Our Strength is Our Diversity

By Derren Joseph
September 01, 2010

TrinidadiansThere was a most interesting YouGov poll conducted a couple weeks ago on the website for the Economist magazine – one of my favorite publications. One of the questions asked – Whether or not you think the Islamic cultural centre and mosque should be built near the World Trade Center site, do you think that Muslims have a constitutional right to build a mosque there? Interestingly, 53.2% of Republican respondents, 24.9% of Democrat respondents and 25.2% of Independents disagreed – they actually believed that Muslims did not have a constitutional right to build a mosque on what is actually private property. Although these polls may not meet the test for being statistically reliable, I would argue that they are quite insightful.

Another question asked – Do you think the Islamic cultural centre and mosque should be built near the World Trade Centre site, or not? In this one 88.3% of Republican respondents, 57.6% of Independents and 41% of Democrat respondents believed that a mosque should not be built there.

Much has been written about the so called “clash of civilizations” that these polls may point to, particularly the way in which an entire religion has been condemned because of the actions of a few. At the same time however, it may go a bit deeper. In that same edition of the online Economist, there is an article about the US Justice Department threatening to sue the popular sheriff of Maricopa County in Arizona if he did not comply with an ongoing investigation into discrimination against Hispanics. Stories of intolerance of course go beyond the borders of our neighbor to the north. There is a story about France starting to expel hundreds of Roma, most of them Romanian nationals, saying they were living in the country illegally. The European Commission, mindful of EU rules on freedom of movement, said it was “monitoring the situation”.

Intolerance has always and perhaps, will always be among us. My view is that we live at a time in our world’s history when the agents of intolerance are in the minority. We have only to look at the President of the United States. In the first YouGov question from the Economist above, even though so many Republicans were prepared to deny Muslims the constitutional right, overall, only 32.7 per cent of total respondents (Republican plus Democrat plus Independent) were prepared to deny the constitutional right of a person because of their religion. Coming back home now, Trinidad and Tobago is truly a special place. I am proud to live in a nation, which, though imperfect in so many ways, stands as an example of relative tolerance and harmony.

This tiny island remains one of the few places on the planet where so many ethnicities and religious persuasions co–exist in relative peace and prosperity. This is something that we should never take for granted. We have so much to offer the wider world and that is part of what makes tourism such an attractive industry to us, as we seek to diversify away from energy dependence. When we think about our nation as a tourist destination, few disagree that our unique selling proposition remains you and me. That is to say—we the people of Trinidad and Tobago. Where else on earth can someone experience Carnival in one month, Eid in another and Divali in yet another month. When St Lucia faced a lull in visitor arrivals in the month of May, they created St Lucia Jazz and successfully boosted visitor numbers.

Some argue that we in Trinidad and Tobago do not need to create anything from scratch as in every month of the year, there is some national festival or sports tournament that is almost “market ready”. It does vary from year to year but typically – January and February is all about carnival, March is Phagwa, April is Tobago Jazz, May is Point Fortin Borough Day / Sugar and Energy Festival, June is We Beat in St James, July/August is Tourism Park/Great Fete in Tobago, September is Eid, October is the Steel Pan and Jazz Festival, November is Divali, December is Parang and Hosay, and we swing into Carnival again. To me, the declining energy prices and production could actually be a blessing in disguise.

Perhaps it would mark a shift in our collective focus towards embracing who we are with even greater pride while promoting our culture not only to those from other places, but also to each other right here at home.

My name is Derren Joseph and I love my country. As always, I end by saying that despite our challenges, we are so blessed to live in this beautiful land. Let us continue to have the audacity of hope in our country, as we embark upon the next chapter in our nation’s history.

9 thoughts on “Our Strength is Our Diversity”

  1. very insightful… one error though in your typical series of events… Eid-ul-Fitr and Hosay aren’t typically where you place them… both events are lunar based and are ‘typically’ 11 days earlier every year…

    i hope someone in the Ministry of Tourism has this typical schedule of events on a wall and bases international & local campaigns on this as it shows the diversity and reach that our culture has to offer the world…

  2. Diversity allows us to be tolerant of others even when they don’t deserve it. As all nation evolve there are two courses that can be followed, one of tolerance and another of intolerance. Intolerance saw Rawanda, South Africa, Bosnia, Sri Lanka and a host of other unnecessary and wasteful conflicts that resulted in millions in economic and human devastation.

