By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
January 17, 2022

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeIn June 2001, the Japanese Black Studies Association invited me to deliver an address, “Identity and Caribbean Literature”, at Nara Women’s College, Nara, Japan (see, June 24, 2001). Before I delivered my address, my host asked me to meet the president of her college, to which I agreed. I had stopped wearing ties because I considered it a useless trapping (literally) of colonialism. However, my host politely reminded me I had to wear a tie if I was going to see her president.

What should I do under the circumstances? I was a guest at her college; they had invited me to address them because they respected my scholarship and, in turn, was asking me to respect her college and country’s understanding of what was proper and respectful. I surrendered. She got me a tie, I put it on, and I met her president.

I remembered that incident when I read Farley Augustine’s announcement that he was overturning the current dress code requirements at THA offices for members of the public. He noted: “While employees will still be required to assume professional attire, no members of the public should be turned back based on what they are wearing.” Augustine was doing so in the interest of “shaking off the vestiges of colonialism that we have held onto for dear life… No one can convince us that we ought to turn people back because they are wearing slippers”. (Express, January 10.)

He also declared he would introduce the Show Me A Road Tobago (SMART) programme, which will allow his administration to deal with the potholes throughout the island. He said: “Using some online platform, you will be able to self-report those potholes in your street and your community, and we will be able to geotag those potholes. We will use a mixture of the Division’s resources with labour from the community to begin to patch these holes that WASA has left all over the place.”

I found two encouraging aspects about these announcements: first, it took the words of a babe (Augustine) to tell us that in spite of 60 years of independence, we still have not come to grips with some fundamental psychological impediments that have crippled our self-worth and stifled our initiative; and second, we cannot forget that by engaging and respecting the energies and intelligence of our citizens that we begin to transform their lives.

Augustine’s approach can be contrasted with the attitude of Minister Allyson West on the same problem. She declared that the members of the public in Trinidad who come to Government offices in slippers, sleeveless or in short pants “will have to wait a bit longer to access public office”. Her rationale: “There are just too many more important areas of focus for us to turn our attention to dress codes at this time. Any adjustment to that may come in the future will be a whole of government approach”. (Guardian, January 11).

This contrast in behaviour suggests a different mindset: a condescending, bureaucratic approach to serving one’s fellow citizens (a we versus dem) as opposed to a spontaneous understanding that we are them (the people), and there is nothing more important than focusing on their needs, no matter how they are dressed or their station in life.

Heidi Balkaran, an ordinary, everyday person, noted: “We have to upgrade, because I don’t see nothing wrong if you come in a slippers or an armless, I really can’t see no problem… is clothes we have on”. (Guardian, January 11.)

It was noteworthy, then, that Minister Fitzgerald Hinds apologised to the Beetham Gardens residents for not repairing an open sewer main that was broken for about six months. It took the protest activities of the residents of this community to get the minister off his heels. At least, he did not take them to court because he disagreed with their actions.

Ishmael, a community resident, explained: “For months now the infrastructure in the community has been broken. The area has been smelling of faeces. Day and night, we are living in this toxicity. It is unbearable… It’s women, children and old people living here. Just because we are poorer than you, or live in a community that you might not think the best of, you think we can be treated anyhow?” (Express, January 11.)

An Express editorial summarised the situation astutely: “Is there anyone who believes that had a similar problem developed in an area where Government ministers and WASA executives live, the problem would have remained unresolved for five months?” Particularly in an age of Covid-19?

Frederick Douglass, speaking of the new relationship between the US government and black people after the Civil War, observed: “Events more mighty than men, eternal Providence… have placed us in new relations to the government and the government to us. What that government is to us today, and what it will be tomorrow, is made evident by a very few facts.”

This is why I argued that a Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) victory spoke to something deeper than an electoral triumph over the PNM.

