Monsters & Monstrosities

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
February 15, 2021

“Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another.”

—Toni Morrison, Beloved

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeFaris Al-Rawi was in a fighting mood last Monday. He was not afraid to outline the depths to which we, as a people, had descended. Calling on the Opposition to support the Evidence Amendment Bill to deal with the “monsters” who had committed a heinous act against Andrea Bharatt, he declared: “Today, we have an opportunity… to stop monsters.”

Ascending to rhetorical heights, he chastised citizens who were trying to salvage a sliver of their humanity by speaking out against an inhuman strain that had arisen in our society:

“The crocodile tears on a pavement after a tragedy do not help people of T&T….[who] wrestle on a daily basis with monsters…who savage our children, our elderly, our loved ones. Today our country is engaged in a reactionary, though periodical, cycle of coming out of our traditional caves and making a cry and plea for a better society.”

We cannot place the entire burden of the country’s descent into a form of barbarity on one person, one political party, one religious organization, or one ethnic group. Like the anonymous narrator of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, we might say of Andrea’s tragedy: “The meaning of an episode was not inside like a kernel but outside, enveloping the tale which brought it out only as a glow brings out a haze, in the likeness of one of these misty halos that sometimes are made visible by the spectral illumination of moonshine” (Conrad, Heart of Darkness).

Looking at the circumstances surrounding Andrea’s death we should distinguish between monsters (“any imaginary frightening creature, especially one that is large and strange”) and monstrosity, “something that is outrageously or offensively wrong.” Monstrosity suggests the complex role monsters play within our society. One must constantly guard against their ill effects.

Most people would agree that anyone who takes the life of another, especially in the savage manner in which Andrea’s life was taken, should be considered a monster. Contrariwise, how should we describe the action of people who allow billions of dollars to go unaccounted for years as we see in the THA and the National Lotteries Control Board that has failed to provide audited financial statements to the Auditor General since 2013. (see Reginald Dumas, “Through the Dark Fog that is the THA Fiances” (Newsday, February 8) and “NLCB Spending Billions without Audits” (Express, February 11 .)

How should we describe situations such as these? An accused person spends nine years in prison on remand for murder only to have his case dismissed because of a nocase submission; a person with 70 charges can function, unimpeded, for several years; or a police officer who repeatedly is a no-show in court where he is to present evidence against someone charged with a grievous crime and therefore that person has to be freed; or the absence of crime-fighting technologies like DNA and ballistic analysis. After ten years we are still trying to analyze DNA evidence in Sean Luke’s murder.

And what about the situation in which the government rents a building from someone but it turns out that the government could have built five such buildings with the rents paid to the owner of the building? Is the recipient of such national largess a monster or do we define such a transaction as a monstrosity?

Can we equate these monstrosities with the monsters who we condemn today? Can we ever be certain that the monstrosities committed by those in power do not contribute to the behavioral dysfunctions we discern in the monsters we condemn? Can one be a causal factor of the other?

Monsters and monstrosities arise out of the same soil. The behaviors of each have as equally a horrible outcome on all members of the society. Increasingly, we are all engulfed within an expanding nexus of people and events that collectively drain our people of their humanity.

Andrea’s brutal death has transported us into a liminal region of ghastly horrors, even though the country’s overwhelming response to her funeral on Friday appeared to represent a collective exorcism. Try as we may, we can’t help but feel that our conception of ourselves as humane and responsible beings have dropped a notch and we can only wonder what’s in store for us as a society.

Monsters and monstrosity are evils on a spectrum that point to aspects of our moral and ethical behavior. In “What is a Monster?” Natalie Lawrence argues that public monsters “embody the cultural or psychological characteristics that we as a society find difficult to acknowledge.” Might it not be that monstrosities so cloud our vision that we are unable to see how detrimental they are to the development of our society?

