March 06, 2008
The Prince of Wales, Charles Philip Arthur George and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, paid a visit to the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine campus, on Wednesday 5th March, 2008, as part of their tour of Trinidad and Tobago to promote environmentalism and to reinforce British ties with former colonies. The couple made their way to the JFK Quadrangle to view the UWI 60th Anniversary Exhibition, to look at and to play the G Pan and to observe a skit put on by the Centre for Creative and Festival Arts.
The scene was reminiscent of when the Queen of England had visited the country in February 1966, four years after the country’s Independence from Britain. Speaking with a gentleman who as a child witnessed the event, recalled that children lined the streets with flags in hand in the hot sun singing, “God save the Queen!” He reminded me that homage was being paid to former slave masters by a newly “Independent” nation with citizens calling on God to bless and save the royals. Today, the atmosphere was not much different with children and adults scrambling to get a touch of the royals’ hands. “I will never wash my hand again,” was what one female intimated.
The spectacle reflected the wider societal historical neglect, with the University of the West Indies at the helm of the education system sustaining the colonial mindset. Of course, true thinking individuals would know that the university is still an agent of imperialism and colonial conformity with their statues of European figures lining the third floor university library and places such as the JFK Quadrangle and auditorium named after an American president. There is no prominent symbolism that I am aware of in the University to cause appreciation of our African and Indian past.
Yesterday we witnessed children being encouraged by their teachers to touch the royals, seemingly without knowledge of Britain’s historical legacy, or even with their complicity in the mass-murder of millions in recent history. Certainly, this is an indictment against the teachers (among others) who refuse to challenge bogus history and continue to feed young minds with a self-debasing concept of history. The UWI Che Guevara and Bob Marley T-shirt wearing so-called revolutionaries in their childlike dispositions rushed to meet and greet the royals. They were elated to tell them that they were students of Economics, Science and History, showing off their academic status to the royals. ‘Massa, we educated now!’ University lecturers were also in the mix of the ‘I-want-to-meet-the-prince’ euphoria.
UWI’s Centre for Creative and Festival Arts did a skit about climate change. Unaware of the significance of symbolic actions, their continuous prostrating in front of the royals looked like a reconfirmation of colonialist attitudes and the idea of White power and supremacy over Black subordinates.
Without explaining the history of the Steelpan and reminding all that the Steelpan was developed in resistance to colonialism, the royals were allowed to play the Steelpan like children with toys. This came over as a mockery of the instrument. The royals should have been reminded that the Steelpan was born in resistance to their drive to suppress African forms of expression.
No one even bothered to question what the visit of the British royals was about and were thus oblivious to the double-standard and hypocrisy surrounding their efforts to ‘highlight the plight of the environment’. The Independent UK reminded us of the insincerity of the royals’ environmentalist agenda by highlighting the lavishly furnished 246ft super-yacht which calls for high-maintenance and which is very damaging to the environment. The Independent UK article states:
“…there is a slight flaw in Charles’s dreams of a guilt-free Caribbean odyssey: experts are warning that, far from minimising the tour’s carbon footprint, his chosen method of transport could do more damage to the environment than several hundred transatlantic flights. Despite his high-profile stance on green issues and championing of organic food, the Aston Martin-driving Prince has earned his fair share of environmental brickbats over the years, not least for his well-known taste for luxury and penchant for helicopter travel.”
Given the attitudes of the University and the country at large, the prince can do no wrong and his hypocrisy means nothing to them.
What the royals’ visit did highlight was that after forty-six years of Independence, the notion of White supremacy, Crown-worship and Third-world subordination have not changed from the era of slavery and colonialism. The University of the West Indies, at the helm of Caribbean intellectualism, has exposed its backwardness as an institution of higher learning.
Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall visit UWI in pictures: