Is Trinidad a real place?

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
March 20, 2023

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeLast Sunday, Terrence Farrell, one of our premier public intellectuals, sought to explain why some people say that “Trinidad is not a real place”. Speaking of the mess in which Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard found himself when he dismissed the Piarco airport corruption case, Farrell observed that it is these failures that prompt our frustration and “give weight to epithets such as ‘Trinidad is not a real place'” (Sunday Express, March 12).

I am not sure the statement “Trinidad is not a real place” is an epithet (“a term of abuse”). It is more a philosophical question about our ontological status in the world that is captured more accurately in the question, “Is Trinidad a real place?” Many philosophers pose their enquiries in the form of questions. Since philosophical ontology “is concerned with the study of what is, of the kinds and structures of objects, properties, events, processes, and relations in every realm of reality”, when a person asks, “Is Trinidad a real place?” one is asking how we apprehend our social reality and how well we apply our reason to the problems that face us.

This is why the State lawyers at the DPP’s office demanded that Attorney General Reginald Armour apologise to Gaspard for his offensive statement about their “underperformance”. They noted that the AG’s statement presented “a distorted view of the existing reality and is likely to undermine public confidence in the office” (Express, March 16). They felt insulted by his emotional outburst.

The Prime Minister’s announcement that the Government paid millions in rent for a new office that has remained unoccupied for the past three years only inflamed matters (Express, March 16).

To these lawyers, it would have made no substantial difference in the DPP’s position, even if the Government spent $100 million on a new office. They understood there is no causal connection between the two issues and that correlation does not imply causation.

Sophia Chote, president of the Law Association, pointed out the psychological dissociation in the Prime Minister’s remarks. She said, “There have been commitments given by the former attorney general [Faris Al-Rawi] that they had accepted the police recommendations that this building had to be fitted out with security features…because a prosecutor was murdered or killed while prosecuting a high-profile matter.” Prosecutors cannot overlook the security aspect of this matter “if we are to be serious about crime fighting at all in this country” (Express, March 16.)

Government authorities are free to indulge in psychological and philosophical obfuscation. In fact, it is ruinous to ask a reasonable question even in Parliament. On February 24, Rodney Charles asked the Prime Minister why T&T is unable “to come off the Tier 2 Watchlist rating in the US Trafficking in Persons Report? Not satisfied with answering Charles in Parliament, the Prime Minister describes him as “that little dirty mouth, flea-laden, lice-covered Rodney Charles…who tells the world that the PNM is building a headquarters from the proceeds of human trafficking”, at one of his public meetings. Such nastiness is unbecoming of a prime minister. It’s about time we acknowledge that his outbursts are a national disgrace.

Erla Harewood-Christopher, the Commissioner of Police, added insult to injury when she theorised, “An evil has spread over the land and we must recognise, those of us who are spiritually inclined, you must recognise that this is beyond the physical, and unless we seek the intervention of that greater spirit, whatever we may call Him…. We need to invoke the help of that being, if we really need to bring Trinidad and Tobago back to that place where we want it to be” (Trinidad Guardian, March 16). She added: “The police can come up with whatever strategy, but unless we enlist the help of God, we will be working in vain.”

Apparently, God has not been listening. Over the past several years, there have been many “days of prayer”, in which citizens appealed to God to change things in the country. Things have got worse. God is either deaf or we have been praying to the wrong deity.

God made the world (if we believe that) and endowed us, his children, with reason to work out our problems. Alejo Carpentier, the Cuban novelist, argued that a person’s greatness consists in doing his duties on earth. “In the Kingdom of Heaven there is no grandeur to be won, inasmuch as there is an established hierarchy, the unknown is revealed, existence is infinite, there is no possibility of sacrifice, all is rest and joy. For this reason, bowed down by suffering and duties, beautiful in the midst of his misery, capable of loving in the face of afflictions and trials, man finds his greatness, his fullest measure, only in the kingdom of this world” (The Kingdom of This World).

The term “ontology” is derived from the Greek “ontos” (“being” or “what exists”) and “logos” (“rational account” or “knowledge”). Therefore, when one asks rhetorically, “Is Trinidad a real place?”, one is seeking to discover the nature of our “being-in-the world” (the Heideggerian terminology for “consciousness”) and how we solve the problems that face us.

Given the irrational responses our officials give to our pressing needs, many of us believe that they reside in a state of cognitive dissonance, offering inconsistent solutions to our problems and displaying an adolescent impetuousness when confronted with real-life issues.

We exist in a real physical space, but our officials behave as automatons when confronted with real-life issues. It is almost as though they are playing “dollyhouse” in a world that demands that adults behave like adults. It is this bizarre situation that leads some of us to ask, “Is Trinidad a real place?”

It remains an open question.

4 thoughts on “Is Trinidad a real place?”

