weekend, regardless of the outcome of Friday’s sitting of Parliament (I
write this before the event), we are once again thrown back upon our own
resources as a people, flung against a wall by the politicians, to
reconsider who we are, take a stand.
perhaps it is a good thing to ask ourselves at this time, regardless of
that atavistic moment in the polling booth when we briefly revert to type,
who we are as a people in these tiny islands in the New World. Because
whatever it is, our complete selves are not being represented in this
absurd 18-18 pantomime being acted out in our politics and Parliament.
weekend, endearing schizophrenic people that we are, we celebrated Easter,
Phagwa and the Baptist holiday, in one shot.
more than ever we need to remind ourselves that there is absolutely no
need to be backed into a corner, no need to define ourselves by narrow
boundaries of race.
need to remind ourselves that we are a complex, intelligent, peaceable
people who analyse each of our political representatives by merit, rather
than a simple lot who are willing to unthinkingly swallow a large package
that may be contaminated here and there; that our colours run into one
another, that at some level, the experiences of colour rubbed, splashed
onto skin, the child with the pretty Easter bonnet, the swirl of white
robes dipping into a clear pool of water, are collective, belong to us
Sen, the Nobel laureate put it to us this way last year at the Central
Bank’s 15th Dr Eric Williams Memorial Lecture:
are all individually involved in identities of various kinds in disparate
contexts in our own respective lives. The same person can be of Indian
origin, a Parsee, a French citizen, a US resident, a woman, a poet, a
vegetarian, an anthropologist, a university professor, a Christian, a bird
watcher and an avid believer in extraterrestrial life and in the
propensity of alien creates to ride around the universe in smartly
designed UFOs. Each of these collectivities, to all of which this person
belongs, gives her a particular identity that is variously important in
different contexts. There is no conflict here.
he went on to stress that in the quest of determining our mutating
identity as a New World people, we have choices as well which we need to
exercise. Most importantly, we have a choice regarding the importance we
attach to our different identities. Invoking the notion of identity does
not provide an escape from reasoning or justify any ethical argument based
solely on a narrower identity, such as that of community, nationality,
class religion or sect.
a time when varying races and religions invoke their particular rites of
spring, rejuvenation of the human spirit, we must remember this is what we
have been doing right all along.
is this intelligent reasoning that has been our salvation, our passport to
a peaceful, stable society that has paved the way for economic growth,
allowed us to exercise our social responsibilities seriously.
simple letter of yearning from a Trinidadian living abroad made me realise
more than anything that perhaps without knowing it, we are already there.
We may vote according to race, but we are so much better than that. We
now, people of all races, citizens of this country, already have a sense
of ‘home’ that is so much bigger than the parliamentary pantomime. It
is articulated in this letter I received:
sit in a high-rise building apartment in Chicago reading your article
about home, and the longing that comes from having positive memories to
reflect upon. The imagery you highlight in the article...sights and sounds
are very clear.
also long for home, but being involved in my grad. studies, I know there
is no alternative. Sooner or later, immigrants all develop a dual
personality which allows for acceptance of sounds, sights, and smells of
the new location.
a way, we become hybrids, forming a new construct which allows for
functionality and survival in the urban city. The joys of the life back
home are never reconstructed, though, and the longing never truly goes
this is home - safe, familiar, loved. We all view home from different
angles, depending on many facets of our identity, our ethnicity, our
social and economic circumstances. But it is home, nonetheless, to
Trinidadians and Tobagonians everywhere. It remains a place that is longed
we must be glad. Our stocktaking has yielded a rich harvest. We have not
gone down that slippery slope of either Fiji or Guyana. We are unable to
comprehend the Hindus and Muslims butchering one another in India over
religion, or in Israel, over race, land and power. It’s time to remind
our politicians when they use our votes to squabble over 18-18 as TS Eliot
put it, “That is not what I meant at all.”