Patriotism and its vulgar application

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
January 09, 2023

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeOver the past two weeks Minister Stuart Young has proclaimed his patriotism and his commitment to the central tenet of our National Anthem: “Here every creed and race find an equal place.” Anyone who objects to his interpretation of this aspect of the anthem is accused of being a racist or, as he said recently, of playing “the unsavoury race card”. He has accused me of attacking him “on the basis of race” (Express, January 2).

Anyone who has read my articles carefully would agree that I said nothing disparaging about Young, nor did I attack his character. I am inclined to accept that he is a hard worker and is committed to “the positive growth and continued development” of our society. He has been cordial and respectful to me on the three occasions that I have met him. While I commend those attributes, I am more concerned about the capacity of our leaders to think logically and coherently about the problems that face our society.

Young joined the People’s National Movement (PNM) in 2014. I have supported PNM from its inception in 1956 and have been an active party member since the 1960s. On April 22, 1960, I marched in the rain on that famous journey from Chaguaramas to Woodford Square where Dr Eric Williams announced our country’s right to reclaim Chaguaramas. He also condemned the seven deadly sins of colonialism (Williams, “The Chaguaramas Declaration”).

In 1996 when Dr Keith Rowley challenged Patrick Manning for the leadership of the PNM, I assisted in composing his oppositional manifesto in which we used the arguments of William Julius Wilson, When Work Disappears (1996), as the central premise of his candidacy. When Rowley lost his fight against Manning and party members began to heckle him at the bar of the Chaguaramas Convention Hall, I took him to the home of Jackie Lazarus to shield him from their taunts.

In 2002, Joel Krieger, a Harvard-trained political scientist, and I spent ten days with Patrick Manning as we crafted PNM’s Vision 2020 statement. After we finished our work we dined at Soong’s Great Wall Restaurant in San Fernando, as Joan Yuille-Williams and Hazel Manning can testify. They were also present at the dinner. Just for the record: we produced this massive document without charging PNM a cent.

When the United National Congress (UNC) defeated the PNM in 2010, I was among about 150 people who went to Curepe Junior Secondary (now St Joseph Secondary) to lick our wounds and to prepare for the next election at which we were successful. Keith Rowley can attest to the truth of this statement.

Minister Young does not possess a patent to the central meaning of the National Anthem. When one asserts that every creed and race finds an equal place in our society, it implies that there are various groups within the society and that each group presents its own challenges and has its own demands.

To say that the needs of the black group have been left unattended or neglected, as I have argued, is a proposition that may be contested. It cannot be placed under a rubric called racism. More importantly, the injunction, “Here every creed and race find an equal place” is more an aspirational statement than an accomplished fact. It is a goal to which we must aspire, hence our national motto: “Together we aspire, together we achieve.” Therein lies the promise of our society.

How do we achieve this objective?

At the very least, we can begin to think about these goals in a nuanced and forthright manner. Even in thinking about this we ought to be careful of the benefits that some citizens achieve by virtue of their position in the society. That is why I am so concerned about the special advantages that Young is given by virtue of his special relationship to the prime minister and why some thinkers, more experienced than I, warn that without the necessary guardrails some party members can become “more equal than others”.

One of the most precious commodities in any democracy is the exercise of free critical thought. Necessarily, these thoughts must be accompanied by actions, but when one person is given multiple tasks (chairmanship of the party, Minister of Energy, Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister, and constituency representative) without the necessary preparation, one wonders if one can pay enough attention to any of these functions.

When Minister Young accuses me of racism, I am inclined to think of Samuel Johnson’s injunction, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” Aakar Patel, chair of Amnesty International India, explained what Johnson meant by this statement: “Any crime and any misbehaviour was tolerated as long as it was committed by one who kept shouting that he loved his country. And, on the other hand, the individual who questioned the behaviour of the country or government was a traitor, no matter how noble he/she was.” (Outlook, October 29, 2019).

