Nostalgia for the 1970s

By Raffique Shah
Sunday, April 20th 2008

Raffique ShahTHIRTY-EIGHT years ago tomorrow, a group of us comprising young officers in the Trinidad and Tobago Regiment (TTR), along with a few hundred soldiers, etched our names in history by revolting and seizing control of the army’s HQ at Teteron Barracks. We would hold the camp for ten days before subjecting ourselves to being arrested. We were charged with mutiny and treason among other serious offences. Of the 80-odd men arrested, around 40 faced court martial, with 25-or-so being sentenced to various terms of imprisonment. After 27 months in jail, we would walk free, thanks to the judicial system that remained fiercely independent of the political directorate.

At the time, the average age of the officers and soldiers involved was 24. The mutiny was not an isolated act of defiance. For many months before, tens of thousands of equally young people marched up and down the country demanding respect for Black people, crying out for a more equitable distribution of the nation’s wealth, appealing for unity among the nation’s ethnic groups, more so the two main races, Indians and Africans.

Looking back at what can now be deemed halcyon days, we were part of a movement that revolted against the global established order. In America, young people were engaged in bitter struggle for civil rights for Afro-Americans. Racism was rampant and brutal in that “land of the free and the brave”. White supremacists still lynched “niggers”, hooded members of the Ku Klux Klan paraded with impunity. In Europe, young idealists massed against governments that still wielded colonial power across the world. The protests would gel into a counter-culture of song, music, marches and sit-ins condemning America’s war against Vietnam.

What was amazing, and this in the context of today’s sub-culture, is although we were young and maybe reckless, we valued human life as being sacrosanct. With millions across the world showing people-power as never before, you’d think violence would erupt, that hundreds if not thousands would be killed-on both sides of the divide. Of course there was some mayhem: inner cities across America burned, streets in Europe’s biggest cities looked like battlegrounds, flaming vehicles littering them.

But actual deaths were few. In fact, more protestors were killed by police than the other way round. And few targets of our collective wrath met their ends at our hands. In our case, we packed sufficient fire-and-explosive-power to level the Coast Guard HQ and wherever else we chose to vent our anger. But that did not happen. We decided there would be no bloodshed. So noble were the ideals we held, women, the aged and children were given the kind of respect they’d never had before. The 1960s and 1970s saw the coming of age of the feminist movement. It was that era that ushered in respect of our elders: indeed, the latter occupied a special place in our hearts, they having endured the worst facets of colonialism. And we saw ourselves as warriors fighting for a better world for our children to inherit.

Today, as we ourselves graduate to the status of “elders”, we look with dismay at the senseless mayhem and murder and violation of women and children that have enveloped not just this country, but much of the world. We wonder aloud: are we responsible for this absence of basic human values? Why has human life been devalued to the point where killing another is like swatting a fly? How can anyone who calls himself man look at a helpless woman, kidnap and rape and kill her, and think he still has his manhood?

In our youthful exuberance, we’d never dream of violating women that way-or in any manner. Oh, among us were many “village rams”. But to earn that title one had to make women happy, not violate them. Children were cherished. Sure, parents did not spare the rod. But however harsh the punishment that was meted out for errant behaviour, it was done out of love, of caring. Even when “deans” at college whipped our backsides, they did it to keep us on the right behavioural track.

Something, or many things, went awfully wrong between those romantic days of the 1960s and 70s, and today. Young people no longer fight for what they believe is right. They kill for what they know is wrong. The rebels of the 1970s fought for a better tomorrow for ourselves and generations to follow. The bandits of today terrorise ordinary people to acquire “bling” for themselves, such is their selfishness, their greed.