In an uplifting speech on Thursday night, the prime minister repudiated the notion that politicians are “brutish beasts” and condemned the “monstrous behavior” of some of our citizens. He lamented the diminishment of civility even among parliamentarians and averred that in order to have justice we must have respect for one another.

Andrea’s tale has exposed the darkness that lies within the soul of our nation. The one illuminating response to that darkness was the tremendous outpouring of sympathy for Andrea’s death, a questioning of how men treat women, and the recognition that all is not well in the nation. Such a tragedy forces us to look deeply into our national soul and examine where we have gone astray.

As we do so, we should look out for those monstrosities, figures with grotesque masks that camouflage their evil tendencies and thereby create a climate where monsters can thrive.

We may have won our freedom but have we claimed ownership of that freed self?

31 thoughts on “Monsters & Monstrosities”

  1. The real monster is a judicial system where a few rotten apples are the gate keepers. How can a man with 71 charges be out living a predatory life? He has raped, assaulted women and only given a $5000 bail. There has been a lot of focus on Andrea, but like western medicine journalist are dealing with the pain not the source of it. The source is a corrupt judicial system that needs to come under a microscope to determine why criminals have more rights than citizens…..

    Change takes a long time in banana republics, who is going to guard the guards… I have always maintained that there is a fine line between good and evil, civility and monstrosity. In their zeal to find Andrea, they beat up a young man who had 2 marijuana charges resulting in his death. Why was SORT officers allowed to interrogate this man who had valuable information. Should there not be train interrogators doing this job? One can understand the emotions of the police because they deal with this situation everyday and have to return home to their wives, mothers, sisters, daughters. But at times the wrong guy could become the victim of this range of understandable human emotions. Interrogation is a skill, sometimes a few drink of alcohol a nice meal or a conversation about that person life, can loosen his tongue. It is a skill.

    The Chief Justice has taken a vow of silence and the media respect such,(he will get over a $1 million per year in pension money) they have failed to bring him into the picture. Isn’t he one of the most highly paid civil servants whose job it is to serve the people who is paying his salary? But the media protects anyone and everyone who the P.M. stretches his hand towards. Andrea was a clerk in the judicial system that he heads. Not even a passing statement from him.

    Then there is the President a woman who has a strong understanding of the legal profession. Having worked in the office of the DPP, court of Appeal, and once served as Chief Justice briefly. The President house costing tax payers $89,000,000 in renovations. Yet as a woman for all these women / sisters who have been murdered a defending silence from her. Living off the blood, sweat and hard work of the citizenry. Upon retirement she will receive pension a $1,000,000 per year for having “served the people”…or should we say “served nobody but herself”. A comforting word from her would have been nice, even a statement of concern…but nothing.

    The real monsters are the ones who are suppose to serve the people in the judicial system, fix the judicial system, ensure swift justice, but like the rich man (Luke 16), they dine sumptuously, ordering the best wine, caviars, have chefs prepare the most delightsome meals three times per day. But are deafenly silent when it comes to seeking to serve the public good…May God have mercy on this nation. Out of touch and don’t give a dam. Is the best words to describe these monsters in high places.

  2. A brilliant analysis and comment!
    “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.”

  3. A brilliant analysis and comment by the Doctor!
    “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.”

  4. Satnarine Maharaj was a monster.
    His religiously guided legacy of an intellectually dishonest, malicious, anti-black, anti-african racist, pro-child marriage crusade was monstrous. Dr. Cudjoe’s decent into officially ‘laundering’ that filthy legacy by comparing him to Dr. Martin Luthor King and african americans’ civil rights movement, while gaslighting his fellow african critics, was a monstrousity!

  5. “The T&T Police Service (TTPS) said of the 745 people reported missing for 2020 a staggering 416 of those are women and girls—which is more than half of the missing persons figure. The police said there was no confirmation as to how many of that number remain missing.” As of Dec.6th 2020, there was 47 dead women. The number I suspect for 2020 is much higher. Bodies not found could be in shallow graves.

