Black People & the Social Contract

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
March 01, 2021

“No society can smash the social contract and be exempt from the consequences, and the consequences are chaos for everybody in the society.”

—James Baldwin, Conversations

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeThere are two troubling aspects of slavery and colonialism that remain within our consciousness even though we claim that slavery and colonialism are conditions of the past. The first is the self-hate that these socio-economic formations have created in Black people and a resulting tendency to do everything to prevent fellow Blacks from moving forward. Frantz Fanon discussed this condition in Black Skin, White Masks.

The second aspect of these phenomena was the tendency of incoming groups (immigrants) who, when they met Black people in these Americas, assumed all the biases of the dominant group, and treated Black people with as much scorn and contempt as the oppressor group.

In her book Caste, Isabella Wilkerson observed that in order to gain acceptance, each of the new immigrant groups that came into the Americas (T&T included) “had to enter into a silent, unspoken pact of separating and distancing themselves from the established lowest caste. Becoming white meant defining themselves from its opposite—black. They could establish their new status by observing how the lowest caste was regarded and imitating or one-upping the disdain and contempt, learning to prove themselves worthy of admittance to the dominant caste.”

I thought of these observations when Ancel Roget explained why the government rejected the third proposal by the OWTU-owned Patriotic Energies and Technologies Ltd for the acquisition of the former Petroctrin refinery assets.

He complained: “We believe our proposal was not fairly examined and it was not fairly treated with but we are willing to allow ourselves to be held to a higher standard than the multinationals and therefore, that is why our proposal will be more accommodating to the Government revenue” (Express, February 20). At least, that is what he thought.

Roget also argued that some of the information that Colm Imbert put in the public domain at Thursday’s post-Cabinet press conference on Patriotic’s proposal “was misleading and one-sided.” He felt that and their proposals “were not treated with the respect they deserve.”

Imbert responded that the government “bent over backwards” to accommodate the company for almost 18 months. He argued that Patriotic submitted “an indicative proposal,” that “would have cost the Government billions of dollars,” and reiterated that the major “sticking point” was Patriotic’s inability to produce evidence that they had the capability to buy the refinery.

This raises the question: Why didn’t the government help Patriotic to buy the refinery which seemed to be mutually beneficial to the state and its citizens?

The way the government dealt with Patriotic brought to mind the sweetheart deal it had arranged with Sandals. Afra Raymond observed that the government was “so protective of Sandals’ interests that one can scarcely imagine how on earth we, the public, will ever profit from this immense investment.”

He cited several aspects of this deal: First, only public money was to be invested and placed at risk in this project. The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) reads: “All costs of constructing and outfitting the Resorts in a ‘Ready-for-Guest’ state including the cost of the soft and grand openings shall be for the account of the Government.”

Second, Sandals was to get incentives and concessions that were against the public interest. Raymond notes: “Given that we are investing all the capital, how are we to get a return on that investment if there are further concessions/incentives granted to the hotelier.”

Third: The government undertook “to stabilize the tax regime” to Sandals’ advantage. Raymond writes: “The MOU appears to inoculate Sandals from any future impact in terms of changes in taxes, concessions or other incentives.” Such a clause meant that Sandals would pay little in taxes for its first twenty-five years in our country.

Such a scandalous provision led Raymond to ask: “Can we negate the sovereign right of Parliament to tax the nation? Can we contract-out of the Social Contract?”

Sandals is a foreign group; Patriotic is local and Black. Why was the government hell-bent on subsidizing a foreign group but showed so little interest in assisting a local group? One wonders how much Sandals would have cost the Trinbagonian taxpayer if that deal had materialized.

Eric Williams, in assessing the status of the Black person within the context of post-slavery and colonial societies, observed: “The contemporary pattern of race relations in the Caribbean necessarily reflects the theories and practices of the long period of slavery—discrimination by whites against people of color in private employment, particularly, and the jealousy between mulattoes and Negroes; to which must be added the jealousy of Negroes towards the descendants of the indentured laborers (“The Historical Background of Race Relations in the Caribbean”).

