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Physician, Heal Thyself
Posted: Sunday, April 16, 2006

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe

What would you do if you went to a medical doctor (a physician) with a serious disease and he threw up his hands and told you "to pray?" My feeling is that you would run away from him so fast that he would only see the back of your heels.

Why? Because you expect that a physician, having been trained scientifically to heal physical diseases, would use his expertise to cure your ailment. If you desired prayers, more than likely you would have gone to your priest, your rabbi or your imam.

Imagine then, from week to week, you are treated with tired pablum that says our society is headed towards degeneration and that we need prayers to overcome our social disease. In a peculiar syntactical outpouring, this social commentator asks: " And what do we need to do to make this land a place where Jesus, who was spat upon and brutalized, the last time he tried to raise the consciousness of people, might consider walking, talking, teaching again" ("Would Jesus be Welcomed in T&T?" TG, April 14).

Such a question may be tolerably except that it comes from the very person who has been placed in charge of our higher educational system for the past five years which leads us to ask "what has this man being doing during his tenure at his institution?" There is crime in the streets, people are dying before our eyes but like any staunch born-again we are asked to anticipate the Pentecost, "What could we do to make the Holy Spirit descend upon us again?"

Now, we have been told that the forte of academic institutions, among other things, is to apply the fruits of science--political, social or natural-to the problems that beset our society and to come up with solutions. In other words, because science depends on repeatability and predictability, through the application of objective methods, we can understand the cause and thereby solve many of the problems that are thrown at us. If there is a problem of crime (a social disease), malaria (a medical disease), or Panama Disease (a plant disease), we expect a social scientist, a medical researcher, or a plant pathologist respectively, to apply his/her scientific knowledge to tell us how to overcome such maladies.

No such luck with the head of our premier academic institution. He tells us that our society is heading towards "devolution and degeneration" and perhaps we ought to pray. Other scholars such as C. L.R. James who have looked at our society, has marveled at our people's capacity to survive and to produce in spite of all of the problems that besieged us. On the other hand, renegades and racist scholars such as Thomas Carlyle and Anthony Froude, have detected only degeneracy, even cannibalism, in our social evolution and warned that once the guiding spirit of the superior (usually the colonial) power goes away, destruction is sure to follow in our midst.

Yet, the central question remains: do we condemn an entire society because of the activities of a few misguided and perhaps deranged souls or do we assert our resilience and strength and seek to find the causes and solutions to our problems. Do we throw up our hands, call down the devil's wrath and run away from the responsibilities that have been entrusted upon all of us who find ourselves in leadership positions? So that when one takes the position that T&T is "committed to the murder of goodness and dedicated to the destruction of love"-apart from the irresponsibility of such a generalization--one wonders whether such a person understands his ethical responsibilities and whether he should be leading our premier institution in the first place.

A few weeks ago, at a NAEAP forum, the Hon. Patrick Manning called upon scholars to behave as scholars and to get on with the business of educating the public rather than uttering falsehoods about the society for which there is no evidence. He noted: "There is indeed room for the scholars amongst us to act and behave as scholars...There are so many masquerade scholars....One of the things that must happen in this society is for our academics to behave as academics and to perform the role of educating the society. Otherwise, you will leave the door open for those with private agendas, for whatever purpose, and who will continue to mislead the population" (A transcript of the PM's remarks, March 25, 2006).

No one in his correct mind-religious or otherwise-would deny the truth content of what the PM said and the correctness in his asking the faculty of University of the West Indies to perform the functions for which the university has been established: that is, to assist the population in solving its social, political, moral and economic problems. Other institutions must participate in this task but it remains a major function of a national university.

The Prime Minister also alluded to another concern: the ethical relationship between those who are given certain responsibilities and how well they carry out those responsibilities. He suggested (although these are not his words) that "an ethical relation of responsibility towards others first and foremost requires recognition of one's own location of privilege, before any attempt can be made to 'touch' or 'feel' those others."

It follows, therefore, that no matter how much our Principal empathizes with the power of love-the Jesus message-and the power of Hinduism-the evolution towards a higher consciousness, he has an ethical obligation to tells how well he has organized our university to deal with the degeneracy which he says has overcome us. And if he has been head of the university for the last five years-as the government has been in power for the last five years-honesty demands that he tells us how much culpability he shares for the state of lovelessness, degeneracy and devolution of consciousness that are present in our society today?

As our Principal ponders these matters-in love, I hope-he should reflect on some other words of Jesus (Luke 4:23) that asserts: "Physician, heal thyself!" In Trinidadianese it means, "When yo' neighbor house on fire, wet yours!!"

Translation!!! Should we not demand that the social and political scientists, the criminologists and the psychologists at our university use their skills to help us to come to terms with the problems that ail our society?

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