-invisibilising phrase to come out of that sewer known as Euro-American society in the last 20 years.
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised given the society we live in. Trinbago is a real good place to study colour-blind racism and black/brown internalisation of white masculinist supremacy.
‘All Lives Matter’, a seemingly innocent, well-meaning, inclusive phrase, arose to divert attention away from the way White, Christian masculinity and the European culture that went with it, became the default model against which every other culture and person was placed.
This determined and still determines who is or isn’t to be considered fully human. Perhaps someone should include the works of Eduardo Bonilla-Silva and Jason W Moore in journalism courses.
This young woman is a good representative of an element that has almost no attachment to the communities they observe and speak on, including the very ones they live in. These are the types who only ‘connect’ when they put on an overpriced jersey, smear some blue or facepaint on and ‘ta-da!’, they’re in a ‘J’Ouvert’ band—roped off by strapping black men—taking part in yet another ritual they have hijacked and stolen from the people who gave it real life.
So start to wet allyuh house nah, cause we doh learn.
Professor Selwyn Ryan, Brinsley Samaroo and other scholars have grown grey-haired pointing out that each and every time we had our own share of unrest, those who comment on it and write long reports, do so as if the conditions that caused each disturbance wasn’t the same conditions that caused the last one. And often they have no clue that there was one before.
People like that young journalist with the power to sway minds have a lot to do with that. So allyuh start to throw water nah—or better still, some big stone.