Countries, Citizens, Identity

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
July 11, 2012

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeI have been in London for the past few days and will be here for several weeks. I am not here for the Olympics even though one can’t help getting caught up in the hype. I have taken a B&B within walking distance of the National Archives and will camp out here to get some work done on the biography of an important Trini.

Over the weekend one could not but sympathize with the Brits and their benumbing heartache after their hope for a Wimbledon title came to disappointing end. The Independent reflected on this national epic on Monday: “Andy Murray couldn’t deliver to the nation the opening passage of the golden summer of British sport but he did do pretty much the next best thing.”

“He did perform with much competitive honor and more than passing brilliance against Roger Federer—by common consent, the greatest player in the history of tennis.”

“It was never enough to match the feat of Fred Parry, who was the last male British player to win Wimbledon 76 years ago.”

It was almost as though the entire country was doing everything to snatch victory out of defeat; honor out of what sounded as a Naipaulian horror script. Redemption of British tennis hope has to wait another year which is what Murray said after his defeat: “I played my best tennis in a Grand Slam final…When you lose it’s hard, it’s tough to take, but you need to try to show strength of character to come back from it.”

And he will be back.

Such a defeat will not prevent Britain from drawing deep into its historical archive to and display Britain’s most important cultural figure all over the country during the next month or so. The Financial Times reported this weekend: “Never before have so many different theatrical traditions, gathered together to honor the greatest of all playwrights.” In case you missed it, they are talking about William Shakespeare on whom we have all been brought up.

No one in London this month or next is likely to overlook references/posters/advertisement to Shakespeare and his work. The Globe to Globe season at Shakespeare’ Globe put on Shakespeare’s 37 plays in 37 languages. The World Shakespeare Festival features foreign companies doing Shakespeare’s plays and the British Museum’s Shakespeare exhibit will open this month and there will be performances of Shakespeare’s plays all over the city.

One suspects that this plethora of Shakespearism (if I may be permitted to invent such a term) has a lot to do with shoring up Britain’s fracturing image in the twenty first century. Even Scotland is thinking of leaving the Union and Cameron’s prime ministerial skills leave much to be admired. It goes without saying that this austerity-hit and scandal-laden nation (think Barclays) will do everything to prop up its image. Shakespeare’s legendary fame and putative presence remind Britain of its glories and a suggestion of better days to come.

The glorification of Shakespeare offers a good respite from (or perhaps adds to) athletes who have become role models (remember the ubiquitous presence of Shaq on our landscape) and our national flag bearers, ala Dwight Yorke and Brian Lara and their roles in lifting up our spirits when we needed symbols to tell us that we are somebodies when others are constantly pulling us down and questioning our self-worth.

While we are it, let us remember that there others who add to our richness as a society and a sense of nationness. In 2009 Jean-Claude Trichet, the former president of the European Central Bank and former governor of France’s Central Bank spoke on what Europe’s cultural Identity meant to him. “European-ness means being unable to understand fully my national literature and poetry—Chateaubriand, Mallarme, Julien Gracqu, Saint-John Perse, Senghor—without understanding Dante, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Goethe and Heine.”

“European-ness means that I share with all other Europeans the same basic cultural sources, despite the fact that they come from vastly differing backgrounds. This means that I live in a modern literary atmosphere that is influenced directly and indirectly by the Czech Kafka, the Irishman Joyce and the Frenchman Proust.”

This brings me to our Central Bank governor, Ewart Williams, my friend and brother. He will cuss me for this, such is his modesty, but he is one of the most sophisticated, down-to-earth brothers I have ever met. He loves sports. He has television subscriptions to tennis, basket-ball, American football, soccer, cricket and every other sport imaginable. He is the only person I know who can have his television on, watch a game and yet write the most sophisticated article and/or report on economics or banking.

We know him as an economist who rose from UWI to a Vice President at IMF before becoming our Governor at the Central Bank. He is a linguist. He speaks English, French and Spanish and is versed in obscene which he uses rather well. And he loves his steelband which he played in his younger days. He dotes on his kaiso which he knows well. He seldom takes himself too seriously and enjoys a good laugh.

Ewart Williams is the embodiment of Trinidadianness and Tobagonianness (Trinbagonianness) in the analogous sense in which Jean Claude Trinchet sketches his Europeanness. Williams possesses the Trinbagonian’s seriousness, perspicacity and playfulness. He likes a good joke. He is a humane, culturally sensitive and appreciates what has made us who we are. He has lived it. His early life was no bed of roses.

