Long Walk to Freedom – Part 2

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
July 16, 2017


Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeThe Anti-Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, South Africa, offers an excellent exhibition on the life of Nelson Mandela, the most recognizable person of the twenty-first century. On one of the walls there is a quotation that is attributed to Aristotle, the Greek philosopher. It reads: “Good moral character is not something that we can achieve on our own. We need a culture that supports the condition under which self-love and friendship can flourish.”

Reading those words, I thought of Trinidad and Tobago immediately, the Global Peace Index Report of 2017 having named us the second most dangerous nation in the Caribbean with a global ranking of 67. I am not sure what we did or left undone to earn such ungodly notoriety. It is a frightening prospect to behold.

The problem is not money. Over the last decade over $1 trillion has flown through T&T’s coffers even though the national budget has dropped by $12.9 billion over the last two years. Our Prime Minister reminds us: “In 2014-2015 revenue stood at $57.3 billion and the following year (2015-2016), the first year the People’s National Movement assumed office, those revenues fell to $44.9 billion” (Guardian, July 12).

Meanwhile, our Prime Minister has begun another round of national discussions. He suggested that we start a conversation on how to fund our elections. The actual conversation ended up with a warning that the government may make additional layoffs in the public service and seek to restore confidence in the police service. He also asked if there should be another general election soon. Midway through the conversation, Mervyn McIntosh objected: “None of us sang the national anthem” (Express, July 13).

I cannot see how another election (or another round of layoffs) will change the downward spiral into which we have fallen. Our problem is one of quality (a people problem) rather than one of quantity (a money problem). It revolves around the absence of genuinely insightful leadership by any of the political parties. I am yet to hear one enlightening idea from the PNM or the UNC about how we can emerge from a situation in which our international reputation lowered each year.

The PNM, in my estimation, has reached a dead end in terms of its political thinking. No new ideas animate the bosoms of its leaders. Nothing new ever comes out of the mouths of our parliamentarians. Sometimes I am left with the impression that the blind are leading the enlightened whose reticence (and unflinching loyalty) prevent them from unmasking the shallowness of their representatives. I expect nothing from the UNC so I am seldom disappointed.

On Saturday, July 1, I visited the Slave Lodge in Cape Town, South Africa, that was built in 1679 to accommodate Africans who were taken from other parts of Africa by the Dutch East India Company to labor on public works and the company outposts. A caption on the wall reminds us that freedom isn’t free. It isn’t something handed down to a person. Each generation must learn and fight for it anew. “You need to defend it. The ideological struggle is on-going. There will always be people, individuals or groups who will want to reverse the gains attained by liberation.”

In his introduction to Mandela’s No Easy Walk to Freedom, William Gumede wrote: “Someone who occupies a position of authority and holds and exercises power is not always necessarily a leader. Leadership is about the quality of an individual’s actions, behavior and vision. During the ‘dark times’ of apartheid and colonialism, the Mandela generation offered a kind of leadership that was apparent in the quality of their actions.”

Many South Africans, particularly Julius Malema and his Economic Freedom Fighters, believe Mandela sold them out during the peace negotiations. They believe he made too many concessions to the apartheid regime leaving whites in control of the major levers of the economy. They abhor (or are certainly skeptical of) the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Too many officials of the apartheid regime walked away scot-free without paying for their crimes against the non-white people of the society. While Thabo Mbeki, the former president of South Africa, accepts some of these criticisms, he preferred what he called “dynamic compromising,” a policy that emphasized peace rather than pure justice.

When I grew up in T&T we believed we could solve most of our problems if we put our heads together and worked collectively to build our society. We lived in what one might call a form of political and economic utopia. We read, we debated ideas; and our leaders, from the community level up, led by example. Through our labor we created a society in which, as Aristotle contended, self-love, friendship, and respect for one another flourished.

Over the years, we have drifted away from those values (Mandela called it “character”) that allow us to act as conscientious and responsible citizens. The vulgarity that passes for politics today leaves much to be desired. “Conversation with the Prime Minister” turns out to be nothing but a gripe session. Perhaps McIntosh’s comment about the non-playing of the national anthem best captures the national sentiment: “That was a disrespect.”