    That is an incredible amount of women for such a small nation. Yet thousands are possibly victims of domestic abuse and when they go to the police for help, they may as well have gone and talk to a dead dog. It must be noted it takes a lot for a woman to reach out for help, most suffer in silence. And when they do no help is forthcoming.

    The children authority came about by a listening caring government. And it has uncovered and help thousands of children. But what is being done to help women? The government can solve this problem easily. What is needed is more women’s shelter and a greater effort at educating young men as to how they should treat young ladies. In developed nation if a woman cry for help, her cries are taken seriously.

    I have a family member who assaulted his wife in the U.S. He was taken thrown in jail awaiting trial which took 3 years after that he was deported. He will never see his ex again.

    Some may ask why is the percentage of women being killed or disappearing so high. Around election time sacrifices are made and after Lucifer comes to take his prize. Remember the devil mission is to kill steal and destroy….

  6. Selwyn Cudjoe makes a distinction between monsters (“any imaginary frightening creature, especially one that is large and strange”) and monstrosities (“something that is outrageously or offensively wrong.”) and he claims that “Can we ever be certain that the monstrosities committed by those in power do not contribute to the behavioral dysfunctions we discern in the monsters we condemn? Can one be a causal factor of the other?” He puts forward some policies that he thinks may be monstrosities. But here is the rub – what are the monstrosities committed by those in power that contribute to the behavioral dysfunctions in the monsters that are created? And here is where one particular socio/political analysis may differ from another. We have to ask what has caused these behavioral dysfunctions and has created monsters. I think the research that is coming out and the new thinking about economic policy has put forward answers to this question. Inequality, the gross rise, one could say monstrous rise in inequality, that has made some monstrously rich and others monstrously poor. And what does the research say about this inequality? It has been caused by neoliberalism, the transition to a fundamentalist market economy and supply side economics which claims if we make the rich richer, wealth will trickle down to the poor. It never happened. The rich became monstrously richer, the poor became monstrously poorer. And who introduced neoliberalism to Trinidad and Tobago? Yes remember well, the NAR. And within months of them doing that there was a coup in T&T. So blame the NAR, that coalition party of which the UNC in the form of the ULF was a key element. Selwyn, after encouraging people to vote UNC in the last elections, suddenly got an epiphany and found his PNM roots, he started being almost objective, but it seems like he is backsliding. He is becoming an opportunist once more, and wearing that opportunist cap that says “Make Kamla Great Again”. My advice is be objective, don’t try to be revisionist. Imagine Kamla talking about not wanting a police state, wasn’t she the Prime Minister when a SOE was implemented and thousands of black people were rounded up and arrested and thrown into hastily made concentration camps? Take off that “Make Kamla Great Again” cap Selwyn.

    1. He is becoming an opportunist once more, and wearing that opportunist cap that says “Make Kamla Great Again” —- Birdie
      I read through the article and saw nothing about Kamla. In fact it was an exegesis on one of the most most corrupt judicial system. But this seems to be another blame Kamla moment.

      As for police state, a man was killed who only had 2 marijuana charges. Kamla was addressing the excesses of Gary runaway movement. It could have been your family member executed. The police must abide within the law. They must respect citizens right.

    2. 9,000 black people!
      That S.O.E. was a pre-emptive strike breaker…mass strikes were publicly planned against the UNC/PP administration, and the make-shift concentration camps were private prison inspired and RENT was paid to whomever those hastily built concentration camps were contracted to build and maintain them…UNC ,”Hindu” Indians.

      Jack Wept

      Rejecting the State of Emergency

      1. Blame Indians for every failure of the PNM and its supporters.
        I would venture a guess that a large number of the 9000 Black people detained during the SOE are now roaming the country raping, murdering and robbing innocent defenseless people or holding high positions in the Police , Army and Civil Service collecting fat salaries to do nothing.

