Land of Hope and Glory

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
April 04, 2008

Young PeopleLast week when I alluded to my double allegiance to Christian and Yoruba religious practices that attended my growing up in Tacarigua I wanted to suggest that religion, be it of the European or African variety, structures our imaginative and emotional lives and how we behave in our society. The English understood what it took to discipline a population and how to make a people see things through their (the colonizers’) eyes.

At my primary school, each morning from nine to ten, was devoted to religious education. Under the guidance of the principal, each student was taught the tenets of the Christian religion and we learned our catechisms from the Book of Common Prayer. We were told about the divinity of Jesus Christ, the virtues of the King and how to honor “our betters lowly and reverently.” In other words, we were taught to be good servants of the Crown and devoted children of Jesus Christ.

This emphasis on religious training involved a desire to prevent our descent into “savagery” and to teach us to embrace civility. Charles Taylor, a Canadian philosopher, observes that attempts to discipline a population and reduce it to order “almost always had a religious component, [and] required people to hear sermons, or learn catechism.” How it could be otherwise, he asks, “in a civilization where good conduct was inseparable from religion?”

There can be no doubt that the senseless murders that occur in the black communities; the descending levels of educational achievement among black students; and the irresponsible attitudes of some of our parents suggest an absence of civility-a lack of concern for our brothers and our sisters–and a lack of empathy for others. We have also failed to feed our people with the spiritual food that is necessary for their existence and/or moral uplift.

If we wish to change this trend we must decide what kind of ideological construct we want to establish to inform the behavior of our young people. It might be argued that any such regeneration must allot a central place to the cultivation of civility in society, beginning with the behavior of our legislators right down to our teachers, our lawyers, and our doctors, just to name a few of the central players that shape behavior in our society.

To be sure, the cultivation of an ordered society involves the development of the arts and sciences and suggests “the development of rational moral self-control; and also, crucially, taste, manners, refinement; in short sound education and polite manners.” In fact, what transpired during my growing up was equivalent to the cultivation of our imagination and emotional knowledge and a desire to set some standards that we could take into adulthood.

The hour that the Anglican authorities devoted to religious education had a purpose. They sought to make us more like them, citizens who were committed to their values. Such an ordering produced certain benefits: one could walk peacefully at night; one felt relatively safe in one’s home; the criminal element was certainly kept a bay; the arts and sciences flourished and even our carnival served its function. It even allowed us to pour scorn at the social order and for two glorious days to descent into chaos only to return to order and “civility” via our receipt of ashes on Ash Wednesday.

The problem with our contemporary republican order is that we have not outlined an ideological program to fill the vacuum that the colonizers left. Apart from a fleeting nationalism, we have not created any public, religious, cultural or social programs to discipline the minds of our young people and point them to some form of common and/or shared values. Although I am aware that we cannot impose national values by fiat, it is necessary to recognize that part of our continuing problems lay in our inability to cultivate our social, cultural and religious capital and set certain standards for our young people.

Man, as the Bible says, cannot live by bread alone.

We may not have liked colonialism-and none of us wishes that those days never return– but the British did an excellent job of indoctrinating its subjects though its schools and its churches. Even at sixty five, I can still remember the British patriotic song, “Land of Hope and Glory, Mother of the Free,/How shall we extol thee, who are born of thee? Wider still and wider shall thy bounds be set;/ God, who made thee mighty, make thee mightier yet,” that was rammed down our throats.

The British recognized that you trained a child as you wanted it to grow and these values never left no matter how old a person became. Today, I am not too sure if there is any patriotic song, anthem or catechism that a Trinbagonian child will remember or any set of positive values that would excite his imagination when he reaches sixty five.

As we survey the contemporary scene, we might not be wrong if we opined, the problem, dear Brutus, lies more in our mode of indoctrination than in the amount of guns that pass through our country.

2 thoughts on “Land of Hope and Glory”

  1. “Apart from a fleeting nationalism, we have not created any public, religious, cultural or social programs to discipline the minds of our young people and point them to some form of common and/or shared values”.

    I think this statement hits at the very heart of what is lacking among our youths nationally and black youths in particular. Black youths are almost totally void of any form of fear that is derived from religion, cultural heritage or home training that operates as a reasoning factor in their approach to everyday life. There is nothing in their psyche to strengthen mindful development of greater things to come into their lives when they set out on a mission. As a young child growing up in Trinidad our options were very few and narrow but it did not quell our thirst for wanting to go higher. Our future avenues(if you were not rich), were to be a teacher, civil servant, policeman, mason, carpenter, mechanic, joiner or gardener. Yet, today that portion of our society that are most successful or harbours the greatest respect for law and society are amongst people who came from that experience. Today’s parents dont want to ‘hold back’ anything and want to give their children everything they got, withoiuot allowing them to try do sometrhing for themselves first. They want to adorn them with the latest of every fashion and creation on the market only for them to ‘look good’. Their caring for what is is their children’s mind is questionable at best, whereas our older parents always cared about what their children would become.

  2. From the proliferation of “New” Christian churches, the activism of the Seventh Day Adventists in Tobago, and the Mormons getting into the act, I would have thought that our “Religious values” were in great shape. Never have I seen so many “revival” meetings Every American televangelist has “discovered” us, and come, almost annually, to rake in our cash, and discover how many demons are in our society. We have also become engrossed in megachurches, as if God required that we build him a bigger church, and yet a bigger church. What I have noticed though, is the great disparity between what happens on Sundays and what happens during the rest of the week. The church goers in their Sunday best do not seem overly concerned with those who are not of their particular religious persuasion. An obsession with being saved blinds many to the plight of their neighbours.( I believe that the megachurch of a Pentecostal group in Petit Valley would make a good homework center for the neighbourhood kids during the week, while their parents worked late. It could keep them off the street. If you could read the Bible, you could read another book to a child.)

    Some of these pastors are more about money as they fleece their “sheep” constantly and run schemes to get every widow’s mite.
    Yet, the society seems morally and spiritually bankrupt.

    I am often disgusted with the loose talk some radio hosts use on their shows which can sound like a nightclub act early in thwee morning.

    The “Church” too, has been silent about the issue of the sexuality of young people, particularly young women who want to be mothers, a natural inclination, and who are not married because of the acutes shortage of men due to murders, jail and so on. What role does the single mother play, could play in the socuiety? do we continue to condemn them as sinners, Wendy and all?

    These are isues for our times that pontification cannot solve. We need a national dialogue on who we are, what we desire to be and how we plan to achieve this. We need to talk to young people. Town, gown, church and street corner must together get involved in conversations about these issues. Too often though, we seem to think that the boys(and now girls) hanging on the corner have nothing to offer. We could be wrong, but if we never engage them in dialogue, how would we know?

    The constant reference to “black people” in the piece, I found offensive, as I have always maintained that children of Africa in the west are the only people in the world who allow others to attach to them a derogatory term, and then hold on to it for dear life.

    This could be a root cause of the problem. Could you think of ten positive things to say about these so-called “black” people? well, there you are…

    As a woman of African descent in the West, I am not black. I am an African woman, very centered on who i am and what I am. I do not know any black people.

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