The Labyrinthine World of Doublethink

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
June 27, 2019

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoePaul Leacock wept bitter tears. The party to which he has given his life shamed him publicly in the only space where he knew he could seek answers to the problems that arose in his official duties: PNM’s General Council.

On June 15 at PNM’s General Council meeting he asked for guidance in a matter in which his corporation, the Tunapuna-Piarco Regional Corporation, had exceeded its authorized expenditure. Leacock is the chairman of the Tunapuna-Piarco Regional Corporation.

First Colm Imbert, the chairman of the party, slammed him mercilessly to the ground: “Ah tired tell yo, don’t bring government business here. We only discuss party matters here.” Then Keith Rowley, the political leader, as if to protect one of his protégées (not Imbert), finished off the job, remorselessly.

Irene Hinds, operations officer of the party, faithful always to the cause, still in possession of a modicum of human feelings, and aware of party tradition, tried to soothe Leacock’s wounded pride: “Don’t worry boy,” she said, “one day for them, one day for we.”

When he was humiliated, Leacock “sank his arms to his sides” as his mind “slid away into the labyrinthine world of doublethink” (George Orwell, 1984). He could not understand why the party he has served so faithfully pummeled him for asking a simple question.

He remembered when government ministers gave accounts of their ministerial stewardship to the General Council. In 1970, after Karl Hudson Philip laid the Public Order Act to Parliament he was forced to withdraw it because of an uproar in the General Council, the final arbiter of political matters.

Leacock’s predicament seemed analogous to what Orwell called “doublethink,” the ability “to know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them.”

Leacock was confused by his leaders’ behavior. All he could think of was “BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING AND WAITING.” The transformation within his party also frightened him.

There are 14 regional corporations in the country. Twelve of the chief executive officers of these corporations are Indo-Trinidadians. He couldn’t understand how such a practice could be equated with fair play, especially from a party that seeks to look out for the welfare of black people.

Then there is the CEPEP program, the only avenue through which poor black people, some as contractors, get a little cacada. Senator Kazim Hosein runs the program over which he has carte blanche. There are no restrains on his power. When his judgment is questioned, he challenges all and sundry: “Go and tell the Prime Minister. Nobody can’t do me nothing.” He seems to be especially protected by the gods.

A loyal PNMite moaned: “We cannot bid for the road paving jobs: All the major contracts are held by companies that are owned by Indo-Trinidadians. So we have no employment there.

“If a contract comes up for the cleaning of water ways and/or the building of box drains we cannot compete there because we do not have the heavy equipment to tender for these jobs.

“Once more we are left in the cold.

“Yet we are told that this is our party and we must support it because it belongs to us.”

Unable to hold these contradictions together, he blurted out unconsciously: “FREEDOM IS SLAVERY. IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.”

He, too, was trapped in the labyrinthine ways of doublethink.

Today black people are caught up in a triple jeopardy. The Venezuelans, the new boys on the block, are underpricing black workers. The competition is so fierce that some merchants are advertising their jobs in Spanish in local newspapers. English-speakers need not apply.

Some economists say that the presence of Venezuelans is a good thing for the economy. But at whose expense is this goodness being realized? Will it result in blacks being relegated to the bottom of the economic ladder?

One commentator saw few dark-skinned Venezuelans among those who registered to work in Trinidad for a year. He asks: “Where are the Waraos? Where are the Afro-Venezuelans?” even though these people live in close proximity to Trinidad (Raffique Shah, Express, June 17).

In rejoicing in the humanitarian generosity of our government and our churches, few have asked: “What will happen to Black People?” The U.S. Department of State observed recently “existing laws regarding employment of migrants are weak and not comprehensive… [They] need to be strengthened to prevent forced labor and exploitation” (Express, June 21.)

If one believes this is a superfluous concern, one should remember that the Black Power revolt in 1970 occurred because banks and other private companies refused to hire dark-skinned people even though we had gained independence eight years earlier.

This holding of contradictory ideas in one’s head, each demanding equal fealty, is a maddening process. It can drive one insane. Yet the worst may not yet be over. It is not too far-fetched that soon the PNM hierarchy will ask its adherents to believe that two and two make five to prove their loyalty to the party.

I am sorry Leacock was made to weep in public but the more PNM becomes a caricature of itself and the faithful are cast into the outer darkness, there shall be much more weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12).

Leacock’s admonition contains a message for PNM people: Wake up and smell the coffee or is it the snake in the balisier?

Meanwhile Leacock remains fully committed to his party and his leader.

God bless his soul.

6 thoughts on “The Labyrinthine World of Doublethink”