Although we like to believe that racial and color biases are things of the past, it is wise to remember that “new images do not erase or reverse old ones, but like a palimpsest, we write over them to create something else out of the previous script.” These new images do not replace “the prior forms of racial consciousness, but instead incorporates elements of past racial formations” (Sydney Lewis, “Looking Forward to the Past”).

In spite of our pretenses, whatever our race, we continue to believe that Black people are ill-equipped to handle major financial arrangements. My instinct tells me that the government will sell the refinery to a non-black entity, be it local or foreign.

T&T will pay a moral price if this happens. Such a decision will smash the tenuous social contract that holds us together, and the consequences will haunt us for a long time.

18 thoughts on “Black People & the Social Contract”

  1. “He complained: “We believe our proposal was not fairly examined and it was not fairly treated with but we are willing to allow ourselves to be held to a higher standard than the multinationals and therefore, that is why our proposal will be more accommodating to the Government revenue” (Express, February 20). At least, that is what he thought”

    Roget rejected the 15% Kamla was giving them. Then he made a mannequin of her and mocked her. Rowley gave the union $19 million, they were happy with that. Possibly a thank you for helping the PNM win the election. When it came time to negotiate one can remember the long negotiations taking place with the PNM giving them 5% and later 3% then closing the refinery. Just like that the rustic lock and key ended the once might OWTU reign of power and its boast of being a powerful union.

    To be fair the problem with Patriotic bid would have been funding. The PNM claim Petrotrin was losing money when they were actually making a profit. Presently Petrotrin is all rusted steel and cobwebs. To get Petrotrin operational would mean spending a lot of money to replace parts and do upgrades. Something the UNC was doing whilst the PNM could not have bothered.

    The future of Petrotrin has already been determined. The PNM supporters and favourite choice for bids would be the Sabga Conglomerate. The recent purchase of bank of Baroda and former PNM minister Le Hunte on that board along with Rowley bestie Brookes can see a move with money in hand that Petrotrin would go to the 1%. It is a wait and see game, cat and mouse. But behind the scene it is a done deal.

    The PNM is only interested in selling off state assets and who else can be the prime beneficiaries of the national patrimony. WASA and T&TEC goes to the PNM friendly 1%. The nation is bankrupt and one must accept that, Guyana under Indo -Caribbean leadership is set to rise. https://seekingalpha.com/article/4316367-guyana-how-to-invest-in-next-wealthiest-country-in-world

    As the honorable Prime Minister said “ the rich must get richer” “we must wean the citizenry off the government”. However the government is not prepared to wean itself off the citizenry. Tax and more tax. Kamla during her 5 years did not raise a single tax but lowered taxes on many basic items. The Rowley regime continues to raise taxes and property tax will be a boom for the PNM economy.

  2. So…”negroes” are “jealous” towards mulattos and descendents of indentured labourers (portugese, irish, chinese, indian)…why not explain WHY? What foments “jealousy” in the negro towards “others” in the caribbean’s racist, hierarchical society that purposefully stacked mulattos and other groups ON TOP OF THEM with unfair priveleges which maintain the structure of the hierarchy in perpetuity?!?!?!?

    Selwyn R. Cudjoe – The Indian Experience in Trinidad, or The Triumph of Ideology Over Scholarship
    http://www.trinicenter.com/Cudjoe/2013/2411.htm

  3. “T&T will pay a moral price if this happens. Such a decision will smash the tenuous social contract that holds us together, and the consequences will haunt us for a long time”.
    TnT is in a free fall, the honorable republic is declining rapidly. The hot season of social discontent has started. This Friday March 5th a polite group of people will gather to make speeches and set the stage for another Venezuela.

