Aspiring Together

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
Septeber 04, 2012

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeIt was there for all to see. The PP had its own independence function at Woodford Square while the PNM conducted its own at Balisier House. Even die-hard PNMites were offended by such disunity. One of my nieces exclaimed: “Why dey dividing up the nation like that? It’s de worse Independence I ever see.”

She did not take time to explain to whom she was referring when she used the colloquial “dey” but she seemed ready to incite all and sundry in her condemnation. Perhaps, she was alluding to sentiments buried deeply within the national soul which could not render the adequate verbal equivalence.

To me, the sight to two Independence celebrations demonstrated how fractured our nation has become. On the other hand, it may be that I have been hiding behind an illusion of unity that remains an elusive butterfly of hope. I might have thought that unity was there but I, too, might have been deluded.

In previous columns I have sought to dissect the two-nation syndrome that exists in Trinidad and Tobago but I have always seen it as a part of our inheritance, not necessarily a bad thing, but a definite hindrance to our going forward as a nation.

Yet, a question remains: Can we go forward as we are doing, emphasizing the divisions in our nation, or resolve unto ourselves that it is better to come together in unity than to gradually die our daily deaths of division?

The immediate response is to blame one group at the expense of the other rather than to look at each person in the face and ask if each of us is playing his part in cementing national unity even as we celebrate our differences.

In this article, I do not wish to defend the PNM or castigate the PP. This is not the time for that. Rather, it is a time for sober reflection; a moment to ask if this is where we want to be and does the present scenario bode well for the future.

Whatever we might say of ourselves as a nation, we have kept the peace over the century before the achievement of national Independence. The question thus becomes, how can we secure the peace in the next fifty years after the celebration of our golden anniversary of Independence? How do we do small things and make small gestures to build on the social capital that we have accumulated over the last 150 years?

Are we willing to squander that achievement in a moment of pique and chupidness?

Our present dilemma may be relatively easy to solve if we had the good-will to do so and if we started on the premise that events such as national Independence belong to the nation rather than the party in power.

To me, national consolidation seems more important than narrow political one-up-man-ship; legacy and remembrance more crucial than instantaneous flamboyance dubiously achieved. The latter is gained by virtue of one’s present political position and the fancy (or is it fantasy?) of the moment. It’s but a fleeting achievement.

In the UK and other places we call certain practices convention. They are accepted as part of the fabric of national life. Whether one is a Tory or Labor, one knows that when one messes up one takes his leave of absence. No one has to ask him to so. One also knows that national celebrations belong to the nation rather than the political party that happens to be in power.

One knows there is a greater glory call Britannia. English people accept the contributions that a Tony Benn or Winston Churchill make to the nation even though no one disputes that Churchill is the greater national figure if only because he guided the nation at a very important moment of its development.

So why don’t we simply put together a national committee consisting of members of the PNM, the PP and some outside national figures who are worthy of respect to come up with truly national ceremonies which all of us can buy into.

And let us plan it from early. A month or so before, let us know the content of the program; what the traffic arrangements are; and who is likely to be doing what. We should not walk into Port of Spain on the morning of August 31st and find the town locked down, no previous announcement having been made about anything.

It might be that our citizens are striving for unity more than we care to acknowledge. The average man on the street wants to support the PNM, the PP or even the COP and is willing to behave in the most partisan manner during elections or even when he is discussing politics on his home turf.

However, the average Trinbagonian knows that we live in a tiny community -not more than 1.3 million souls- who simply have to live together in unity, tolerance, and yes, love. It was not for nothing that Dr. Williams gave our nation three watch words: discipline, production, tolerance.

Today, those words may sound as empty partisan declarations but how in the world can a nation of multiple peoples and religions go forward if we do not stress the virtues of discipline, production and tolerance. And just in case we forget, inherent in the words discipline, production and tolerance is a deep respect for one another and a willingness to recognize that whether Hindu or Christian, Orisha or Islam, we are all stamped with the beauty of our humanity that have been nurtured by a soil called Trinidad and Tobago.

Respecting such a provenance demands that we cling to what we have rather than aspire to alien gods that may prove destructive in the end; hence the necessity to cling to the sentiments: “Together we aspire; so that, together, we may achieve a sense of national unity and purpose.”

Christian doxology suggests, “So it was in the beginning; so shall it be until the end.”

This is a worthy lesson to remember.

5 thoughts on “Aspiring Together”

  1. The “convention” in T&T is that the Party in power controls, dictates, and dominates every aspect of life, including celebrations. The PNM operated in this manner for decades.The PP unfortunately is following the only convention which was established and with which they are familiar.
    Once again, now that the shoe is on the other foot, Cudjoe is calling for change, but only when he finds his Party shut out.It was ok before but unacceptable now. What hypocracy!
    However, his suggestions for moving forward are worthy of consideration and adoption.

    1. Trust, fairness, respect, attitude, faith in God, setting proper standards, helping others and one can go on and on have all been taken away from the middle class and poor families. Greed, power, self interests etc are what the PP and PNM are all about. They serve themselves and about the worst thing they do is lie. The next leader of Trinidad should come from the mixed grouping (no Indian or African). The mixed people of Trinidad and Tobago hold no prejudices. The PP has failed the people miserably (they are just not honest and we can see right through them). Kamla was never a leader but an opportunist. But the PNM had to go for they were spoiling our name in the world very fast indeed. We are a great nation and we deserve better. Most Trinidadians like myself who were forced to leave Trinidad still looks to home as home. But with 290 murders to-date it shows we are a leaderless country. I still admire President Obama; after the DNC convention I saw how a leader draws people close together. Kamla and her bunch are a total waste. I felt so ashamed as I wondered when a great leader will emerge once again in Trinidad;one who will embrace the hopes and dreams of all Trinidadians and Tobagonians alike. We have so much talent but no leader. Carnival alone could be marketed differently to make us proud once more. I can put more blame on one race in Trinidad. But you know we have to bury the truth to keep the peace but that race lives in self denial with no dignity and has to change as they are holding on to a lot of falsehoods from where they came many years ago. Their values are not good values and money is their God. This is just the start to induce needful change to our blessed country.

  2. I agree with TMan. It is not only the convention in T&T it is a global convention. If the opposition wants to hold its own celebration it is done after the official one (which is normally the one held by the government). It is ironic that the author talks about the PP holding its celebration and not the government. The opposition were invited but declined. What would have been the story if Capildeo declined to attend the Independence celebration in 1962??

  3. T-Man, does your statements reflect an excuse or a reason for disunity in Trinidad and Tobago? You had to take a swipe at the messenger before looking the message, but by doing this you are not making a good case for this Government.
    “The PNM operated in this manner for decades.” Explain this statement in reference to previous Independence celebrations. As far as I recall, the people voted for change when they elected this present Government. Were the people only successful in electing a puppet Government, a mimic Government, a shadow Governemnt of the PNM? Are you in fact reiterating the sentiments of a former PNM Government Minister? “PNM – a way of life.”

    1. Cudjoe is making the point that conventions in countries like the UK are very significant and are always honored.
      MY point is that the convention in T&T regarding national celebrations is that the government in power organizes and delivers the mode of celebration.
      Suddenly the PNM has decided that this convention does not suit their political agenda.
      Take notice of my last comment. Cudjoe’s suggestions for moving forward are worthy of consideration and adoption.People like Cudjoe and his PNM cohorts are finally beginning to understand how it feels to be ignored and mistreated by a government in power.

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