We are already far down the road where even if we can string words together, we cannot process ideas. There was a time when our oppressed peoples fully embraced the concept that the way to shake off their shackles was through education, and they went at it with great commitment and purpose.
I cannot say why it shifted as first generations of an educated class tried to spare their offspring from the hardships of their times. But, let’s agree that somehow that philosophy shifted, and generations grew further away from the values of their ancestors.
Maybe in T&T’s case the oil boom fuelled greed and corruption and a cavalier regard for learning—but then what about the rest of the region?
I am labouring to make the point that learning, as a joy in itself, whether in academia or otherwise, has been drummed out of our lives. We have lived in silos that demand focus only on the disciplines for which we seek accreditation.
Listen to some of the people with loads of certification; they are not thinkers, they simply regurgitate.
There is another often overlooked factor contributing to the weakness in processing ideas: trauma. On Emancipation Day, as PM Keith Rowley vented about the increasingly barbaric attitudes towards slavery from both the US and the UK, he rightfully talked about the moronic interpretations that seek to deny the ongoing traumas that have infected lives up to this day.
You don’t have to know what the word trauma signifies to see its impact on generations who have had their lives, their identities, reduced to sub-human states through historic abuse.
You might not know that your grandfather brutalised your father because his father brutalised him, and that further back that brutality came from living the life of a slave. When I talk about those traumas, I am also referring to the scabs left behind by years of colonial abuse.
We have adopted an educational system that perpetuates the values and prejudices of colonialism, and while much has evolved, too many things remain locked inside a rigid formula that gives no concession to the many differences of growing minds and bodies.
Without being able to process information, we resort to violent reactions—not just physically, but in the way we confront situations with hostility.
A brief and obvious example comes from one of our recent matches. A good fast bowler has a possible catch dropped, and his anger is so visible, it is alarming. The impact is that the first two balls of his next over are wides. Rage has obviously overcome him.
It is a common sight on the field, but it is also evident throughout our societies. We become so overcome by a moment that everything else flies out the window. It goes both ways. Someone makes two good shots, and suddenly they forget to play every ball on its individual behaviour.
The late Frank Worrell had remarked that one of his challenges was to manage that rush of blood in his players. He tried to teach them to be measured and strategic. It comes back to the idea of learning.
Speaking on the occasion of Emancipation Day, the executive chair of the Emancipation Support Committee of T&T, Zakiya Uzoma-Wadada, said something that was so simply put and so powerfully true that it made me pause.
“Education is what changes minds,” she said, and violence breeds violence.
Forget about the call to “light them up”; that is merely a cheap political ploy to claw away at unhealed scabs. Common sense alone should warn us that this targets our very humanity, stripping us down to the basest of impulses, and we should resist the bullhorns bellowing for us to turn beast.
“No noble thoughts brought us here to this region, but through it all, we have risen above…”
Those rallying words from David Rudder open our regional anthem which has made hearts swell for three decades.
We cannot sink to the lowest levels in mind and behaviour and expect to reverse our downward spiral.
The players on the field, the young people on the streets, they come from similar backgrounds. They need to be nurtured, not whipped every time they fail.
They are going to fail many, many, more times before there is any consistent improvement. They first have to understand why they fail, and I do not believe they know.
Whether we are looking at the first project of rebuilding a culture, or the second of improving the status quo, it will take time and effort.
Yet, for those aware of the magnificent heritage of our cricket past, it is too much to bear. We have thrown our icons in their faces, slapped them with stories of their imperious victories. We whip them again with the past.
What if they learned about these heroes as part of their early education? What if they were introduced to them as examples of their heritage?
I am not talking about cricketing figures alone here. Our societies have produced monumental figures, and continue to do so. How about allowing our young people to celebrate that?
I think the way we have gone about it with the cricketers has infused more resentment than admiration. It’s like when a parent keeps telling one child how they should be more like their sibling. It’s not inspiring.
We can’t erase the historical damage, but we can help ourselves to move forward.
To be continued.