    What happened to Venezuela? Scenes of mass protest as the shelves in grocery stores became empty. Maduro elitist club maintained a strong hand over Venezuela whilst the ordinary citizens sank into despair.

    The honorable republic has been borrowing and borrowing, current deficit stands at over $120 billion with no new revenue streams to maintain the lifestyle of the citizenry. When Kamla left office the deficit was $57 billion. She also left an extra $32 billion in the HSF for a rainy day. What is startling is the government is borrowing to pay public sector salaries. They also borrowing to maintain FOREX for the elitist, whilst small business cannot get anything more that $200 U.S.

    The PNM the pride of the elitist and the joy of black man is maintaining its social contract with its supporters. To get a work these days you have to be aligned to the PNM. All contracts in true Blackman style is passing through balisier house. The character of a democratic proper procurement base nation has long since disappeared. Friends, family and financiers are dining sumptuously at the PNM table. One would have been shocked if three UNC ministers travelled to Australia and made a deal to buy some boats. But not with the PNM. Or even more if the AG and the Minister of National security is using their position for public gain, but is normal PNM operation.

    To ensure that friends, family and financiers, Maduro style continues to enjoy the balisier juice, more taxes are ahead. PNM supports will not complain when businesses have to pay millions in property tax along with citizens because the housing authority will be exempt.. they will continue to enjoy the benefit of this social contract.

    Yes all is well and secured in hands of the balisier brigade. But everything has a breaking point, only so long the media could protect the PNM.

  4. Singapore became a great nation because of these three simple words. (1) Meritocracy- the one most qualified for the job gets it. Today is who know u in TnT gets the job.
    (2) Pragmatism- Whatever works best use it. (3) Honesty – Do not reward corruption.
    The ten rules for success. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5c8tvHtt6xw

    1. Yes…
      Lee Kwan Yew and his ethnic group is credited with this because he kept the “hostile and recalcitrant” in line with militant and no-nonsesnse policies designed preventing them from legally loopholing and state capturing their society. The brahman-ist (“Hindu”) and indian society in general, is philosophically ANTI-meritocracy. Terms like “meritocracy” and “racism” are conveniently pimped out and perversed past their original meaning to socially and politically lynch africans’ into subservience.

      Compare and Contrast:
      https://www.indiatoday.in/magazine/neighbours/story/19811031-casteism-is-firmly-entrenched-in-social-structure-of-mauritius-773370-2013-10-29

      1. For inconvenient and his great love for India. A land he wish he was born in.
        https://www.macleans.ca/society/environment/india-is-putting-canadas-climate-change-plan-to-shame/
        https://www.tatapowersolar.com/rooftops/residential/
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8R3-3e7-7pc

        When Prime Minister Narendra Modi got his first vaccine dose Monday, it was the Bharat Biotech formula.
        Officials in India hope the company’s interim results boost faith in the government’s vaccination program. It aims to inoculate 300 million people by July, but is not on track to meet that target.
        Bharat Biotech says “more than 40 countries” have expressed interest in its vaccine.

        https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/india-s-vaccine-diplomacy-reaches-17-nations-56-lakh-doses-supplied-in-good-faith-1766073-2021-02-05
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWpF0UqbDwg
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TeKek1XPKaU
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X7Dwyhpk7Nc
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ICcaaFNX2o
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4poCafCshoo

        1. Do not take political-trojan-horse vaccines from racist india. Vaccine give aways are publicity stunts to promote indian and hindutva colonization in the caribbean.Reject them!
          We live in a castesist Hindu Nationalist state: Arundhati Roy on racism and casteism
          https://caravanmagazine.in/society/we-live-in-a-castesist-hindu-nationalist-state-arundhati-roy-on-racism-and-casteism

          Novelist Arundhati Roy claims pandemic exposes Indias crisis of hatred against Muslims
          https://www.dw.com/en/arundhati-roy-claims-coronavirus-exposes-indias-crisis-of-hatred-against-muslims/a-53167812

          Hidden truth: 90% of indian muslims are RUNAWAY untouchable converts from brahman-ism (“Hindu-ism”). This “hindu”-muslim title is a cover for varna/”caste”/race victimization.

