A Culture of Life

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
February 21, 2008

LaventilleThere is a frightening scene at the end of Emmanuel Appadocca, the first novel written by a Trinidadian in 1854 in which Emmanuel Appadocca, the major protagonist and son James Willmington, an English sugar planter, breaks into his father’s home in St Ann’s, seizes him and condemns him to death for abandoning him while he was a child. In this novel, author Maxwell Philip, examines the implications of the lex talionis–or the law of just revenge–and seeks to understand how it should be applied in the particular circumstance.

In this philosophical novel that draws on Enlightenment ideas of the eighteenth century, Philip explores the question: what does a devoted son do when he is betrayed by his father. He says, “Nature revolts only against injustice. All things are entitled to a certain measure of justice; and the natural contract between parent and child is based on the condition that, as the former has loved the latter, and protected its infancy, the latter will yield obedience, honor and respect, and gratitude to him. Where the condition be not fulfilled, the contract, by necessity, ceases, the child becomes absolved from his obligation; and if he resents more than ordinary wrongs that may have been done to him–nay, nature calls upon him to undertake the office of avenger, and to vindicate her law.”

These words ring with enormous relevance as one reads of the terrible things that are happening in Laventille and the inability of government to respond adequately to this crisis. It is as if decades of neglect are coming home to haunt the PNM and, like a neglectful parent, it can neither understand the child’s torment or why he feels the need for vengeance. Anglican Bishop Calvin Best suggested that “a culture of death is being created in this country” in which life is absurd and death itself has its own grotesque meaning.

Fifty years ago the children of Laventille placed their faith in the PNM. In its greatest hour of distress, when NAR swamped the country, the people of Laventille kept the faith and supported the PNM. Today, the PNM has abandoned Laventille and betrayed the trust these children placed in them. Were he alive today, Jesus would say the PNM abandoned the people of Laventille in the “heat and burthen of the day.”

While the government has set up the East Port of Spain Development Company to develop the area no one knows what their plans are. Moreover, the people of the area are not involved in their own development. There are seen as mere objects of this grandiose project rather than subjects who are involved in constructing their lives.

While lots of money have been spent (perhaps wasted is a better word) in the area no one has outlined what the issues are and how best to solve them. No transformational work is taking place and no one knows of any specific plans to stem this national blight.

Laventille is in crisis and its population is without hope. The police are afraid to enter the area, unable to restore law and order, and Laventillians have taken the law into their hands. Government’s lack of transparency suggests that there are no tangible plans to deal with the inadequate housing, lack of education, unemployment, family discord and broken lives that overrun this area.

Previously, PNM fought under the slogan: “People matter.” Every party member understood that development involves the satisfaction of people’s needs and a determination to prepare them to face the multiple tasks that confront them. That is the spirit of PNM’s 20/20 vision; a dream to achieve developed nation status by the year 2020.

PNM cannot respond to this problem adequately unless it puts out a development plan for this area; solicit the views of the national community; engage the energies of the people of the area; and then urge the national community to come together to solve the problem. It is too great a task for a company or a party to achieve. It is a task the nation must solve.

In Emmanuel Appadocca, Philip says that duty “is poised between the reward of virtue and retribution. Man has the license to choose, between either meriting the former, or bringing down the latter upon himself. The great error of your social physics (sociology) is, that you remit your penalty to a period of time, which it were unimagined, would fail to afford the principal and best effect of retribution–the deterring from crimes.”

PNM should not let the desire of Laventille’s people for just vengeance fall upon them. Like Meursault, the major protagonist of Camus’ The Stranger, it should not let any young man of Laventille feel that the blind rage to kill washes him clean, rid him of hope and, for the first time, “in that night alive with signs and stars, he opens himself to the gentle indifference of the world.”

Duty and the law of natural justice demand that PNM come up with a comprehensive plan to deal with the problems of Laventille. Laventillians must be encouraged to recommit to a culture of life.


21 thoughts on “A Culture of Life”

  1. Maxwell Phillips’ Emmanuel had many compatriots throughout the slave owning Americas, where white plantation owners mated with their slave women, and sold off offspring as young as four years old. These “pet” children were used as companions to young children who were their siblings by the master’s white wife. later, they could have been sold to anyone, and it could have been the source of cross matings between the white son of the planter, and his brown half sister. These animal-people called slavemasters, permitted relations, and participated in relations that they would not have allowed in their breeding stock of cattle , horses or pigs, but They participated in the remating of their bloodlines.