    Ethnocentric ideology only breeds intolerance. We must understand (1) We did not choose to be born, (2) We did not choose our family of origin, (3) We did not choose our nation of birth, (4) We did not choose the circumstances of our existence. When we come to a realisation that life and all it’s joyous moments are but a gift for a temporary stay in this world, then we begin to embrace life as we see it. We applaud the contributions of others, because the composite nature of humanity rest in the face of all humans, not a sigular race or idea. Mindful of the unnecessary hate that can emerge out of intolerance we must make all effort to patiently correct at times oppose those who would seek to interpose their silly racist ideas on the “body human”. That starts within our own circle of friends when comments are made of other races that are stereotypical comments or design to inflict hate.

    The world would be a better place when all of our machinations find it’s foundation in love. Tis true love your neighbour as yourself, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, love everyone. For me I am always confronted with the temporary basis of my existence and will always seek to break down the walls of division for a sweeter, more humane T&T. A nation that I love…

  3. Hi Khem, I am back! Just to let you know, I attended the Notting Hill Carnival here in London, England and there were many people of all races and nationalities who enjoyed themselves during the two day event. I just want to teach you something Khem, Notting Hill Carnival is and had been the largest street event in Europe, but you know what, over the years, the Whiteman (the White power structure) has gradually taken control of the event. Naturally many “Trinis-to-de-bone” including myself, who resides over here and are deeply patriotic of our beloved Trinidad & Tobago are not really happy with that kind of politics going on here. As Darren Joseph states in his article, Our Strength is Our Diversity, “We have so much to offer the wider world” which is correct because, as a case in point, the Notting Hill Carnival over here in London, England clearly testifies to that in more ways than one. So Darren Joseph, you are correct; the key word is “tolerance” however you just can’t keep on turning the other cheek all the time, because at sometime, something will have to give. And as for you Khem, place your article on this Trinidad &Tobago News Blog and let me know what you think. Don’t forget, be sensible! No sarcastic or racially overtone remarks or comment when you reply! That wouldn’t be helpful. Have a nice day Khem.

    1. Jaraad from London welcome back. I knew you would understand what I am saying because it makes more sense than the garbage you are exposed to day and night. Life is not about who you could change, or whose life you can make miserable, it is about coming to term with your own humnanity. Self realisation -realizing your own mortality and acknowledging the end. It is better to make friends than enemies. Sometimes it is not about embracing all rather it is about tolerating all.

      Trinidad will become increasingly diverse as time goes by and it is up to the people to shape their nation. The racist, intolerant and mentally challenged will soon find that they are victims of their own internal rage. A rage that will slowly but surely bring a horrible end to their self contaminated world view.

      But I am persuaded Jaraad from London that the world we live in today will be a better world in the process of time. You my friend as Gandhi said must become the change you want to see, starting with yourself….

  4. What you failed to add Daren is that this great tolerant haven did not sudden evolve on May 24th when Madame Kamla became the PM,as some of the unmentionable frauds ,and neo tribal cheerleaders,would like to make us think.
    Just a thought,would cousin Khem be this generous and all embracing when Uncle Jack decides to make his power move to usurp power from his adoring Queen,and political savior?

