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Reflecting on 50 years
How has the population of our newly independent nation (50 years is but a day; to biblically reflect time) progressed or regressed over the period of time is a question that has been preoccupying my mind for a few months now. How have Trinidadians/Toba-gonians in their wonderful state of human variety—Indos, Chinese, Afros, Euros, Syrian-Lebanese, the few remaining Jews and that exquisite blend of douglas, who make those who want to keep the races pure seem Hitlerite in their attitude towards love and copulation across ethnic limits—fared during the 50 years of political, at times economic, independence, but never completely independent of the psychological burden of colonial dependence?
But not only is the question of how have the socio-cultural groups, in certain circumstances inseparable, of the population fared as units, but how have we faced the challenges of evolving as a people? Have we fashioned something of a national culture (on the road to a new civilisation) out of our individual separateness?
JD Elder, one of our most relevant cultural anthropologists, once in conversation with me used the metaphor of the pelau to reflect the plurality of the society: the elements tightly cooked together in the iron pot, but yet reflecting themselves in our taste buds through the individuality of the flavoured rice, the peas, the pumpkin, the pigtail, chicken, beef and, nowadays, carrots and other admixtures, depending on the mood of those stirring the pot.
How has the population in its individual socio-cultural groups allowed women to emerge from the historical confinement of being subjected to a male culture that reduces women to a secondary and, in certain circumstances, subservient role? Indeed, has the emergence of women plunged men into a disaster of impotence? How has that rage of impotence reflected itself in men in their relationships with women?
Have they become an appendage in the workplace, in the family, as spiritual head of the religious bodies of our beings? Have our men crumbled in the face of a freed, risen and confident female in the education system?
How have people in rural communities fared in relation to those who live in the urban towns and cities? And what of those groups of people who have remained in the formally rural country districts and created out of them urban towns such as Arima, Cha-guanas and Point Fortin?
And what of the people of Tobago? have they advanced in their “Tobagoness?” Have those Tobagonians who have migrated to Trinidad over a couple generations acculturated into Trinidadianness and so lost their Tobago- nian identity? The social scientists would argue that these are questions to be posed and answered definitively by research.
This series of columns however claims no such scientific basis but rather an observational, common-sense reflection—and there must be value in what we observe and intuit; in fact that is the process which always precedes the research. So perhaps the series will so provoke the sociologists and other social scientists at UWI and UTT to do the scientific research to prove how wrong I am, or right, or indeed whether or not there is something in the not-too-casual observations which demand the probing of research-based findings and analyses.
The salient point is that we cannot continue to be ignorant of ourselves and the society we are attempting to construct out of what historian/politician Eric Williams once described as a “transient people” who were brought here and/or have come from all parts of the globe not to form a civilisation but rather for the economic and social benefit of the metropole.
Has the trauma of the Middle Passage sufficiently subsided or has it been adequately conquered to allow the individual groups and the collective to be able to advance from the condition of being brought to a state of being comfortable enough to fashion something out of our existence?
Is the advance or retrogression inherent in our ethnic and cultural genes, or is it an issue of socialisation and what has been allowed by the structures of the society? Have the once dominant been able to live without the deference they previously enjoyed?
As indicated, this columnist does not pretend to be able to answer any of the questions posed in any definitive manner beyond a few purely personal observations, which may or may not have merit. So it would add to the reflection if readers were to share their own observations, adding categories of human endeavours of this 50-year-old journey to self-achievement.
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