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Resolving Valley's Identity Crisis
Posted: Saturday, August 7, 2004

By Stephen Kangal

Ken ValleyHaving regard to the diversity that underpins multicultural T&T and that must be based on mutual respect, understanding, tolerance and cross-cultural appreciation and navigation or what PM Manning calls "an irrevocable commitment to each other", I accordingly sympathise with the crisis of identity being experienced by the Leader of Government Business/ Senior Minister Ken Valley. The Minister is not solitary in this regard. In fact it is a national dilemma to be resolved as a priority and fundamental to any Vision that seeks to chart the future development and progress of T&T.

It is this level of confusing ambivalence and personal idiosyncrasies in appreciating and defining with consistency and uniformity at the macro-level the constituent elements of the T&T multicultural identity (nationality and socio-ancestry or cultural personality) since Independence that has led us to the parlous state of an ethnically polarised and bifurcated society.

Personal identity determination however must be understood and appreciated as being evolutionary as the individual matures and the dialogue in the cultural environment avoids indoctrination and seeks to develop an honest, dispassionate and consensual approach to the problem solving and resolution. I can testify that this is the process that I experienced in my own development from youth to maturity in defining my identity that was not facilitated by the intensive propaganda machinery of PNM ethno-nationalism and an Afro-centric opinion formulation and determination process conducted via the print and electronic media.

This crisis really had its genesis in 1962 with the myopic and infamous dictat of the late Dr.Williams that there can be "no Mother Africa nor Mother India". The concept of a politically/nationality-based Mother Africa/India was a figment of his political imagination. It is this policy statement and political rhetoric that provided the launching pad for inflicting the most divisive, notorious brand of ethno- nationalism or "cultural assimilationist" paradigm on multicultural Trinbago. The concept of a "political mother" was interpreted by the bureaucrats to mean complete disassociation from Indian and African civilisation. We are victims of this hangover even though the 1970 Cultural Revolution sought to change the status quo.

I note that Erica Williams-Connell during her annual T&T pilgrimage does not want us to forget that address even though she is completely ignorant of the meaning of the injunction (Newsday August 2, p.4). According to Canon Clive Griffith in assessing the dictat of Dr. Williams "… we Africans were asked to inculcate it as part of our national values and assimilation and that was done. But we came out to be losers….(Guardian Aug. 2, p.7)".

Forty- two years into statehood, and as a hangover of our ethno-nationalistic past we are still in the throes of a national identity crisis. The assimilationist model of integration has failed us. The Deputy Leader of the Governing party epitomises this crisis. While it is forgivable that a private citizen can struggle with resolving his identity crisis in public and privately, a Senior Minister of Government cannot afford to and should not make public utterances that are completely at variance with the public conduct, statements and posturing of his Prime Minster. That is politically incorrect.

It is patently clear that Minister Valley, who incidentally said that Jamaicans were more intellectual than Trinbagonians, cannot distinguish between being simultaneously a T&T citizen by nationality/birth/ culture and also being culturally and endogenously African by ancestry and heritage. He confuses the congenital richness of African culture with the cosmetics of T&T's political culture. He cannot separate these two non-conflicting concepts that is to say his nationality and his strong cultural heritage. He must, if he is to appreciate and define his hybrid personality accurately and reconcile his identity dilemma.

Incidentally another Minister, Franklyn Khan has attempted to discredit Trinbagonians (Newsday July 30, p.13) by saying "Trinidadians did not see intellectual work as work". Minister Khan should speak for himself and leave us alone. A Ministerial appointment does not mean that Valley and Khan should talk "dotishness" to a literate electorate.

The following advice of Canon Griffith can assist Minister Valley in resolving his identity crisis:

"Yes, but that response can only come from ignorance, and he needs to understand that there is a difference betweeb your ethnicity and your nationalism. Being a Trinidadian is not to be taken as the same as being an African, because when you say you are African what you are saying is that you are a Trinidad-born with African traits, African culture, a heritage which is very vital and which is very rich." ( Guardian Aug.2, p.7)

His second release (Newsday Aug.2, p.7 and Aug.3, p.11) clearly compounds and increases his original faux pas committed in Parliament (Newsday July 6, p. 5) even though he is undertaking a salvage operation. What is this New World emancipated man/ personality that Minister Valley is now espousing as the new genre of citizenship to which he now belongs while still admitting to being Afro- Caribbean also? Is it Anglo- Saxon as Trevor McDonald and Trevor Phillips? A confused personality ought not to be Government Minister.

Please Minister Valley understand your current intellectual limitations but the importance of defining your complex Afro- Trinbagonian identity pending such time as our respected and emancipated African elders/sociologists including erudite Anglican cleric, Canon Clive Griffith can sit you down and assist you to resolve your identity crisis and save Trinbagonians from your hallucinatory contradictions.

You have all our empathy as true multiculturalists in the evolutionary process of your identity determination and resolution in a multicultural society.

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