Interestingly, as the rebel soldiers of yesteryear gather for yet another reunion, a weekend filled with nostalgia and the happiness of having remained brothers for close to four decades, we can, with pride, look at our children and grandchildren, and say: we’ve done a damn good job. This year, the passing parade has taken yet another from our ranks, Herman Holder. We shall cherish fond memories of this rebel-with-a-cause under whose hands many boy recruits were transformed into proud soldiers. He was a disciplinarian who remained a soldier until he breathed his last. Farewell, brother. We shall always celebrate your heroic life.

9 thoughts on “Nostalgia for the 1970s”

  1. Shaw glorifies his escapades as if his mutiny and treason should be held in historical esteem in Trinidad and Tobago.Nothing is further from the truth.The fallout and consequences of this rebellion were quite detrimental to the nation.
    His trip down memory lane reminds us that most demonstrations at the time were peaceful and did not involve armed rebellion against an existing government.

  2. Shah got off because of a legal technicality which existed at the time in the laws of, ‘the [T&T] judicial system that remained fiercely independent of the political directorate,’ and that technicality prevented him from being hanged. If that technicality didn’t exist, would we be hearing anything from him today?

    Black Power 1970 didn’t change one damn thing as far as race relations between ‘niggers’ and ‘coolies’ were concerned: didn’t Shah, in the General Elections of 1976, contest the Siparia seat (an ‘Indian’ / ‘coolie’ area), after all the honey-talk about the ULF being, ‘orgwanically integwated??’
    [ Why wasn’t a non-‘Indian’ or ‘African’ sent by the ULF to contest the Siparia seat? Because of race, and that’s a fact: other, more relevant qualifications of an individual generally had NOTHING to do with influencing the 1976 (general elections) Siparia constituency, mostly-‘Indian’ voters -especially those 18-to-24–yr-old, up-and-coming ‘coolies’ guzzling carib beer and puncheon in the rum shops from Siparia to Penal to Debe to Barrackpore to Claxton Bay; and that hasn’t changed one bit today –to vote the way they did. The Democratic Action Congress (DAC) was viewed by those Siparia constituency ‘coolies’ as having that ‘nigger,’ ANR Robinson, as it’s head, compared to the ULF having Panday and Shah at its head, so the DAC’s candidate, (the late) Dr. Martin Sampath, despite his more superior qualifications and service –and these are documented- to T&T over Shah’s, he couldn’t win: he got 300-odd votes, compared to Shah’s 4000-odd ones. Really, overall, what WERE Shah’s qualifications over Sampath’s qualifications in making him a SUITABLE candidate for Parliament or other political or non-political office, if you throw the race factor out?? (Living in Claxton Bay, instead of Siparia??) I looked at the qualifications of both those two, and Dr. Martin Sampath’s came out light years ahead of Raffique Shah’s. ‘Ah shoot gun in de regiment,’ is not enough for me to vote that individual into any office…]

    And let’s not forget the 1970’s overtly blatant, anti-‘Indian’ hysteria meted out, by T&T ‘Africans,’ (especially those in and voting PNM) to those descended from the Indian continent: you old, racist T&T ‘Africans,’ remembered when you derogatively called ‘Indians’ “dos” or, “dem dos” back in ‘dem days???’ Adopted one of, ‘the worst facets of colonialism,’ for your own, didn’t you?
    ‘Black Power’ f&c%@d ^p T&T. Full Stop. (Bet you at least I of you reading this will say, ‘is ah eendian writing dat!’

    ‘So noble were the ideals we held, women, the aged and children were given the kind of respect they’d never had before.’ Really? So there were NO others inside T&T society, outside Shah’s regiment group, who respected the aged and children??

    As far as, ‘beating children to keep them on the right behavioral track,’ I wouldn’t want Shah or others with that attitude, in whatever capacity, near anyone’s children (too late for his; they have my condolences). “ ‘I love you, my children’ so I go beat you???” “I respect you???”
    Where are / were Shah’s relevant statistics supporting his hypothesis that children beaten –by him or college ‘deans’ or equivalents- will produce better, more responsible children? “The good, ‘ol days???” “I get beat, therefore I turned out good???” STUPIDITY!!!
    And that kind of stupidity is what rules failing-state T&T today, still.