        1. “Mr. Singh, Mr. Singh…” 2011 State Of Emergency called by UNC

          “Blaming Indians”?
          Indian ministers in an indian government, called a SOE in 2011, that was “Limited” to specific african neighbourhoods and contracted indians to build detention camps which were then RENTED FROM indians by said indian government, which unconstitutionally arrested without evidence 9,000 african people for MONTHS! To be clear, arrests were made without evidence or due process and “breaking” the oppressive curfew was an arrestable offense! The racist narrative that all were rapists and murderers is dishonest and has bern debunked by detainee and host on i95 host.

          Can anyone imagine if the ethnicities, geography and the politics in this video were reversed? Imagine if a van load of indian men in caroni were hancuffed together and stuffed into a van by an african officer, during a “limited” (indian areas only) SOE State Of Emergency called by an african PM & AG, while African areas were untouched by it?
          In the episode of the crime show, the host went to debe and showed NO SOE, and residets freely walking about during curfew hours.

          Note: contrary to propaganda, many indian areas are MAJOR distribution and packaging hubs for illicit drugs, guns, women, etc. but they are ORGANIZED and shielded from police scrutiny. Those areas and their criminal empires, capitalized on the SOE deflection to other areas.

          1. Strange inconvenient, there is a disproportionate of criminals living in these PNM areas. Now the PNM moving these criminals into the country area. Case in point Enterprise, Chaguanas. Please tell Rowley to stop this wickedness.

      2. *9,000 Africans* locked up during a racist (limited to african areas) S.O.E. In 2011 by the UNC/PP government (2010-2015)

  7. So we are going to see a lot of historical revisionism, changing the past of the UNC to try to rehabilitate Persad-Bissessar and make her acceptable to a forgetful population. Forget how she administered over the theft of billions of dollars. Kamla talking about not wanting a police state is like Trump accusing someone of wanting to be a dictator. It is a historical fact that she was the Prime Minister when a SOE was implemented and thousands of black people were rounded up and put in hastily built jails. But the underlying philosophy of the UNC is black people stupid, they are easily fooled, easily duped, so we are back in a duping season and the propaganda and misinformation is fast and heavy. There is one TV program watching crime that is the local equivalent of QAnon, filled with conspiracy theories, misinformation and plain incitement to overthrow the government. But this is Trinidad and Tobago, anything goes.

    1. “Forget how she administered over the theft of billions of dollars.”-Birdie.
      Kindly provide evidence of such. He who accuses must provide proof of such. Accusing a leader of theft is a serious charge.
      It is a fact that Kamla left $32 billion extra in the HSF that Imbert is emptying. Worst the PNM has spent more money than the UNC and cannot show anything for it.

      “It is a historical fact that she was the Prime Minister when a SOE was implemented and thousands of black people were rounded up and put in hastily built jails.”- Birdie.
      Kamla did not put one black boy in jail. It was the police acting on the will of the people who were fed up of crime put known criminals behind bars. That year was the lowest murder rate in the nation, she saved the lives of many. In Jamaica SOE are a regular occurrence in certain areas where the bad boys live, barb wires cordon off certain areas.
      The Jamaicans don’t whine and complain when the bad boys are incarcerated. They feel safer.

      1. hehhehhehhh,
        Mamoo actually put a link to the UNC website as his source of info. LOL!

        a true devotee!