  1. Real places do not have Prime Ministers who described an Opposition parliamentarian as “little dirty mouth, flea-laden, lice-covered… this piece of nothingness, this wotlessness”. Here are some examples from Ralph’s column of Rowley’s turning T&T into an unreal place.
    As Opposition Leader, responding to criticism from then-PM Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Rowley declared on a PNM political platform: “She knows I love women. She thinks I love any woman. But she could jump high, she could jump low, she could drink this, she could drink that, she could bark at meh dog, because I go ignore she kyat.”
    He accused now Opposition Leader Persad-Bissessar of “jammetry”; and disrespected the prime ministerial podium with the crudity, “no man ain’t digging up in my bottom like that”, something a friend had told him privately as they discussed testing for prostate cancer
    Rowley said to Trinbagonians: “Suppose I go and buy some underwear for my wife and didn’t deliver it to her on time and somebody tells the press!” Heavens! Later, at an international conference, attempting philosophy but producing triteness, he said: “When I was a child, I was taught there was a place called heaven. But there was a fella called Lucifer who acted in a corrupt manner and had to be expelled from heaven. And I was told he was living here amongst us.”
    He smilingly offered to give women advice on how to “peel cassava”; and described a woman as “a golf-course” to be “groomed” lest she turn into a “pasture”
    There is also the linguistic violence, “trademark belligerence” as one columnist described it. Rowley has threatened to use his “s–t kickers” on an Opposition MP, said one critic deserves a “swift kick in the pants” and told another to “kiss my a—”.
    Now ,judge for yourselves.
    Do “real places” elect Prime Ministers who behave like this?

  2. Trinidad has move from being a real place to an illusion. There is a lack of realism in TnT. Let’s say the things that happen reminds us of a great statement of a former US President. That these nations are sh*thole nations.

    One African President favoured that President statement “
    President Donald Trump has a big fan in Uganda: President Yoweri Museveni.

    Less than two weeks after Trump allegedly used a vulgar term to describe nations in the continent, the Ugandan President is applauding him, saying he “talks to Africans frankly.”

    According to sources at an immigration meeting between Trump and lawmakers this month, the President referred to African nations and Haiti as “shithole countries.” He later denied making the comments.”—CNN

    The Justice system does not work. Some policemen recently caught taking “tax” from a businessman. The list of wickedness in high places is to numerous to mention. But some of it is covered in this article. An interesting read.

  3. In the 70s when petrodollars were flowing and the development of 2000 acres by PLIPDECO the level of corruption that was taking place at that time, T&T was referred to as “a God forsaken place” . 50 years later for T&T to be referred to as “not a real place” is politically correct and indirectly announces abuse of power and taxpayer dollars. It’s an epithet.

  4. “Apparently, God has not been listening. Over the past several years, there have been many “days of prayer”, in which citizens appealed to God to change things in the country. Things have got worse. God is either deaf or we have been praying to the wrong deity.”
    The PNM has always been a divide and rule party. If you operate under that hubris even the good Lord can’t do much in your nation. Your ministers ability to do right in the nation is restricted because they operate under the control of maximum leader. The PNM was placed in a mold and therefore free range of ideas do not exist in that party. Dr Rowley is known as the black Syrian working for the 1% who are getting it seems all government contracts and raking in massive profits. He said “I am weaning citizens off the government”.

    The Westminster governing system can become a bane on the neck of citizens. The government may have great plans and work for the betterment of the nation. The Opposition however becomes a downward centrifugal force. They oppose everything the government does even the good things. The problem with that is if you have an over achieving government and the Opposition forms the next government the opposite would happen as it is happening now. Why? Because there is power in the words we speak. The Opposition spends its time undercutting, undermining and seeking to stop the good that the government and when they walk the corridors of power they do exactly what they said they would do.

    The Keith Rowley government stop the construction of the Point Fortin Highway “ NIDCO seems set to pay close to one billion dollars to a Brazilian contractor for wrongful termination of the Point Fortin Highway contract. Arbitration proceedings in the UK seem to suggest that NIDCO wrongfully terminated OAS”. So the jack*sses in charge prefer to pay $1 billion for nutting instead of completing the highway. Then there is the Beetham Waste Water Project “ As WASA struggles to meet the demand of its consumers, Public Utilities Minister Robert Le Hunte said the Beetham Wastewater Treatment Plant was a wasteful and ill-conceived project that cost taxpayers close to $1 billion without producing one drop of water.

    He said TT taxpayers have to consider that $1 billion as a loss even pointing out that it would have cost an additional US$250 million (TT$1.9 billion) if Government had continued the project to only produce 10 million gallons of water”. “ The Beetham Water Recycling Plant will provide 10 million gallons of water per day to Pt. Lisas, thereby freeing up water for distribution to domestic customers across the country. This additional 10 million gallons of water per day will provide a full-time water supply to over 150,000 people and positively impact over 200,000.

    The Point Lisas Industrial Estate is a major consumer of water using an estimated 23 million gallons of water per day.”
    The project was shut down despite millions spent and would have been completed .

    The same modus operandi with the Couva Hospital. If it wasn’t for covid Rowley out of spite would have kept it closed. As the health minister opined “allyuh build dat fuh allyuh people”. Note the divisive thinking. The same with laptops children denied laptops resulting in a 50% failure rate. Now the whole country in shut down mode. Petrotrin closed by Rowley on advice of the 1%. Caroni 1975 Ltd. Closed by Manning on the advice of the 1%. They got their hands on the rum stock. An Italian company selling Trinidad rum for $3000. a bottle aged rum.

    Yes election have consequences and people must not blame God for problems they create.

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