    What does one say of such people? They are beneath the animals. Chimpanzees and other colony-living primates do not mate with their offspring.

    When we look at the mess western societies have made of the lives of the stolen people we must conclude that a vast criminal class was exported from Europe to the Americas, and that is the root of all trouble. Nowhere in the social stories of the indigenous people- from the Algonquin to the Zuni, and including the Aruac and Taino people, are there stories of incest and double incest. They do not occur in pre-colonial Africa either, nor have I heard of any from India. Anyone who knows more on this could please enlighten me. No, I haven’t read everything.

    In restructuring a broken culture of life, we have to face some bitter truths; the conflicts of values is that of traditional peoples, forced to adopt the alien lifestyle of renegade Europeans.

  2. It’s a typical scenario seen throughout the world. When a political force gets acccustomed and comfortable with power, they tend to forget those who put them there, and who have been with them through thick and thin. The PNM knows that they can depend on Laventille no matter what. It’s unfair that the faith hasn’t been returned, but that’s what politics is about. Until Laventille decides to demand respect, nothing will change.

  3. Laventille gives a lie to the notion that the PNM favours those who are its most ardous supporters. Laventille in its historical unfortunacy exist to alert us to take with a grain of salt some of the postulations of those who would have us believe that the PNM is heaping the treasures of the state upon those on its political plantation.

    There are Laventille’s in every part of this world Africans exist in large masses. They do not have to be. They exist because we continue to strive to become facsimiles of those who told us they are superior, rather than using their behaviour towards us as Linda does, as evidence of what they really are.

    Look, all people in this world have worth and for the most part are good and gracious. But African peoples are in the predicament of trying to win recognition in a world educated towards denying them exactly that. We are in the predicament of trying to survive in a world shaped to be hostile to our survival. We have to wake up and say to this world and those in it, “no offence, we love you, but until we have reversed or repaired the harm done to us over the past three hundred years we will have to concentrate on group unity before anything else”. “When we have achieved that and become as culturally fused as you all are, we will embark upon this drive for universal coming together”. Laventille exist because of the deliberate and forced and hstorical disconnections between African Peoples. Repair that and there will be far less, if any Laventilles to be concerned about.

  4. My hard and real question is this:
    Can anyone of you realistically define what is or was or shall be a SLAVE specifically as it relates to the people who were transplanted to Americas and the Caribbean Islands from Africa.
    I shall ask the ” next hard question” when you provide the definitions based upon facts not ” gobble de gook”.

  5. Question: What is the difference between the TNT Citizen ( who was born and raised and educated here in TNT) and the Student who was born and raised and educated in India and Africa when they all have enrooled into Oxford University and graduated top of their class from Oxford University ?

  6. I can respond to “What is/was a slave”in the broadest sense of the term, as it applied to forced labour without pay, forced sexual degradation,the sale of one’s child or wife or husband with the partner having no say in the matter. Having no right to one’s own time or privacy.Having no say in the conditions of one’s employment, and others having the rights to even your unborn child. It includes watching your daughter raped by a man with power, and you are powerless to stop him. It is being packed up and sold to another person far away, leaving your relatives behind, and acording to one testimonial from a researcher in the Dominican Republic, it is having your leg chopped off at the ankle for running away, and hobbling to work in the field on one leg and a stump of bone.It is being whipped for speaking your own language, and having boiling oil poured on you because you practised some herbal healing, which the master feared. It is being forced to speak a kind of pidgin English deliberately taught to you to prevent you from mastering the skill of reading. It is fining a master ten thousand dollars (IN 1805) or so, for teaching you to read, but fining him a thousand dollars for killing another white man in a fight.

    This was the fate not only of kidnapped Africans but of all the indigenes of the Americas who could not flee to the hills and hide from the European.It was the fate of many lower caste people in India and Burma, and the fate of the Aboriginal people of Australia and Tasmani. What did they share in common? The white man came to their country, determined to enrich himself at the cost of destroyig he indigeous people.

    How well he succeeded is to be seen in the attitudes of many westerners, brown in color and curly of hair, to their ancestral homelands.

  7. Linda Edwards:
    Thank you very much for your definition in so far as it related to the question specifically asked which was ,” as it relates to the people who were transplanted from Africa into the Americas.”

    The reason for my limiting the definition to those unfortunate people transplanted from Africa ( against there will of course) to the Americas both North and South is pretty obvious: There are no other people in this world who have had racialism practiced so stubbornly and persistently ( in every walk of life and by every race which they encounter ) against them in the Caribbean and the Americas like the people who were transplanted from Africa against their will to the Caribbean and the Americas and even in their very native Lands in Africa. The racialism continues to this day and even as we speak right now.