  8. Selwyn is asking – can political actions create monsters. But political action arises from political policy. So the question becomes – can political policy create monsters? Monsters are sans humanite, as the calypsonians say santimanitay. They lack humanity so that they are unable to show any human emotion that recognizes the common humanity of us all. If political policy can create monsters, then it too must be devoid of humanity, it must be sans humanite. Globally states moved from the welfare state or some variant of it prevalent in Western democracies before the 1980s, to the neoliberal state made popular by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan “The welfare state is a form of government in which the state protects and promotes the economic and social well-being of the citizens, based upon the principles of equal opportunity, equitable distribution of wealth, and public responsibility for citizens unable to avail themselves of the minimal provisions for a good life.” (Britannica Encyclopedia) The neoliberal state reduces state functions to a minimal state, “it involves the privatization of public economic sectors or services, the deregulation of private corporations, sharp decrease of government debt and reduction of spending on public works”. (Wikepedia) The neoliberal state is sans humanite, it is without a heart. It follows Thatcher’s dictum that there is no society, there are only individuals competing with each other in a market that determines winners and losers. Thomas Piketty has shown through a mountain of evidence that the neoliberal state increases inequality. Joe Biden, through his progressive domestic policies, is trying to bring back some elements of the state that cares about the well-being of the citizens and has public responsibility for citizens unable to avail themselves of the minimal provisions for a good life. The NAR changed the welfare state of the PNM and created instead a neoliberal state in T&T in 1986. The NAR, in spite of its professions of one love, brought in the state sans humanite, instead of one love, it brought in a state without love, sans humanite. The UNC in 2010, preaching “we all would rise” brought in instead a totally racist state which instituted a SOE and rounded up thousands of black people and threw them into concentration camps. The people were duped, fooled and their best instincts were manipulated into supporting governments that were sans humanite. You want to find out how political policy creates monsters, start from that.

    1. “The UNC in 2010, preaching “we all would rise” brought in instead a totally racist state which instituted a SOE and rounded up thousands of black people and threw them into concentration camps.”—- Birdie.

      One would say the Jamaican government “ brought in instead a totally racist state which instituted a SOE and rounded up thousands of black people and threw them into concentration camps.”
      Can we agree with that statement using Birdie logic?,

  9. Here are some facts about India that brings to light the two Indias, the rich India and the poor India.
    “Two-thirds of people in India live in poverty: 68.8% of the Indian population lives on less than $2 a day. Over 30% even have less than $1.25 per day available – they are considered extremely poor. This makes the Indian subcontinent one of the poorest countries in the world; women and children, the weakest members of Indian society, suffer most.”

    “About 60% of India’s nearly 1.3 billion people live on less than $3.10 a day, the World Bank’s median poverty line. And 21%, or more than 250 million people, survive on less than $2 a day…Today, the richest 10% in India controls 80% of the nation’s wealth, according to a 2017 report published by Oxfam, an international confederation of agencies fighting poverty. And the top 1% owns 58% of India’s wealth… Another way to look at it: In India, the wealth of 16 people is equal to the wealth of 600 million people…
    One India boasts billionaires and brainiacs, nuclear bombs, tech and democracy. In (the other) India, almost 75% still lives in villages and leads a hardscrabble life of labor; only 11% owns a refrigerator; 35% cannot read and write….The country’s growth in the last 15 years or so has largely been jobless growth, which some analysts say exacerbates the problem…French economist Thomas Piketty, who authored the seminal work “Capital in the 21st Century,” caused a stir by suggesting higher taxes for the rich.”
    “Greater Mumbai, Delhi NCR and Kolkata reportedly house no less than 42% to 55% of their urban population in slums.”

    1. Pew research data:
      Indian Americans generally are well-off. Median annual household income for Indian Americans in 2010 was $88,000, much higher than for all Asian Americans ($66,000) and all U.S. households ($49,800) — perhaps not surprising, given their high education levels. Only 9% of adult Indian Americans live in poverty, compared with 12% of Asian Americans overall and 13% of the U.S. population.

      In 2010, by our analysis, 28% of Indian American worked in science and engineering fields; according to the 2013 American Community Survey, more than two-thirds (69.3%) of Indian Americans 16 and older were in management, business, science and arts occupations.

      Richest people in the US are Indian Americans. Forbes magazine bear that out.