  5. Khem,
    I though you would have learnt your lesson by now; you obviously haven’t done so. I said to you in my last communication, “No sarcastic or racially overtone remarks or comment when you reply!”
    I am referring to your reaction when you said and I quote, “I knew you would understand what I am saying because it makes more sense than the garbage you are exposed to day and night!”
    I was making a general statement in reference “tolerance” using the Notting Hill Carnival and the politics of what’s happening in relation to it, over here in London, England as a case in point, but you tend to go off in another direction all together in your reply and make things a personal issue.
    You are absolutely right Khem about one thing when you said and I quote, “You my friend as Gandhi said must become the change you want to see, starting with yourself….!” I think you should start by taking that into greater consideration and give yourself that advice. “…with great urgency Khem; you definitely need it!”
    You should receive an “Oscar Academy Award” for making such a wonderful and philosophical statement that is suppose to baffle mine and everybody else’s “over 3 hundred billion brains cells” who are currently reading this and trying to make heads or tails about your “Oscar Academy Award” statement. Next time try to go for the “Nobel Peace Prize” Khem.
    I just want to teach you something else about “tolerance” Khem. When the British “emancipated” blacks in Trinidad & Tobago (and all over the British controlled colonies throughout the British Empire) to bring an end to the slave trade, black people in Trinidad & Tobago was supposed to receive “reparation payment” as “compensation” for the brutality endured by the Whitman during the period of slavery in T&T (as well as the rest of the British Empire). That reparation payment never materialised; the Blackman have not received a red cent from then up till now 2010! Instead the British used the reparation payment (that was and is still due to blacks in Trinidad & Tobago) to pay for your East Indian fore parents to arrive as “indenture workers” from India to Port-of-Spain on a ship called “the Razak.” Khem, yes you and every East Indian in Trinidad & Tobago have been and are still living off that “reparation payment” that black people in T&T should have received a long time ago. Do you still expect “Trinis-to-de-bone” of African and indigenous Carib and Arawak descent (who really knows the untold history of Trinidad & Tobago) to be “tolerant” about all what had happened? Do you expect to be given cakes, sweets and flowers for living off the “reparation payments” that is due to the real people of T&T who are of African and indigenous Carib and Arawak descent? The real people of T&T who are of African and indigenous Carib and Arawak descent have been “tolerant” with small, narrow- minded and deeply dogmatic people such as you Khem. For all those of you “Trinis-to-de-bone” (at home and abroad) who are reading this article, don’t let people like Khem frighten you into not replying and making you heart-felt comments about what have been said in this Trinidad and Tobago News Blog. “Make your comments!” It is your God-given “Trini-to-de-bone” right for you to do so. If I can make my comments all the way from London, England, so can you, wherever you are in the world, my beloved “Trini-to-de-bone” family. So everybody, get in front of your computers (when you have time to do so) and start typing out your honest heart-felt comments. I am sure many of you are much more sensible than “those who think they know it all!” Peace.

  6. Excellent job brother Jaraad. This is what nation building entails – honest discussions , and truth telling, not neo tribal revisionisms.
    There is something you must recognize about cousin khem my friend , he is a very ‘sly rouge and vagabond,’ but there is hope , as I think his heart is in the right place. Keep working on him, and work the cyber joisting ,chess pieces to full advantage. Here is a my a contribution and thought for today . It was given to me freely ,by perhaps the wisest woman that ever lived.
    It states:- “never let your right hand know , what your left hand know.” Checkmate!
    Keep dem honest my friend.

  7. Neal,
    You seem like one of the sensible “Trini-to-de-bone” individuals I can communicate with. I am really happy that you and (I am sure) many other sensible “Trinis-to-de-bone” individuals, who are reading this article can clearly see that Khem is an individual who has many unnecessary emotional baggages which is hampering him from real progress and personal self-development in his life.
    Neal, you are probably right, perhaps there may be a small glimmer of hope for individuals like Khem and his heart may be in the right place, but he need to be properly schooled into the right mode of thinking in order for him to be able to have proper communication, discussion and dialogue with people, on different levels of thought and walks of life, at home and abroad.
    Neal, your contribution is fantastic. The woman who made that statement to you, and I quote, “never let your right hand know, what your left hand know” is the kind of woman who wants to protect you form a potentially volatile situation you may encounter in the future. She is a good woman. That’s what I call “tolerance” “love for one’s nation” and “good nation building” which is well needed in Trinidad & Tobago. We need people with good hearts, good spirits and with good intentions in T&T who can really work hard to properly restore Trinidad & Tobago to its former glory, where “every creed and race is supposed to really find an equal place!” “That is what I would call real and proper tolerance for each other.”

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