  1. This is what your Generation have given, the very same you are willing to deflect . A PNM member all your life, one who have benefitted both directly and indirectly with what the PNM have had to offer, is crumbling in your presence. Today, we don’t have any African Males with Credence saying anything needs listening to , His all inclusive doctrine have left him/her wanting. Having an 80+yr old discard as Education and Research officer of the PNM says it all. To control, or be part of anything that resonates have been well documented and the corporations are just an example of what have been planted and taken growth in your lifetime as a Trinidadian Intellect. Dr Cujoe, quoting the US state Department says a lot , didn’t the US did the same , enticing the Latinos to undermine Black workers in the 90′? Liberal Wellesley College was part of this policy.Black Trinidad live in SELF-HATE, NJAC didn’t have their people’ condition in mind when joining the corrupt UNC and Co collision , it was their time to collect the crumbs for the betterment of their individual selves while keeping the African clouded . There might be a lifeline for Trinidad with David ABDULAH’ led MOVEMENT FOR SOCIAL JUSTIC, for the first time since the advent of Dr Eric Williams, a leader has grown among the people, one not sullied or Fettered, like Eric Williams, no one can point a condescending finger , you need to interview and hear his take on the issues both Local/ Global and geopolitical.Dr Cujoe,if you don’t know your heritage, you don’t know where you belong, if you don’t know your history, you are lost, yes the black man is lost in Trinidad, and you are not the exception. Mr Leacock it seems is a party hack, willing to do any and everything on behalf of the PNM, Mis-educated and lacking knowledge, he can easily be talked down, this is what happens to the foot soldiers of the PNM,they are only respected for their numbers, Hewers of Wood. Knowledge is about facts and ideas that we acquire through study,research,investigation, observation or experience. Wisdom is the ability to decipher and judge which aspects of that knowledge are true, right, lasting and applicable to life’s development, where this concerns the Black/Woman in Trinidad, it is certainly superfluous.

  2. The blunt hand of the PNM executive has been squarely aimed at Trinindians. Most regional cooperations in the UNC constituencies has been subjected to financial decimation. Whilst PNM held regional councils have savoured the fat of the land. Siparia, Princes Town, Cedros all felt the wrath of the “short man” selling off furniture and operating with skeleton staff as many faced the breadline.

    The prime beneficiaries of the PNM rule has been the Port of Spain Cooperation never complaining of monetary needs. Along with other PNM controlled cooperations.

    As soon as Rowley won elections he acted swiftly to increase funding to Tobago. Tobago received billions under the PNM and a 2005 audit could not find one billion dollars. It is said Tobago assembly men become overnight multi-millionaires with their families riding the high hog. All Tobagonians can point to the edifices of Corruption littering the landscape from Crown Point to Speyside. They know the thieves. But none will come under scrutiny or brought to account despite the zeal of the current AG with his long list of legislation mainly aim to take the wealth accumulated since 1845 by Trinindians and redistribute it to poor Triniafro people. The Property Tax laws were design to do just that whilst excluding National Housing.

    Whilst this article focuses on the wealth of PNM indians. The multi billion dollar wealth is clearly ignored…hmmm maybe the prof could examine that.

  3. Paul Leacock should not be frightened by the transformation which is occurring within his party but encouraged by the progressive evolution of the PNM.These apparent radical changes are simply reflecting the needs of the economy and the demographics of the country and not the self declared divine rights of any political organization.

    The dominance of certain individual PNM ministers and officials is a direct result of the inability and incompetence of the leader himself, the PM. They are conveniently exploiting the vacancy left by the leader who lacks the knowledge, expertise and decision making abilities required to lead a country.

    The awards of contracts are based on the competence and expertise of the bidding companies which possess the qualified personnel and essential modern equipment required to efficiently complete the jobs. It is encouraging that “fly by night” PNM invented, incompetent firms are not receiving contracts.There is a record of failed PNM start up companies which received contracts by political corrupt means.

    Success of most economies is based on free enterprise and competition in the market place. This includes a flexible and competent workforce.Employers have the right to legally hire employees who are the best fit for their companies. Political affiliation and race should not be factors which influence profit decisions.

  4. Prof. it appears from your comment that the Regional Corp. went cap in hand (in the wrong place) after exceeding a major budget, but that’s the norm…. your comment about the “rise of the Indo-Trini” caught my attention (with the big equipment ownership, etc). It reminded me of a real news story I heard on the BBC a few months ago:

    A woman owned a farm that was adjacent to an equestrian school. On her farm, she kept an adult American Bull (Large Buffalo) who basically spent his days wandering near the fence of the farm. This fence provided visibility to the training yard. The trainers worked with the horses almost every day in the open yard, teaching them new tricks (like jumping over a short fence, kicking their hind legs, trotting and etc).

    One day while doing yard work the farmer noticed the Buffalo behaving in a weird way like he would jump, kneel down, and it appeared like he was doing tricks that were just unfit for his kind. As she approached the bull, she realized that the equestrian horses were outside with their trainers and she noticed that at every command the horse trainer vocalized, the bull would obey and literally perform the command. It was really astonishing because bulls are not horses and many of the tricks that horses learn are very unique. the bull was able to perform all those tricks although he looked odd and funny. The farmer now enters him in competitions and takes him to various communities to perform tricks.

    The PNM provided many free learning moments and the UNC are fast learners. Just commenting because the farm story was just too true and funny to be ignored.

  5. “In rejoicing in the humanitarian generosity of our government and our churches, few have asked: “What will happen to Black People?” The U.S. Department of State observed recently “existing laws regarding employment of migrants are weak and not comprehensive… [They] need to be strengthened to prevent forced labor and exploitation” ”

    I have been asking the same question. There was a UWI economist that recently opined that the influx of venezuelans would be good for our economy because it will allow for a growth in GDP by allowing businesses to higher more expensive local labour and hire cheaper Venezuelan labour, thereby increasing their profits.

    No mention was made of how this would affect inequality and unemployment. At best, my questions were met with curiosity and at worst with accusations of xenophobia.

    The sad part is that this problem provides an opportunity to make things better for both Trinis and Venezuelan immigrants if properly handled. But first we have to admit that we are currently handing it wrong and not government wants to confirm their fallibility.

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