      Every 7th doctor in US is Indian and they’re working as soldiers, fighting COVID-19: AAPI president

      Read more at:

      According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) in 2018 Black males accounted for 34% of the total male prison population, (17% of the population). white males 29%, and Hispanic males 24%. White females comprised 47% of the prison population in comparison to Black females who accounted for 18% of the female population

  10. Millions of farmers are currently engaged in protests against a number of “farm acts” that were passed in September 2020 by India’s Parliament. The Acts would leave Indian farmers at the mercy of large corporations. On 26 November 2020, trade unions claimed a nationwide general strike of 250 million people took place in support of the farmer unions. It has been said to be the biggest strike in history. The strike has been supported by, among other well known personalities, Harris; Greta Thunberg the internationally known environmentalist, Caribbean superstar Rihanna, and Meena Harris, the niece of Kamala Harris. We need to be more informed about this event that is not covered in the local media at all.

  11. There is a land grab now going on by big corporations in India for the land of the Adivasis, the tribal people of India. “About 8 million indigenous people in India are in danger of being evicted from forests that their ancestors have lived in for millennia. This grave injustice follows a shocking supreme court ruling that rides roughshod over the rights of India’s indigenous people, known as Adivasi, or tribals. According to the 2011 census, these tribal people number 104 million – almost 9% of the country’s then 1.2 billion population. It is the largest indigenous population in any country in the world, occupying 22% of India’s geographical terrain… But under the act (The Forest Rigths Act), tribal people had to file a claim with state governments to secure the title deeds to their lands – and thousands of claims by Adivasis have been rejected all over India. The country’s highest court has now decreed they are “encroachers” and should be evicted.”

  12. It is truly sad to witness the constant competition and debate between opposing parties on this news blog , based on race and the perverse desire to assert one’s superiority over the other. The constant pestering of Inconvenient Truth to discredit everything Indian, relying on past, inauthentic news sources and internet links is beginning to bore readers. There is no doubt that his condemnation of the Caste system is valid but he fails to acknowledge that the vast majority of Indians worldwide also condemn this archaic system. There is more to life than this never ending contest of African and Indian which seems to preoccupy some shallow minds. Success is not exclusive. No one has a monopoly on failure. Pride in your heritage is honorable.

    1. It’s sad to see Tman (siewdath) try to distance himself from mamoo and the unc in oder to project credibility on this forum. It is also sad to see siewdath (Tman) try to trick viewers into believing that “the vast majority of indians” denounce their religion’s MORAL CODE! As stated before, what is referred to as “the caste system” by westerners is merely the LEGAL MORAL CODE of brahman-ism (“Hindu-ism”). When have brahman-ists condemned their religion’s ethos in the caribbean? When? There are SCHOOLS in trinidad and guyana that are blatantly named after the sacred texts that are identified as promoting the varna hierarchy….”Vedic” titled schools are in reference to the scriptures named “Vedas”. Keep lying and deflecting Tman….
      wrong person

      Why I decided to reject Hinduism | openDemocracy

    2. It is truly sad to see tman’s despearate, disingenuous and typical attempts to discredit criticisms of indian anti-african racism by conflating it with criticism of “all things indian”. Is indian anti-african racism considered “all things indian” ? Is tman seen as a credible arbiter of truth and legitimacy? By whom? This childish and typical gaslighting response to criticism of indian anti-african racism by tman is so sad, old and despicable.

  13. The issue is justice and the oppression of those who are victimized because of ideologies that dehumanize human beings because of color ,race or caste. “Although India’s constitution outlawed caste-based discrimination in 1950, deeply-engrained social status still plays a pervasive role in determining livelihoods by dictating occupations, marriage and place within society. Comprising 17 percent of India’s population, the 200 million-strong Dalits have also suffered atrocities at the hands of upper-caste Hindus for generations. Women are especially at risk: Nearly 10 are raped every day, with a third of such cases occurring in Uttar Pradesh, the state with the highest rate of caste-based violence…Dalits lack representation in public discourse, especially in the media, politics and law, meaning they’re effectively “sidelined,” says Munuswamy, of the Supreme Court.” by Astha Rajvanshi, Slate Magazine

Comments are closed.