2 thoughts on “Long Walk to Freedom – Part 2”

  1. It would seem wrong to let those who committed horrible atrocities against black people to walk free under truth and reconciliation. Mandela might have given too much. But what was the option? To engage in a civil war against heavily armed white citizens would have resulted in a blood bath that would have continued in perpetuity. They control and understood the security apparatus.

    It is a fact that 0.4% of the TNT population controls the wealth. They get paid $200 million per year just to move prisoners from jail to court. Along with that by their admission they own 120 businesses. Contracts, cost over run and deeply embedded in the PNM hireachy make them billionaires. This whilst the poor Negroe goes to bed living with the uncertainty that comes from possible job loss. This government is yet to capture the imagination of a depressed nation. The hole is getting deeper everyday and slowly turning into a bottomless pit.

    It is the similar situation in South Africa resulting in uncontrolled crime that escalates due to the economic inequality. Kamla spread the wealth around, I was shocked to know all my family members found work whilst she was in office. That is a record by any standard. With the short man in charge it is just a matter of time before they become victims of “restructuring”. The plague of unemployment has hit the nation like a tsunami. No plans to restructure the steel industry or find a viable partner. Steel certainly helps the GDP. But this PM loves to golf watch crab race in Tobago and go on vacation. Kamla was on the job 24/7 and understood the power of the Prime Minister office in effecting change. The PM job is a 24 hour job because situations need to be addressed immediately or else a stream becomes a river over night. Case in point the flooding, the PM show up several days later and offered a pittance of $25 million. The person in charge of disbursement is saying the situation is bad because of fraudulent claims. Another excuse to deprive those who are genuinely in need and treat poor people as thieves.

    The future of the nation hangs in the balance, thieves are now roaming the streets in broad day light looking for easy targets to relieve them of gold chains and other valuables. Businesses are now easy target as the thief enters in without guns or knives and simply threaten business owners mainly women and march off with their money, deed done in less than 3 minutes.

    Mandela did what he could to end an oppressive system Malema represents the younger generation. They feel disenfranchised and disillusioned, Malema is stirring the pot of discontent and the future remain still a long walk to freedom.

  2. No one, without the knowledge of international history is able to articulate the continued ills of our people.Dr Cudjoe, when you toured the anti-arpathied museum did you see yourself? or some foreign calamity, as man becomes aged the things taught to him as truth, tends not to be factual, only to transitioned a broken spirit. Quoting Aristotle, you continue to mis-lead your people believing in a subject stolen from your ancestors, wasn’t Aristotle part of Alexander the GREEK’ invading force in conquering KHEMET? the !0000 books said to have been written by him, haven’t these lies been refuted?in the continued search of seeking our past,we expect more radicalism in your writings you cannot be friends with every body.Some of us tend to visit the donjons where our people was kept before being shipped into slavery,but the conditions we inherited both in slavery and indentureship, wasn’t it the same? where is the museum to reflect our travails?the oppressor always is partnered by the people he oppresses, we always play a role in our inherent destruction, if you are free as an individual and your people are still shackled ,you are not free.Show me a time growing up in TRINIDAD when any problems was solved? BLACK/BLACK marginalization, BLACK/INDIAN marginalization, WHITE,BLACK,INDIAN,CREOLE marginalization, thats what you grew up with, teach us the truth, truth is the greatest weapon in the hands of humankind, and also the most hated,its playing out right before our eyes in TRINIDAD.Symbolism is the greatest enemy of the African,MANDELA was the face given by the imperialist to the freedom struggle, but the true characters, were OLIVER TAMBO,STEVE BIKO, WINNIE MANDELA and many many more plus the support given by the neighboring states and the Africans in the diaspora standing in solidarity.Castro died leaving CUBA on a strong road to self determination, MAO have left CHINA extremely strong, NEHRU paved the paved the road to what INDIA is becoming, history will continue to be the best of all teachers.What little vision the PNM had from colonialism to now is long dead,the last 40yrs have been graft and deceit, the UNC is of no difference, its like a football game, two intervals till full time, goalless.You can indoctrinate a man, but you can’t teach character, who you are in the valley, is who you are,when you are used to build nations and systems,freedom is never determined.IF YOU DON’T KNOW YOUR HERITAGE,YOU DON’T KNOW WHERE YOU BELONG.IF YOU DON’T KNOW YOUR HISTORY,YOU ARE LOST.HOTEP.

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