    And fortunately for me, Shah was never my hero, and never shall he be…


  3. It is sad that the aforementioned writers have no clue about what really happened in 1970. They probably have good jobs because of the activities of the 70’s revolution. These are the types of folks who settle for the B.S. meted out by Manning and his gang to the populace. They probably never heard of Brian Jeffers and Guy Harewood, real heroes of T&T. They probably never heard of Maurice Bishop, revolutionary hero of Grenada. Walter Rodney of Guyana. I bet they know of Christopher Columbus, though. I rest my case.

  4. Shah fools no one with his sanctimonious B.S. In spite of his 38 year battle to hoodwink the population by casting his treasonous actions of 1970 in a particular light, his place in history remains sealed as a failed mutineer, a traitor,a dissgrace to the TT Regiment and the country generally.

  5. Patrick Ramdoo wrote:

    They probably never heard of Brian Jeffers and Guy Harewood, real heroes of T&T.

    What about Terrence Thornhill and Beverely Jones? Dem was heroes too? Man De whole lotta dem was a pack ah rag tag chicken sh*t pot hounds dat Borroughs send to an early grave. This country is not the plaything of wannabe, misguided zealots who wish to satisfy their comic book fantasies.

    Patrick Ramdoo wrote: They probably never heard of Maurice Bishop, revolutionary hero of Grenada. Walter Rodney of Guyana.

    Bishop dealt himself the hand of cards that sealed his fate. Boo Hoo. Walter Rodney (perhaps) met an untimely fate. But was was he doing with a bomb in a brief case outside a prison?

  6. Randolph Burroughs, the one-time Commissioner of Police of the T&T PNM Police Farce, was a murderer and hit man for Eric Williams and the PNM; his only overriding purpose was to murder off and victimize all the opposition to Eric and the PNM (and the criminal elite in the country in collusion with them)!!! The Police Farce became a political arm of the PNM and their conmen: ‘to protect and sove the pnm’ is their motto…That is an overriding reason why the Police Farce is in the pigs&!t condition it is in today. ‘Is jess a few ah dem carrap???’ Really???

    Another thing to think about: how can you recruit from, to replenish the T&T Police ranks, the same source pool of candidates, which also replenishes the ranks of the criminal element of the country, and expect to have an organization which really protects youme from the scum of the country?? So the T&T Police Farce is just another criminal gang given officialdom, just as the murderer Abu Bakr and the Muslimeen have been officially embraced by the Patrick Manning and the PNM and Basdeo Panday and he ever-changing-acronym party!!! Wow! What a country T&T is, forced to live with this PNM and Panday s&*t, in addition to de poe-leese: two official criminal gangs!!

    Guy Harewood et al, they were all misguided, unfortunately.


  7. I concur with Bacon172000’s comments about the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service which I have described, time and time again, in various forums as “the largest organized criminal enterprise in the country”

    I have called many times for the establishment of a parallel police force comprising a different caliber of individual and the eventual disbanding of the existing service. The TTPS is unsalvageable. It is rotten to the core. It is not just a few bad cops giving the service a bad name. On the contrary, it is a few good officers who are doing their best to uphold the service but unfortunately their efforts have failed. The Police Service as it currently exists is being held together only by the common bond of corruption, criminality and incompetence that pervades its ranks.

  8. May the spirits of guy harewood,brian jeffers,hilary valentine,johnny bedeau,joel (salaam)demassiah,nathaniel jack,mervyn andrews,beverly jones,kenneth (flute)tenia,and all the other brother’s who were murdered by the randolf burrougs murder squad(tactical unit)to name a few michael belasco,patrick ravello,terry(kaba)walker.A lot of people are not aware that some of these brothers who branded as common criminals were in fact contributors to the struggle
    May their spirits live on.
    One love.
    Brother sekou atiba.

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