The Loss of Innocence

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
November 15, 2021

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeThe recent upsurge of religious voices calling upon God to intervene in the carnival of atrocities that our country is experiencing occurred when the corpse of 26-year-old Kezia Janeka Guerra was found in a shallow grave in Maracas, St. Joseph. Father Knolly Clarke intoned: “I am concerned about this violence against women. There is violence permeating society. I don’t know what’s wrong with the men. It’s a challenging time, especially during Covid-19 time. Then you have to deal with violence against people all the time. It’s a sad moment in our history. I think we need to run programmes that would help people to understand each other. Teach young men and women to respect each other.” (Express, November 6).

The words of community activist Gaye Lynch were intriguing: “The violence against women is alarming in such a small country. I don’t think enough is being done to protect women. We need to break generational curses. This has to start with the younger people. We need to understand that disrespect, sexual violations and violence are not acceptable. We must keep this awareness alive and build memorials to honor those who have died. We cannot forget them” (Guardian, November 8).

Although I am not too sure what Lynch meant by “generational curses,” I know that the murderous violence that is perpetrated upon our women lies much more deeply within the unbridled passions of our national psyche. Some of us look at this violence and think, as Anglican Archdeacon Kenley Baldeo, my mother’s favorite pastor, declared: “People are wicked and evil to their fellow men [and women]. It’s only the hands of God to turn back the hands of men….If people don’t have access to the throne of Almighty God, then Satan will be in control. The only place to find solace during these trying times is in the arms of God” (Express).

I do not believe human beings are wicked and evil. While the arms of God may offer solace, we still inhabit this world with its trials and tribulations. The violence we see around us, physical, moral, and ethical, is the product of a society that has lost its way and is groping to find itself in this restless world of things and commodities.

Trinidad and Tobago is a disorderly and disordered society. The violence that is perpetrated against our women is only one symptom of the undisciplined approach we take to solving national problems. The strong and compelling emotions we bring to our everyday lives are revealed in how we speak to one another, how we treat the public purse, and how we pursue our vocations and social callings.

Dr. Eric Williams, the father of our nation, included “discipline” as one of our national watchwords. I am not sure if those “irrelevancies” of that bygone age are even taught at our schools. It might be one of the generational curses of which Lynch speaks and one to which we must pay immediate attention.

In the “Second Coming,” William Butler Yeats, laments: “Turning and turning in the widening gyre/ The falcon cannot hear the falconer;/ Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; /Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,/ The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere/ The ceremony of innocence is drowned;/ The best lack all conviction, while the worst/ Are full of passionate intensity.”

Chinua Achebe used one of Yeats’s metaphors to compose his world-acclaimed novel, Things Fall Apart, to talk about the disintegration of a fictional African society. While Yeats and Achebe knew that things fall apart when anarchy is loosed upon the land, we sometimes forget the last three lines of the first stanza that suggest that an earlier time was much more organized and presumably people acted in a much more principled manner.

One frightening implication of Yeats’s nightmarish scenario is that when people lack connection with their time and place they tend to be paralyzed by feelings of hopelessness and inertia. While the best people may lack all conviction, the worst may be “full of passionate intensity” and this leads to chaos.

Roman Catholic Vicar General Fr. Martin Sirju captured this sense of our alienated condition. He noted: “People who abuse women or stalk them points to patterns of socialization. How do we treat [sic] adult men to be in control of their emotions? They allow passion to consume them. They rape and abuse young children and women. You have to work on the domestic and national fronts. You have to work on the religious fronts” (Express).

There is a sense of our being unhinged, existing on the periphery of our time and place, and a feeling that we are going toward an unknown and unknowable destination. Were you to ask the prime minister or the leader of the opposition where s/he wants to take his/her nation, I am not too sure either of them could answer that question in a few short sentences.

Fr. Knolly Clarke was onto something when he said: “The ruin of a nation begins in the home. If we don’t train our young men and women to respect each other, we will continue to have chaos. It will not matter how many police we put on the streets. Every organization has to take responsibility. The teachers have to step up” (Express).

There can be no more urgent social business than convening our citizenry into different groups, either under private or governmental organization, religious or community groups, to discuss where we want our nation to go and what values are important to us. We cannot return to the innocence of our past, but we can plan more deliberately to create a state where decency rules.

4 thoughts on “The Loss of Innocence”

  1. Reginald Dumas answers the question in his latest column:

    What has changed? Our obsessions with political party, personality, race, geography (with which, for political and social reasons, race is often linked), religion, etc persist. The quality of discourse (I use the word “discourse” loosely), especially at the political level, has been collapsing into an odoriferous pit of crassness and bile. Finger-pointing and sneering have become art forms. Those seeking clarification of public policy announced without prior public discussion are damned as enemies. Rights are everywhere proclaimed; responsibilities don’t matter much. Good governance – consultation, co-operation, transparency, accountability, information, communication, ethics, effective management – fades into invisibility. Is all this the trumpeted example to our youth? Is this how we expect to make progress?

