Trinidad & Tobago: Are We Really Independent?

Today is the forty-seventh anniversary of Independence in Trinidad and Tobago, but some bloggers wonder whether citizens of the twin island republic truly understand what sovereignty is all about…

Keith Francis shares an experience at a membership bulk shopping club, where a female patron demanded to see a supervisor because she was “prevented” from parking at a particular spot in the car park and the man in question let “a negro” park in front of her. Keith, stunned by the entire exchange, asks:

1. What the France did race have to do with the situation? Would it have been any different had someone of a “different kind” taken the park that she wanted?
2. How far was she going to carry her ignorance? Was she going to repeat what she said so emphatically, possibly emboldened by my own inability to respond?
3. How many people were going to be silently agreeing with her as she ranted on Pricesmart's floor?
4. How many people would she have incited to responding to her with equal and greater crudeness?
5. What in heaven's name was she teaching her little child?

My girlfriend put forward that the woman was definitely just one person, and that there would be some many more in the country who were not that obtuse. But the fact that the woman felt comfortable enough to behave thus and that brazenly is not a good sign, that she feels brave enough to say such things loudly without fear of reproach and rebuke.

He continues:

Forty-seven years on and this shameful, stinking attitude still exists in a society that we have marketed as cosmopolitan and callaloo and beautiful… Forty-seven years after the same race-based nonsense is reputed to have threatened to divide the country, splitting it into two physical territories… Almost thirty years after the same mode of thinking called for a rehash of that separatist cry… Even more recently, we have people shouting loudly ‘Race!’ instead of ‘Blasted criminal!’ and ‘Incompetent!’ and ‘Yuh wrong and have no foot to stand on!’

Perhaps I did miss my own opportunity to put her in her place, to explain to her that her utterance was more than just contemptible and bordered on obscene. But why should I have to, in this day and age, upbraid a woman who looked to be a reasonably intelligent and otherwise respectable member of the country's upper middle class? Certainly that kind of correction isn't necessary today in an enlightened populace where education and opportunity are at least in theory available to all…One would hope, yes?

Mauvais Langue, meanwhile, is saddened that:

We have so much to offer to the world, yet we are over shadowed by crime, a corrupted government, and an incompetent Prime Minister.

…while Woman of Colour decides that:

I could make a comment about ALL of the challenges the society faces but I won't… We have opposition politicians and self important radio show hosts to do that..

Today I'm going to celebrate a momentous occasion in our history and I invite you to do the same. Even if you're not a Trini., on the other hand, who resorted to using an expletive after a frustrating few hours in a traffic jam and was admonished to “cool himself”, blogs about the experience in his “Independence Day Message”:

At some point, you're supposed to get angry. At some point, you're supposed to say that something is stupid. At some point, you shouldn't be cool. But all too often, people just accept things as they are. From the poorly designed Republic Bank branch with only one way in and out to people exiting an entrance and blocking traffic, or stopping in the middle of the road to chat or pick up someone (instead of pulling over), there are so many tiers of idiocy that someone has to say something.

If not you, who? If not now, when? ‘Cool yuhself'? With things as they are in this country, I think that people need to get angry. That attitude spawned a government that can't handle crime but seems intent on managing how it is perceived. That attitude allows murders, rapes, kidnappings and much more to go unchallenged by the authorities. And the authorities themselves? They, too, are ‘cooling themselves’ at the expense of the citizens that they allegedly work for.

Keith Francis has the last word:

Have we grown since those heady days of 1962? Are we really and truly independent, or…are [we] still not ready for self-determination?

Happy 47th, Trinidad and Tobago.

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