Young has to be careful about his protestation of ultra-patriotism. It would have been much better if he responded to the questions that I raised rather than deal with clichés which need to be contextualised and examined. The PNM has always thrived and prospered because of the quality of its ideas, not only by the amount of money any individual or corporation contributes to the party’s coffers.

As the new year begins, the PNM is called upon to offer creative solutions to the problems that affect the country. Therefore, it would be wise if the party chairman heeded Dr Johnson’s notion about the pitfalls of patriotism and remember that calling someone a racist, in societies such as ours, is disingenuous and dishonourable. It is really the last port of call of resistance for someone who may not possess the noblest motives.

6 thoughts on “Patriotism and its vulgar application”

  1. Dr Cudjoe. To be honest, U have been on Mr Young’ Case for a while now, and this might be the time to put a stop to your ongoing antagonisms. In your dawning years, U, Dr Cudjoe, have not fully grasped the philosophy Dr William’ brainchild, the PNM. The bottom line, is that every creed and race can find an active place and space in the political party U claim to be a part of from it’s inception, unlike the UNC. Wasn’t it the Chinese, well off indentured descendants, the Arabs of Syrian and lebanese heritage , some Euro creoles were the creed and race who bankroll the early PNM, and continue to this present era? When People of African descent, starts utilising the 4 levels of comprehension, only then, the DARKNESS that presently enveloped the mind, will be extinguished somewhat. The PNM, have never been an African oriented political entity. Today, there is diminished cadre of Black leadership within the PNM, a blind Man/Wo can see the DECAYING factor. “When power is given two those already comfortable, the inclination to steal is less plausible”. At this present time, Trinidad needs People of the caliber of Mr young. Dr Cujoe, this is not your time, and that must be clearly understood, is it not time to climb down the tree that U have nurtured?. Black HATE is just as devastating as all the rest. Never forget that Mr Young represents the Trinidad, that Slavery, Dravidian/ Chinese Indentureship and COLONIALISM created. Aluta Continua.

  2. The modalities of the PNM does not offer support to Young to be the next leader. The PNM is a black man party with the 1% supporting the balisier brigade. Young belongs to the 1% and his family has benefitted considerably from the “empty treasury”. “

    “FINANCE Minister Colm Imbert said yesterday he does not know why the UNC keeps raising the issue of alleged impropriety involving a PNM MP’s family in relation to Government contracts awarded to NCB Global Finance.
    The Jamaican-based financial group is headed by Angus Young in Trinidad. He is the younger brother of National Security Minister Stuart Young and son of former Scotiabank TT managing director Richard Young. The bank has won tenders from the Government to raise $2.6 billion in debt capital for the State – or just under four per cent of the total $70 billion raised over the last five years, Imbert said”—Newsday.

    Now this is not unusual Dr. Cudjoe must not purposely spite Young if his aspirations are to lead the party he loves. Black folks will not face any kind of oppression. In fact it will be a welcome change and Young could attract more votes. However as a member of the 1% Young must work hard to restructure his image.

    My suggestion to Young ignore Cudjoe and hire an image consultant to reform your image. You know how to run the country and you can lead the PNM.

  3. Suggest Dr Cudjoe used his connections with his friend, Dr Rowley and the PNM elite to have the National Anthem updated to read “Where every creed and race find an equal place as long as they are black and support the PNM” Vision 2020 has come and gone, where are the results. Finally we know know who to blame, Dr Cudjoe and the Havard educated Political Scientist. What is a Political Scientist? Sounds like an oxymoron.

    Doctor Cudjoe will probably say Vision 2020 was aspirational, mere words to fool the gullible, not an Action Plan to be achieved.
    And this is the sad story of T&T under the iron grip of the PNM. All talk no action. 60 plus years post independence all wasted by poor leadership. We could have been like Singapore or Mauritius or Barbados, all progressive, prosperous and law abiding nations, instead we have a country that has and is being bled dry be the ‘ house negroes’ in the PNM and their proxy Community leaders in the crime hotspots. 600 murders in one year and nobody cares. PNM till I die, our opening prayer.

