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On its 43rd birthday, TnT is in moral ruins
Posted: Sunday, August 28, 2005

Independence : myth or reality?

By Dr. Kwame Nantambu

Now that TnT celebrates forty-three years of putative independence, it is apropos to "look below the surface" in order to ascertain whether mythology or reality exists in this land.

In the specific case of TnT, Rupert Emerson in his book Self-Determination Revisited in the Era of De-Colonization (1964) suggests that although "the attainment of independence as the outcome of the colonial struggle sets a final seal of national unity upon the people which wins it", however, the reverse, that is, national dis-unity coupled with ethnic divisiveness and charges of discrimination, is the stark reality.

He further contends that "a not wholly implausible caricature might suggest that what is at stake is the conviction that since colonialism is evil (then) independence is good"---- not necessarily.

The fact of the matter is that since Britain conjoined TnT into a twin-island state in 1888, TnT has been ruled by the Euro-British colonial Red, White and Blue Union Jack flag; between 1962 and the 1980s, TnT has been ruled by the Neo-colonial Red, White and Black independence flag.

Since the 1980s, TnT has been ruled by the Euro-American re-colonized Red, White and Blue flag. TnT has' therefore, only experienced "flag independence", not real independence.

Despite becoming a Republic in 1976, TnT's political independence landscape still bears remnants of the British colonial parliamentary system of government.

Louis Lindsay elucidates in his " Colonialism and the Myth of Resource Insufficiency in Jamaica" (1976) that political leaders then and now have failed to realize that "these (political) institutions have proven to be inadequate largely because they have not been devised for societies such as our own but are parts of the inheritance of the colonial era --- borrowed from the imperialist power and imitatively implanted in the local environment."

Recently, much currency has been given to the establishment of an Executive President a la United States. This suggests that independence has only meant substituting our colonizer's and re-colonizer's political paradigms.

In the arena of education, the independence farce is even more pronounced and scary.

The present education system in TnT is an updated version of the static British colonial model implanted in the 19th century. According to Val T. Mc Comie in his "Education and Development in the Caribbean : the Post-Colonial Challenge" (1978): "An objective evaluation of this model reveals that it succeeded in achieving the wider purpose of colonialism, which was the transfer of western culture and learning and the subordination of indigenous values, customs and languages. In the main, . this was a good system for preserving the psychology of dependence but hardly a basis for developing national consciousness and self-reliance."

The stark reality is that this 19th century British model is now operative in a new and improved version to achieve the wider purpose of neo-colonialism and American re-colonialism cum the transfer, imitation and mimicking of American culture, values, lifestyles, culinary habits, dress-codes, speech patterns, holiday festivals and body language/mannerisms.

The system of psychological dependency via education (albeit Euro-centric mis-education or edjumacation) has been preserved and mummified in TnT.

In the economic field, real development has not taken place and this is evident in the alarming UNDP's February 2005 poverty statistics report that "half of TnT's population is now living on $12 a day or less", "12.4 per cent of the population existed on US$1 (TT$6.30) a day and that a further 39 per cent lived on less than US$2 (TT$12.60) a day" and that "30 per cent of the population was living in poverty."

Daniel A. Offiong in Imperialism and Dependency : Obstacles to African Development (1982) postulates that :"Real development involves a structural transformation of the economy, society, polity and culture of the (country) that permits the self-generating and self-perpetuating use and development of the people's potential."

Such "a structural transformation" has not taken place in TnT's post independence era. TnT's economy has not been diversified in any real sense.

TnT is still a single-crop economy and that single crop is oil-LNG.

The agricultural sector is non-existent. The PNM government continues to cast a disdainful policy look at this sector. "The agricultural sector is relegated to 12th place in development" in the government's planning process. "For every $100 spent in development, government is only investing $2.50 in developing agriculture, lands and marine resources."

In 2004, TnT's food import bill stood at TT$2.2billion.

Indeed, it is very ironic that during the periods of slavery, indentureship and colonialism, the slaves, labour immigrants and colonized were able to grow enough food for their Euro-British slave-master, colonizer and themselves.