    Looking at your definition of Slavery and viewing the definition against the first reports of slavery which I know of ( maybe some of you who know a lot more than I could refute what I am saying and I will welcome the facts and thereby learn from your refutation) I see two different definitions here.

    The first report which I know of slavery is what I have read in the Holy Bible (KJV).
    It was of Joseph being sold into Slavery by his brothers. Then as I read through the Holy Bible there are mentions of slavery and how to treat a slave.Then the Romans and others had slaves etc the Jews were held in Slavery ( I could be wrong here ) by the Romans and surely the Jews were held in Slavery by the NAZI and much of Linda Edwards definitions surely applies there.
    I do wish to point out most of these people who were slaves seem to be ” Captured ” as prisoners of war or as in the case of the Jews in NAZI Germany,were in the slave masters country.
    It seems to me that the African situation is vastly different….it is like salt and sugar.

    Now when one looks at the African situation it is fundamentally different in structure.
    This was a case of people going to other people’s country and stealing them out of their country and transporting them to another country ( which seemed like another planet to these people) and having a deliberate policy of rooting out by sheer force all( not some but all ) vestiges and every trace of their origin and who they are from their psyche and making them over psychologically or whatever you want to call it…but making them over into a different person from one generation to the next so that they will have absolutely no trace of who they are and where they came from and who their people are.
    This seem to me to be something which is beyond mere slavery.
    It is like if some aliens landed from another Solar System and snatched all of us in Trinidad and Tobago( it will be nice if hey snatched all the Media people and the Politicians ) and transported us to their solar system make us do their bidding and forced us to mate and then taught our offspring that they were whatever they chose to teach them to be!
    What in the world will the final human being be three generations down the road???
    How could that be simply called,” SLAVERY!”

    Under TNT Law,US Law,English Law and every Law in the world which I know of that is ,” Kidnapping.”
    In my humble view I see the people who did that horrible crime as ,” Kidnappers” and their victims not as slaves,but,” Kidnap Victims.”
    To say they were slaves is a further injustice done by of all people ,” US” today people and brings the actions of the KIDNAPPERS into the same cater gory like the brothers of Joseph ( the Egyptians did not steal his language and his memories nor forced him to impregnate other Jews for to sell the offspring) and the Romans as they conquered nations in war and enslaved the captives and sold them to Roman Citizens as slaves who could buy their freedom…no this is not slavery and these victims were not slaves so it is a grave injustice to continue to refer to these hapless victims as slaves and their off spring who have survived this horror which went on for centuries to refer to them as ” descendants of slaves.”
    I am surprised that so called great intellectuals and scholars like Mr>Daniels have never pursued this!
    I don’t know about you folks but I know as I learned of what actually happened I saw degenerate Kidnappers not slave masters,but,what do I know,I am just the fearless TNT Republican asking the hard questions and am I of African Descent?
    Well,that is for me to know and you to find out but does it matter what my race be or maybe it does ?
    I would think the facts matter!
    Do you ?

  8. Mr.Daniels:
    Hard question for you:
    Why have you not used your pen against the PNM who have ( as you must know) have done nothing really to move the African descent people to a position of educational,land owing,economic and professional strength seeing that the African vote is what placed them in power and keeps them in Power ?

    Actually this is not my ideas but while I was standing on the ledge where you placed me to stand ( the view up here is really great )A little bird flew by and I waved to it, and it came back and told me that maybe the PNM knows that in the day that these mostly poor and none “home owning” and forever renting and living in State subsidized apartments ( which turns into slums ….is the State now a “slum lord ??” ) people ever get a real education and strong career guidance and solid political awareness and understanding of Government and its true power,like Kerry,Linda,Dr.Cudjoe,Stephen Kangal,Susan Edwards,Raffique Shah,Ken Gordon,the wealthy Syrians,the whites and those Super Star Indian Students who keep winning those national Scholarships( while Africans slaughtering each other in Laventille),yes Sir, in the that day in which they get the aforementioned they will angrily call for an immediate referendum and that will be last we will ever see or hear of this current old and dilapidated and morally deficient and incompetent crop of PNM and UNCA people in any kind of governmental office except maybe their ” Cell” at Carrera Convict Prison?
    Do not attack me for it wasn’t me but the nasty little “dougla” bird who told me to ask you that question!
    Do you Mr.Daniels,with all your great debating and educational and historical skills have the courage ,the skills,the commitment and love for TNT which will compel you to lead the Charge to remove the idiots which are staining and disgracing our Parliament as they continue to insult your intelligence and that of every single patriotic Citizen in TNT?
    Or are you going to come up on the ledge where you placed me and hide under the gobble de gook and attack me ?
    I am not the one who is hurting our TNT sir,your friends are!