  5. ****
    Selwyn Cudjoe writes about Isabella Wilkerson and her acclaimed book “Caste: The Origins of our Discontents”; Cudjoe writes “In her book Caste, Isabella Wilkerson observed that in order to gain acceptance, each of the new immigrant groups that came into the Americas (T&T included) “had to enter into a silent, unspoken pact of separating and distancing themselves from the established lowest caste. Becoming white meant defining themselves from its opposite—black. They could establish their new status by observing how the lowest caste was regarded and imitating or one-upping the disdain and contempt, learning to prove themselves worthy of admittance to the dominant caste.” Cudjoe uses the quote to apply it to a situation that means the opposite to what Wilkerson is implying. He is, in other words, gaslighting black people in T&T with his mutilation of the meaning of Wilkerson’s words. What Wilkerson is saying is that immigrant groups separate and distance themselves from the “established lowest caste”, i.e. black people. So immigrants from Europe, Korea, India, etc. separate and distance themselves from black people. That’s what she means; she says it over and over in the book. She doesn’t mean black people separate themselves from the “lowest caste” which consists of black people; that would be illogical, absurd, they are the “lowest caste”, they can’t separate themselves from it. That would be like separating yourself from yourself. But that is what Cudjoe is saying. Gaslighting, that is what it is. You can always tell by when he is gaslighting by the logical flaws in Cudjoe’s argument.
    In chapter 3 of Caste, “An American Untouchable”, Wilkerson says that in India, Dr. Martin Luther King was thought to be an “untouchable” (or “Dalit” in modern terms). In a visit to Trivandrum during his first visit to Indian in 1959, Dr. King was introduced as an “untouchable”, Wilkerson writes that for a moment Dr. King said that he was “shocked and peeved that I would be referred to as an untouchable”. But then Wilkerson writes “Then he began to think about the reality of the lives of the people he was fighting for – 20 million people, consigned to the lowest rank in America for centuries…” And he said to himself, “Yes, I am an untouchable, and every Negro in the United States of America is an untouchable.”Wilkerson continues, “In that moment, he realized that the Land of the Free had imposed a caste system not unlike the caste system of India and that he had lived under that system all of his life.”
    Here is a synopsis of what Isabella Wilkerson is saying – “caste” is a more accurate description of what afflicts blacks in today’s world. She looks at three countries to explain and make clear her theory – India, Nazi Germany and America. Now Wilkerson’s book was published in August, 2020, one commentator on this blog has been applying that theory to Trinidad even before Wilkerson’s book was published. In other words, the caste system has been functioning in Trinidad and that is what is afflicting blacks in this country. So you can add Trinidad to those other three countries, India, Nazi Germany and America as examples of how caste has afflicted blacks in the society.

      1. Inconvenient I am not going down that road with you… because I have friends of all races and some of my best friends don’t look like me. I try to keep a balance view on life and judge people on how I am treated. I cannot stereotype like you because I believe in individualism. I am accountable for me not the 1,300,000,000 Indians on this planet.

        So keep throwing your mud…a few people seem to catch it. Not strong thinkers like me.

  6. Selwyn Cudjoe doesn’t have the moral authority to talk about african people and social “contracts” among themselves. Not after this treacherous “eatahfood” behaviour.Selwyn destroyed african trinidadian’s trust in him with this and rendered his social contract with them as toilet paper! Hope that roti was worth this selwyn:

    ‘One of T&T’s noblest sons’ | Local News | trinidadexpress.com
    https://trinidadexpress.com/news/local/one-of-t-t-s-noblest-sons/article_23b70fa0-08e0-11ea-8684-f79873c1a6a6.html

    Anyone familiar with what he did ti Dr. Martin decades ago would understand his “capapabilities”.

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