    Fortunately there is some light on the horizon.
    The good people of Tobago have liberated themselves from the PNM addiction. Maybe sometime in the future their brethren in the East West corridor and other parts of the country will join in to create a better country for all of us.

  4. In continuation of Professor Cudjoe’s recurrent obsession with Minister Stuart Young’s fitness for PNM leadership, the central thesis in his present article is that Minister Young does not have the experience or credentials to assume PNM leadership.
    Putting aside that in one of his articles on the subject he cited the Minister’s inability to deal with the plight of poor Black people in Trinidad insinuating the PNM is a Black people party and that the Minister just does not have what it takes to lead such a party, he spent a lot of ink on himself and what he, Cudjoe has done for the PNM historically. How he marched in the rain from Chaguaramas with Eric Williams; how he assisted Prime Minister Keith Rowley in developing oppositional manifesto in his challenge to Patrick Manning’s leadership; how he, Cudjoe took Rowley to the home of Jackie Lazarus to console him and avoid taunts from Manning supporters; how he, Cudjoe spent ten days with Patrick Manning crafting PNM’s Vision 2020 statement at Soong’s Great Wall Restaurant, for which he didn’t get a cent; how he, Cudjoe was among about 150 people who went to a Secondary School in Curepe to “lick our wounds” in 2010 after the PNM election defeat, and citing witness to that fact, as if we may doubt that he was really there.
    Professor Cudjoe is hell bent on making a case for himself and that he is PNM to the bone from way back and he had more credentials of leadership in the PNM than Mr. Young. He fails to grasp that we are aware of his recent staunch defence of the UNC and Kamla Persad Bissessar over and over again and that he is now considered a “Trojan Horse” and the faithful “have lost that loving feeling” about him.
    Professor Cudjoe, please leave Minister Young out of your personal aspirations and find another topic to write a diatribe about and stop pestering Minister Stuart Young.

    1. MB, you are right on the money. A common sign of an inactive mind is to repeat old stories of your past and often imaginary accomplishments.
      Dr Cudjoe thru his own writing has exposed himself as a racist person and by extension so are some of close colleagues in the PNM.

      There is a saying “Give a man enough rope and he will hang himself”. Eventually the the truth always come out. Hopefully history will mark these men for their unfair actions that brought our once promising nation on the brink of chaos.

  5. The 1% is the third wheel in Trinidad politics. They have been hungry for power, they know that by themselves they cannot enter the corridors of power. So they have entrenched themselves deep into the bowels of the PNM. But they are restless, there are at least three parties formed or deformed on the narrow edges of mainstream politics waiting for the opportunity to pounce. The most powerful so far with 25,000 Facebook supporters is PEP. Led by the potty mouth Phillip Alexander. He has stirred the pot and sought to get traction by creating a “citizen brigade” to solve social ills.

    “Former senate president Timothy Hamel-Smith yesterday formally presented the newest political party, referred to as The Third Force Movement (TTFM)” Hamel is bold in identifying his position as neither a supporter of the PNM or UNC. Not sure how far third force has advanced. Then there is GG our beloved GG. “Former Police Commissioner Gary Griffith has officially been named as the political leader of the National Transformation Alliance”

    There are no shortages of political vehicles being put forth by the third wheel. Young and his supporters are best poised to bring in the golden era of 1% politics. Despite Dr Cudjoe misgivings on Young, he could well be the next “Chambers” of TnT politics. As we all know Chambers was the first representation of 1% politics but he was dealt a bad economic hand and did not have the skills to take TnT out of the economic cesspool that the PNM created. May Young is better prepared holding several powerful portfolios. Using his influence to shape and position the PNM for another political win. Politics is a strange thing and it can take any twist or turn aided and abetted by the 1% media house Massas.

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