  9. The Indians Mr.Daniels have done greatly by way of home ownership,economic gains,wealth building,educationally and professionally with an African dominated Government…. but why is it Mr.Daniels ,have not the Africans done as well or even better with an African with an African dominated Government in Charge for so long?

    Can anyone blame Indians for their hard work and relentless effort to move forward and to move their children forward as best as they could within the system dominated by the African Dominated PNM?

    My question also comes back to …what if Dr.Capildeo and Mr.Jamadar and an Indian dominated Government had power for fifty or so years …where will our country and the African population have been today ?

    Sorry ,Hard Question to you and there is no gobble de gook and attack ” harry Williamn “escape hatch here!

  10. Williamn, you are seriously out of order, and damned well out of place! If you actually bothered to read (anything written on national issues),you would know that there are many IndoTrinis in a similar predicament of disenchantment and under-education. Your argument has absolutely no basis in fact, and it is quite evident that (your)racial bias and dsirespect has evidently clogged your reasoning.

    In respect of the “African vote” keeping the PNM in power, that is again severe crap! Go back and have a look at Nov 5 results again. Youw will see that the UNC (A, or whatever) lost grip of several “Indian” constituencies to the PNM. You really need to open your mind, man, and stop all the rubbish.

  11. Correction,please,(4) Should read thus:-
    (4)….are in Politics not for personal gain but to bring our TNT back to where it shall be if we are sincere and committed to do so.

  12. Harry Williamn when you put your mouth in gear without engaging your brain and your primitibe prejudice creeps to the fore I exhult YESSS!!! I do so becuse I knew I penned you right from the first word you penned in this forum.

    Ignorance produces ignorant reasonings, and yours cannot be topped. Where in this thread did anyone blame Indians for the predicament of the subject matter that began this debate. Your reptilian mental make-up impells you to project the residue that circles around in your brain unto those who see you for what you are. A little eichman unable to control the bottom house tutoring he received while sitting on the lap of his parents and grandparents.

  13. Despite the eloquence of Dr. Cudjoe’s allegory, it is also worth considering whether decades of blind obedience and allegiance to the PNM and UNC are not also part of this twisted equation, as we grapple with the problems facing the people of Lavantille. The immediate battleground may be Laventille, but we should make no mistake about it; this is an impending national crisis.

    The people owe no gratitude to any party or government.The democratic process allows for the people to choose a government that would serve in their best interests and to reject a party or its candidates who would not. Dr. Cudgoe goes hopelessly astray when he erroneously injects the notion that the right to representation and to have a government responsive to the needs of the people is analogous to the mutual expectations as between parents and their children. The people of TnT are not children engaged in a system of reciprocity with their parents. This is a remnant of colonial rule.

    The problem in TnT is that blind support of party, for what ever reasons, has bred paternalism, condescension and neglect of the most faithful by politicians. The knee-jerk “PNM no matter what” and “UNC right or wrong,” has given charlatans the right to take their constituents for granted and to be absolved of any accountability.

    Maybe the urgency of the current situation and the ineptness of the response by the government–majority party and opposition–would lead to organized struggle and demands for addressing the real needs of the people.

  14. In a response to a query raised byone blogger, I wrote a comment on the worldwide nature of slavery. here is some additional information that came to hand in today’s mail
    The magazine Foreign Policy (www. ForeignPolicy.com) has published a major article by E Benjamin Skinner entitled A World Enslaved, in which, after four years of research on all continents, he ocuments how easy it is to buy a slave- one in Haiti cost $50.00 US. He also documents the case of a male slave in Uttar Pradesh, India. He is a slave for life based on indebtedness. According to Skinner, Gonoo Lal Kol’s story is “the other side of the Indian miracle”. This piece is worth reading. Readers can download, and realize that in the USA today, there are an estimated 17,000 new slaves each year. They come from wherever people are poor, and do not know their rights.

    Education is the answer. Please read.There is a video interview online also.