However, now that slavery, indentureship, plantation system and colony status have been abolished and the descendants of the slaves, labour immigrants and colonized are in charge of an independent, sovereign nation-state called TnT, they cannot produce enough food for themselves.

Although one may argue that the ubiquitous existence of sky-scrappers, five-star hotels, etc, may be a sign of development and/or modernization, real development is measured by the extent to which an improvement in the Quality of Life (QOL) and the Basic Human Needs (BHN) is experienced by the "least of these" in society.

In other words, sustainable real development is measured in productive human resource investment and development. Real development is measured not in the maximization of Gross National Product (GNP) but in the maximization of Gross National Welfare (GNW).

In this specific regard, the PNM's CEPEP and URP programmes are nothing but pathetic, dismal and camoflague examples of productive human resource development and investment. They are just an exercise in economic futility but political-electoral expediency.

Prime Minister Manning has even publicly "acknowledged" that the URP is a ready-made cesspool for "criminal elements."

The fact of the matter is that Laventille was a magnanimous, open-ended ghetto in the pre-independence era. Laventille is still a magnanimous, open-ended ghetto in the post-independence era. And this calamity/dilemma/dire human tragedy continues unabated irrespective as to which political party forms the government.

In the sports arena, American re-colonial psychological dependency comes to the fore. In this 43rd year of independence, TnT's basketball teams have such derived American names as "Detour Shak Attack", "Caledonia Bulls," "New Grant Nets", "CIL Cavaliers", "Maloney Pacers", "NP Caledonia Clippers", "AND 1 Trailblazers", "Cosmic Raptors", " Royal Extra Lions", "Chaguanas Wizzards," "Valencia Kings", and "Londdenville Warriors."

In addition, some of TnT's football teams also have derived American names such as "Roxborough Lakers", "Mayaro Spurs", "Cosmos" and "Falcon Crest".

As an independent people, why couldn't these teams come up with original names to reflect their own indigenous "independent thought and (TnT) freedom?".

However, the American re-colonialism process does not stop there. "Soca for Summer," and "Fall Winter Collection", "Maraj Gold Summer", and "Singer Summer Scorcher" sales are now alive and kicking in malls in TnT.

From time immemorial, this writer has always been taught and has always thought that TnT is a tropical twin-island with only two seasons, namely, dry and rainy. Maybe, either weather patterns have since changed or TnT 's geological axis has shifted since the 1980s when American re-colonialization life patterns became an uncontrollable reality.

In addition, Trinbagonians celebrate Halloween and can readily access "Halloween makeup" in malls across TnT as they simultaneously celebrate this country's 43rd year of independence.

In the culinary arena, the American fast-foods business establishments speak volumes of this psychological dependency and utter disdain for local foods.

"In this day and age" of political independence, streets, parks, oval, savannah, squares, districts, towns, etc, still have their centuries-old Euro-British-Spanish colonial names.

In the 1960s, Trinbagonians wanted to be more British than the British themselves. Since the onslaught of Cable TV in the early 1980s, Trinbagonians have voluntarily tilted their satellite life antenna dish to beam in on the "American dream" up close and personal.

Truth Be Told: Trinbagonians have lost/abandoned all sense of national identity, self-consciousness and nation-building. Today, the prevailing mind-set/modus vivendi is : "I, Me, Myself" a la American "fifty- cent philosophy."

Dependent, external Americanism has replaced independent, internal TnT nationalism. Real national independence has thus become "a fleeting illusion to be pursued but never attained."

Truth Be Told: TnT "is a paradox which illustrates and highlights neo-colonialism."

And it was the politically neutral but politically correct Rev. Cyril Paul who felt compelled to make the apocalyptic confession: "I am ashamed to be a citizen of TnT."

In the final analysis, on its 43rd birthday, TnT is in moral ruins.

Shem Hotep ("I go in peace").

Dr. Kwame Nantambu is a part-time lecturer at Cipriani Labour College.

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