And he loves his family. As he says, in the words of the calpysonian, “it’s not my ting, is we ting.” He would sacrifice it for nothing.

Without much fanfare, he brought a stuffy, distant Central Bank to its people and made it a part of us. He only insisted that its directors and its workers imbue our work with passion and give unflinchingly to one of the most sacred institutions in our society. In so doing, he taught us what it means to be patriotic and to love the nation that shaped us in the most profound of ways.

4 Responses to “Countries, Citizens, Identity”


  • Sorry, Murray will not be back. He was lucky that Nadal was accidentally knocked out from Murray’s side of the draw,thus giving Murray a free ride to the final. The Brits will have to wait.

  • Who cares T-Man,your under achieving,neglected country ,would be lucky to steal a bronze,when compared with their Yardee brothers and sisters. Remember dis present day,neo triumphalist leaders , ain’t care nada, about sports as a whole , unless it has to do with cricket- which the last time this was relevant ,when Brian Lara was King of de hill, yes?

  • In Central Park New York, every Summer time the Outdoor Theater is constructed For Shakespeare. People flock from all over the place for Shakespeare. Good old Lyrics and English is re-kindled afresh. Good, Good. Right, Right-
    The Strange thing is as soon as People Hear About the King James Language, they rise up, this is outdated, this is Old English, Not Relevant. Shakespeare is Relevant, but the Scriptures is not Relevant.
    How come we Ain’t Hearing about Lara, Bolden,Crawford, or Penny visiting the Beetham? Shaq on the move, good one PP..
    A wonder how many Children in the Beetham know about Trinidad History or about Caribbean History? How much people all around could figure this one out?
    Why put the Beetham on dis-play when Man in Jacket and Tie can’t figure out the meaning of the Traffic Lights! Green ,Amber and Red.or is it Green, Half-Ripe and Ripe…
    The Legend in Cricket lives in the Caribbean, Britain and Liverpool ain’t see nothing yet-Bring on Lara, Chanders, and the War Brothers from Australia running from the crease- Who? Mike War, Steve War, and World War.. Hey, Hey… just kidding…

  • “How come we Ain’t Hearing about Lara, Bolden,Crawford, or Penny visiting the Beetham? Shaq on the move, good one PP?” Quit whining Trini! Bolden was made a Senator ,and given his million dollar Westmoorings apartment by Uncle Basdeo. Lara goes on business promotional tours with the Her Majestic Queen K, to India, while your Patrick Manning gave him de middle finger. Dr Deffy Eric named a aeroplane for Crawford, wine and dine with him as some useless sport minister ,and 3 decades later T&T cannot even win a crab race. By de way ,he could not even get a seat on the plane as a T&T contingent in Biejin , but thanks to Grenada , was given a break , even as he stayed in 000.0 star , run down, rat infested hotel ,at his own expense . Go figure!
    As for our Yardee friends in Jamaica, Don Quaree, he only parlay his gold ,and silver medal successes ,into making Jamaica a global athletic force ,which is now the envy of countries much richer than they are- and need we say T&T?
    Who should you blame for that , de PP in power for two weeks , or dem PNM bums that controlled the POLITICAL enchilada ,for 45 out of our 50 years independence? The beautiful, and regal gals Penny Bolden , and Jeselle La ron , were treated like royalty from de day they stripped down to their bikinis ,on the Sunday Punch , to when they won, and lang after ,BUT as for de Diego Martin , kinky head , Mandingo Queen , Sistaz Wendy , that woman had to scratch ,and claw her way to stardom, while selling heaven knows what, to get some attention, much less a sponsor to represent her country , that it ain’t even funny any more.
    After winning , in desperation , many think she was forced to turn herself into a media freak , by making , out of wedlock ,outside babies ,with unmentionable ,married ,Jamacian bums, thus proving to dem initial critics , that even with her fancy UWI degree , she still ain’t… well , you could fill in the blanks. Now who do you want to represent Beetam again? Country hating Patriot ,V.S Naipaul , or fashion project RUNAWAY , sex freak, turn PP tourism ,high ender ,Anya AYONG Chee? Well, thank goodness , you and I are just kidding, ennnt?

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