  2. Emotional words for a sunday sermon. The fact of the matter, is that Trinidad was created with the blood of abused Women. Independent Trinidad, have surely made the lives of some Women both African and Indian materially better, the end result is the regression of that valuable nurturing touch that no longer exist. The founding Fathers and current leaders of the of this Nation, MUST shoulder blame, for not having a VISION of how or what Trinidad should become. COLONIAL laws and streets names are the POTHOLED avenues we continue to drive and walk on. Today, as in the pre independent era, the Gov’t, though an independent one at that, govern on behalf of the new Colonial masters, foreign , local banks and Multinational companies. Now may be the time to change the wording of Trinidad’ anthem, Yes, every creed and race can find an equal place in any of the political parties to empower themselves at the expense of the wider struggling populace. Trinidad was forced, through agitation by the OWTU to nationalize the commanding heights of the economy, as we speak , all is being given back to the local French Creoles, Arabs, Chineese, the dividing UNC and international concerns, leaving our emerging young workers holding on to dead end jobs with no benefits. Our FAKE God men, Goddess Women and laymen must also be called out, their conniving with the powers that be, have further sullied the way, no one wants to hear what any of these so-called preachers have to say. The ancient books tells us, that “An Evil Man/Wo becomes an Evil Spirit after death, and what ever Evil there is in Trinidad, comes either from the Evil spirits or the living Evil of Man and Woman” Trinidad have never been EXORCISED from the historical wrongs committed. It will definitely get worse before the curve.

  3. “I do not believe human beings are wicked and evil”. Human depravity is a strange thing. The potential for evil lies embedded in all human beings. The Nazi soldiers threw Jewish babies up in the air and machine gun them whilst going home and hugging and loving their own children. The Rawandan conflict saw over 800,000 brutal murders. The use of the cutlass to chop people like pork was one of the most macabre display of insanity. There is a madness that possess some people when they see blood flowing. They get even more animated.

    There are stop and check marks implanted in all of us, that is the conscience, your family, your friends, your humanity. In some there is love, desire for peace, humility, understanding. The nature of evil is such that like good it is progressive, when all checks are removed or dismissed then the naked escape from Eden becomes evident. Your life becomes a tool to absorb the negative energies, and to embrace the destiny of Cain. Evil propels it’s way forward, like the first lie moving downhill into a false persona. Then a wasted life…. One must wake up everyday and choose to do good. Or fall into their own darken prison of death.

  4. So what is Selwyn Cudjoe really saying in this article. “One frightening implication of Yeats’s nightmarish scenario is that when people lack connection with their time and place they tend to be paralyzed by feelings of hopelessness and inertia. While the best people may lack all conviction, the worst may be “full of passionate intensity” and this leads to chaos.” I personally don’t think that when people lack connection with their time and place they tend to be paralyzed … I think it is the opposite. When people are connected to their time and place to the exclusion of a sense of history and a sense of the future which comes from overcoming the present, from overcoming the bonds that come from being tied down to the present, when people are so bounded by time and place then they become paralyzed by feelings of hopelessness and inertia, they are trapped in the present. Simon Critchley, an American philosopher, in describing Heidegger’s philosophy, has written “So, the human being is not just a being defined by being thrown into the world. It is also one who can throw off that thrown condition in a movement where it seizes hold of its possibilities, where it acts in a concrete situation. This movement is what Heidegger calls projection (Entwurf) and it is the very experience of what Heidegger will call, later in Being and Time, freedom. Freedom is not an abstract philosophical concept. It is the experience of the human being demonstrating its potential through acting in the world. To act in such a way is to be authentic.” For Heidegger, human beings are “thrown” into the world. He describes it as “being there”. Man projects towards the future; that is where his freedom lies, in the possibilities of the future. To act authentically is to become aware of those possibilities and to act on them. To philosophers influenced by Heidegger in the 60s, and I am thinking of Sartre, Herbert Marcuse, etc, and to the whole counter culture of the 60s, happiness could be found in being rather than having. That was the theme of the 1960s. Things turned around with the coming of the Reagan Presidency in the 1980s. Happiness was in having things, in amassing wealth, it was the age of supply side and “trickle down” economics. That idea influenced our ideas of what constituted the relationship between men and women. Men would have, possess, own a woman. Ownership defined relationships. We are still living in that era of thinking that happiness is having not being. We should try to conceive of a relationship as “being with” someone, not having or owning someone. Maybe that would help us end the violence that comes when you think that someone you owned has moved on.

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