It suggested that the government and the governed must enter into new relations if we wish to get away from the gross disrespect that the government shows to the governed. While we must make concessions at times to accommodate convention (as I had to do in Japan), we cannot lose sight of the fundamental respect that we owe one another and why service is not a favour we do to those we elected to serve us.

It remains an imperishable truth: taxation without the provision of services amounts to tyranny. It might be the lesson that our babes and the “unwashed” of Beetham Gardens are trying to remind us of.

13 thoughts on “COLONIAL TRAPPINGS”

  1. While I don’t agree with the obvious politics Dr Cudjoe is playing with his comments, I do agree that government should ALWAYS be responsive to the needs of the people. These two instances quoted do not in themselves give rise to the new administration’s
    policies as a success, but it does indicate that they are paying attention to details. There is a saying that “little things mean a lot” and in this case it does, because the dress code require is definitely a colonial vestige that we can do without. While simple, it is one of those things that colonialism used to keep us “in our place” psychologically speaking. I too was a victim of the “proper attire” requirement when I went to pay my taxes and it did occur to me very foolish in this day and time. So, hats off to
    Augustine on this one.

    We remain though, a nation steeped in colonialist attitudes when it comes to how we do things. Why do banks close their doors and then re-open in the afternoon? Is there really a need to close and then re-open? It makes no financial or business sense.
    We can do without it. It is however, interesting and forward looking to eliminate these useless practices whenever we can.

  2. Mr Selwyn !

    Yes , WHO are WE ?

    The Maori s are 2 steps ahead of us .
    1 Rawiri Waititi Wins Tie War in New Zealand Parliament … › 2021 › 02 › 10 › world › asia › new-zealand-rawiri-waititi-tie.html
    10 feb 2021AUCKLAND, New Zealand — A Maori politician who says a necktie is “a colonial noose” showed up in New Zealand’s Parliament without one this week. He was promptly booted from the chamber …
    Also mentioned in ITALY in the newspaper “ Resto De Carlino “ 11.2.2021 .. discussing the dress code Pictured giving a speech in parliament with the “ COLONIAL NOOSE around his neck raising the NOOSE in away , looking as were he just cut down from a tree .

    Thank YOU , for your allways thoughtfull writings
    Ps . ” Colonial Trappings ” as good as Colonial Noose .

  3. One of the most destructive post colonial remnants is the education system which no one is willing to challenge.
    The colonials themselves have made major changes to their own systems of education at home while we perpetuate an archaic system responsible for many of our societal problems.
    Is a lack of critical thinking in our education responsible for our low vaccination rate?
    Cosmetic changes are not enough. Real change can only come from major structural changes to our constitution and institutions.

  4. Colonialism is still alive today but just in a different form. The power grid in every nation lies with the elitist. They are the decision makers when it comes to controlling the masses.

    Power does not end it just changes hands and continues to exist under different banners. The psychological control over the masses by colonialism is still there. Let us look at the psychology of the power. The British created a superior power base and therefore across the colonies existed an inferior power base that could only have meaning if it was connected to the British power base. Sir Ellis Clarke was known as the black blue blood in this country. He was the nation first president and framer of the constitution. He only supported of represented black folks by his image but his demeanour, conversation, and action reflected that of British aristocracy.

    Our sons and daughters go to Britain to get a much desired education, supporting their education system but not realizing that the majority of those emeralds of learning has been built by the blood and sweat of slaves and heavily funded in its inception by slave traders.

    The fear of most educators is this, to move away from the colonial style of education will result in a psychologically depraved nation. A nation that embodies the sagacity of the British along with all its misadventures, pillaging, rape of Africana women and other women around the globe, somehow qualifies as having arrived. The true Babarians were the British as Ghandi exposed them in the salt March that saw them crack the skull of over 300 unarmed Indians. Or the savagery at Amristar that remains a point is of Sikh utter disdain for the British.

    Education is a form of control over the masses, unless the mind is trained to become a critical thinker, we will forever be thinking that we are too inferior to create a curriculum that represents the current national needs of what a well rounded citizen should be 10 years from now.

