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Erica's 60's Time-Warp
Posted: Tuesday, October 8, 2002

By Stephen Kangal MOM

Rationality has a tendency of taking temporary leave of me in the face of Trinbagonians who intentionally abandon their homeland, wallow and exult in the lap of metropolitan luxury and make occasional pilgrimages to Trinbago to pander to the pangs of the principle of the territorial imperative. With a roti and red Solo in hand they also seize the opportunity to lecture to us resident natives on their aspirations for what is good for Trinbago; how those enjoying the pleasures of exile in Miami prefer T&T to stagnate as well as to be fossilized politically in time and space. They are uncomfortable with the stresses/manifestations spawned by genuine democracy and change and tend to see the wood and be diverted by the trees.

Mrs Erica Williams-Connell in her address (published verbatim thanks to the Express) to the commemorative stamp ceremony held at the Central Bank Auditorium raised what I regard as false, misleading and sensational alarmist bells by predicting that a potential racial conflagration could engulf T&T. (Express Sept. 27 and 28, pp.11 and 11; Newsday Sept.24, p. 5; Guardian Sept. 24 and 25, pp.1 and 12 respectively)

Why must the open, free, healthy assertion of our fundamental ethnic diversities in 21st Century, literate T&T lead to strife? Must we continue to suppress and conceal the legitimate expressions of our cosmopolitanism under the proverbial carpet because politically we do not want to, cannot deal with them or are uncomfortable with these expressions? After all it is so easy to deceive oneself into believing that "all a we are one".

Should we not attempt to go beyond cosmetic pandering immanent in round tables and introduce instead consensual determined policies, programmes and priorities geared to manage and harness this unique and rich diversity (a.k.a race relations) to contribute to national welfare, stability and progress? Were Erica's alarmist, prophet of gloom and doom Central Bank intonations deliberately geared to influence voting/non-voting decisions ahead of October 7?

Erica is woefully out of touch with the conjuncture of escalating internal socio-cultural-political dynamics/demographics as well as of the external effects of globalization that are transforming T&T into a boundary-less, border-less neo-classical liberal democracy. There is nothing wrong with holding three elections in three years. Erica could spare us her tears. This is a small price to pay for democracy that is rapidly becoming an exercise in equity determination in T&T.

Gone is the political era of the 60-80's that her late father (God bless his soul) dominated even after his demise and characterised by its 24/12 and 26/10(1981) parliamentary, imbalanced configuration. The T&T electorate is now more politically emancipated, discriminating, enigmatic and assertive. Now every dog or Tom, Ali and Harrylal can bark without the fear of being told to get out or branded a member of the recalcitrant minority. In fact that minority has now become the majority. The contemporary ethnic polarisation about which Erica is so wary is reaping the whirlwind spawned by her late father post-1956.

The institutions established by Mother T&T post-1962 that by definition ought not to have discriminated among her children nevertheless orphaned large sections of our cosmopolitanism. This is the stark reality-neither propaganda nor perception as Erica insinuates when she says ". whole sections of the society are being told- and believe-that they have been marginalised and discriminated against."

Lulled by in the delectable pleasures of voluntary exile in Miami precludes Erica from taking the time to appreciate, inter alia, the following influences that are presiding and driving the change-process in Motherland T&T:

a.. international travel;
a.. 90% plus literacy;
b.. cross-fertilization of our cultural persistence;
c.. the mushrooming media industry notably the Indian channels and talk shows;
d.. widespread internet access;
e.. more effective representation of the interests and aspirations of the rural dispossessed in Parliament/Government;
a.. the progressive dismantling of the traditional rural-urban dichotomy;
a.. Hindu renaissance etc.
b.. Internal mobility of the population (1 vehicle for every 4 persons).

These have developments have radically reformed and changed the psyche of the 21st Century Trinbagonian from that created by the 60's tyranny of the town.

Erica is also nostalgic about the discriminatory -monopolistic - based era of the 50's to the 80's when our deep and genuine cultural differences/practices were frowned upon and deliberately ignored. Our urban-defined, cosmetic pseudo-similarities were emphasised so that nationalism did not have to nor felt the need to cater for our multiculturalism resulting in huge pockets of alienation and marginalisation.

Let it be recorded for the benefit of posterity that centrally-planned domination/ monopolistic control over the electronic mass media until the NAR's de-monopolization in 1988 was responsible for suppressing the free and open ventilation of important socio-economic issues facing T&T including ethnicity. There has now evolved from the aforementioned NAR's wisdom, foresight and vision an equity-based, interests-driven, transparent corpus of cosmopolitanism/ethnicity in the opinion formulation and determination process in the print and electronic media.

T&T is now a more open, dialogue-conscious society thanks to investigative, forensic and balanced journalism and an accessible media. We are poised to take off as never before into participatory nationhood, dwell together in unity and welcome back our ex-patriates who migrated in search of greener pastures so that they can share equitably in the mega hydrocarbon boom that is about to unfold on our door-steps.

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