  15. Mr.Phil John you are on the right track and Mr.Daniels will seek to knock you off.
    Kerry I gave you a very hard hitting reply which debunked all your drivel but the Moderators did not publish it because they probably felt sorry for you unless you are the moderator ?
    You do not know if I am of east Indian descent or African or white or Syrian yet you pull out the ” coal pot” and threw it at me !
    That is a sign of abject desperation but know in your heart that I am not moving an inch and as for Mr.Daniel’s remarks ….somewhere out on his ledge between trying to jump and not to jump his wires got crossed and he got so out of control that he dares to say that I said or implied that ” Indians” are the cause of the plight of the African today!

    Maybe that is his ( Freudian slip) hypothesis not mine in any writings thus far …my case is a simple one:
    (1) The Africans in the vast majority has traditionally ( except for 1986) voted ” straight PNM.” for well near fifty years and what do they have ,as a majority to show for it ?

    (2) The Indians have done the opposite and voted for whatever Indian party in comes along ( same old players just different names for the club) and never really had power but for a fleeting moment but what have they to show for their vote?
    Great economic and educational strides.
    (3) My question asked ,Mr.Daniels,what if Dr.Caplideo and Mr. Vernon Jamadar and company ( the Indian Party ) had been in power for well over 50 years …what will have been the plight or situation of the African today?
    Is that “too simple ” for you to answer or do I need to wrap it up in your favorite language,” gobble de gook” ?
    That is it,Sir!

  16. Williamn, all I have to say to you is riiiiiiight! My condolences to those exposed to you warped sense of…everything on a daily basis. That goes 10-fold for your kids.

  17. Let me see. Gobble dee gook: Definition: Unintelligible or nonsensical talk or language: Example: That is a sign of abject desperation but know in your heart that I am not moving an inch and as for Mr.Daniel’s remarks ….somewhere out on his ledge between trying to jump and not to jump his wires got crossed and he got so out of control that he dares to say that I said or implied that ” Indians” are the cause of the plight of the African today!. Vomitting run ons like this are prime examples of gobble dee gook. They are unintelligible and suggest a mental source informed more by nonsense than good sense.

    Like I said Willamn, the good book warned of the hypocrites who would stand at the street corners, beat on their chest and extol their virtues. It is almost as if the author of those words had you in mind. A backward bigot, who sashayed into this forum pounding on his chest and calling himself fearless while spouting a whole heap of disjointed drivel. Yes, you do belong on a ledge somewhere.

  18. Quote from Mr.Daniels:-

    ” Where in this thread did anyone blame Indians for the predicament of the subject matter that began this debate.”

    You shall direct the question to Mr.Kerry Mulchansigh who accused me ( not knowing to this day my Racial make up) of being a ” Racist!”

  19. Williamn, Daniels asked you the question!! I didn’t make any references whatsoever to him here, so stop ducking!

    Your racial background is of no interest to me…Hitler was white, Bush is white, Amin was black, Panday is Indian, so what’s the difference…….a racist is a racist is a f’ing racist. Now answer the man.

  20. While everyone here has chosen to attack Mr. Williams personally, noone has debunked his primary argument, which to me is easy to debunk. I doubt Mr. Williams or anyone else has conducted any research on the effect an “Indian government” had on the economic and educational wellbeing of the “Indian community”. It seems to me that 1) the Indian community was well on its trajectory to its economic and educational successes long before this so called Indian government came into being. This has been well researched and documented. 2) What specific measures implemented by this Indian government solely benefitted Indians during their term? the only thing I can think of is that their Indian friends benefitted from the corruption but If you have done some research into the policy positions adopted by the UNC that led to immediate and indirect benefits accruing solely or disproportionately to the Indian community, that would be useful to share. I can go on but I don’t think it is necessary. But this kind of debate is the reason why trinidad is where it is, everyone pretends to be an expert when they don’t really know jack ish about what they are talking about. Too many experts, very little knowledge and even less sense.

  21. And Mr. Williams, I will humbly offer that your argument about kidnap victims versus slavery ignores the most fundamental part of this equation. This massive multigenerational transplant of people was not simply a physical act of removal, there was an economic basis for this activity, hence the word slave! They didnt just bring them here and let them enjoy the paradise afterward, they forced them to work for free. we all know labor costs are an integral part of running an economic, profit generating operation. The reason why it has taken the rest of the world so long to catch up to the capitalist superpowers of the world is we do not have the luxury of free labor in an economic system which is still by and large labor intensive (in the so-called developing world that is). To ignore this fundamental fact is to be simple minded.

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