    1. mr. Mamoo !

      Colonialism never ended .
      Independence : in dependency , dependent on …..
      Commonwealth : Come on wealth and for sure it does .
      I asked my mother ” why do we go there and take all there things ?
      My mother : ” we take it because they dont use it !
      Later I found out it is because We , Europe has Nothing !!
      About education .. We are All , white black green yellow , told what is necessary to keep the big business going . £££ $$$ Israel and later China .
      If you dont travel , to see for yourself and ask yourself: Is it True? you only have the false information about other peolpe and countries .

        1. Yah they ” shared ” the cake and ” Africa is Hungry ” this song we hear every year .
          I allways thought -hungry – for what . There is Everything .
          Without Congo NO MICHELIN no tyres Leopold/Belgium .
          Cartoon showing a castle with a guard infront .
          A Viking coming , is stoppet by the guard .
          The guard : ” what do you want ?
          The Viking : ” I am here to Take what is yours and make it mine .
          The guard : ” To Impersonate the king it’s a big Crime .
          Fela Kute ( nigeria ) is singing about

        2. I recently came across an interesting comment on the Social Media. It goes as follows ” People who focus on the past are constantly angry”. I thought about it and think it is true. Further, those who are harping about past injustices, rape of Africa, India etc are wasting time and energy on the wrong things. By extension wasted ink on ties, proper dress code etc is also a waste of time.
          The good Lord has given each of us single lifetime, roughly 60-80 years, in which to make the right choices, follow his commandments and enjoy his blessings.
          Unfortunately there are some who are too lazy to think for themselves who will blame past events such as colonialism, the white man, greedy Indians, the 1 percent etc for their lack of success in life instead of making sacrifices and working hard like their other countrymen to achieve their goals. The end result is a wasted life in which they are perpetually angry and unhappy, most likely follow a dilingquent lifestyle and are a threat to their law abiding neighbours.

          1. Being aware of the history affords you the opportunity to understand yourself. I am aware of my family history up to 5 generations living in Trinidad. They settled in the Tenent sugar estate and the owner was Lady Sheldon.

            The land they were given to them when indentureship ended, was swampy and very hostile, filled with snakes, caimans, scorpions, centerpede etc.

            I do believe the Queen owes me repatriation money because my ancestors were paid a “pittance” whilst lady Sheldon became rich from their blood, sweat and tears.

            Do I feel bitter, enraged or angry? Not in the least, in fact I am grateful they survived and allowed me space to breathe some air. Do I feel angry my great great great grandfather left India? No, he made the decision based on information supplied, his elder brother was killed by an angry woman. So he had no syblings there when he left.

      1. continue …
        How easy it to Govern People when they think they are free !

        All colonies exept one is IN – dependent – on ( cy ) and FREE .

        and Celebrate Independens Day EVERY YEAR .

        Believing = Folowing … folow what ever it is , like sheeps .

        Maeh…maeh…maeh !

  5. Pushing back against a Bill to ban critical race theory education, Florida state senator Jones said,”There’s nothing comfortable about history. They’re nothing comfortable about Black history. There’s nothing comfortable about Jewish-American history. There’s nothing comfortable about Indigenous history,” Jones said.

    “And so, of course, individuals will be uncomfortable about how these things have happened in the past. But the only way we’re going to be able to move forward is we have to have these uncomfortable conversations.”

    1. Conversations are just that, all talk and no action. Then there is propaganda, statistics, lies and damned lies all designed to deceive you.
      Each one of us has experienced some form of real and imagined past injustice at the hands of our parents, teachers, neighbors, bosses, the police etc. but to go around with a chip in our shoulder constantly reliving this is a distraction from what we should be doing at present. Putting Critical Race Theory in the education curricula is certainly not a priority especially during a global pandemic when thousands are dying every day.

Comments are closed.