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Trinidad & Tobago: 50 Years Later

On August 31, Trinidad and Tobago marked its 50th year of independence from Great Britain. The weekend has been full of celebration – although some bloggers found even that wanting – and citizen media commentary on what the landmark anniversary means.

In the week leading up to Independence Day, sweet trini's urban folks tales wondered if we were independent or in dependence:

50years in the making, this nation of shrinking imagination, where we ignore our most innovative selves and idolise what outside dictates. we are our best natural resource but let leaders chosen from shamefully slim pickings leave we the people languishing…
we exist in dependence, our welfare in hands busy pushing us aside to snatch+grab for money+power, but we say we independent…50 years in, will we continue to blindly celebrate ideals we only pretend to pursue, or are we ready to meet this 50th independence day with a commitment to we for we?

On August 31, the blogger suggested that:

as we celebrate the milestone of 50years we must also look to the future; to guide our direction here and now, we must ask: where do we see ourselves going? what do we see ourselves becoming, and is that who we want to be?

let us celebrate 50 years by moving closer to our dreams with the next 50; let us assert our independence by being our best selves and creating the trinidad+tobago we want for ourselves. we are people of great spirit; let us not stifle+cheapen that chasing the almighty dollar but become a trinidad+tobago where everybody is somebody, nobody is nobody, and each of we contribute to the resilience and innovation that make this tiny twin-island nation a force to be reckoned with.

aka_lol had rather sombre predictions for the country's future:

50 years from now I expect archeologists to be digging up old blogs to find out what the nation of Trinidad and Tobago was like at 50. Were the people civilized, were the leaders and citizens honest and patriotic?

Nearly all the murder cases currently on the Police books today will remain unsolved 50 years from now, and the corrupt and their descendants will still be enjoying their ill-gotten booty and booty that was plundered from the Nation.

Political blogger The Eternal Pantomime concurred, raising historical facts that she believes has an impact on the nation's current challenges:

It seems as if 50 years later our road to independence is mired in as much controversy and confusion as when we started. And that’s another thing. There’s absolutely no attempt to talk about the nation’s path to self-autonomy and independence because it brings two things to the fore: the PNM’s role as architect of the Independence movement, and the ethnic groups who lobbied against the movement.

I doubt very much too that the Partnership [the government in power] will want a history of Independence that shows the DLP and its leaders then, such as Bhadase Sagan Maharaj and Rudranath Capildeo, as being opposed to the idea of Independence and strenuously so. They probably also don’t want excerpts of that famous letter of 1958 to be part of the historical record anymore, because then it raises questions about loyalty, nationalism, civic pride and intentions. Difficult questions that 50 years later we are uncomfortable asking and answering. And they remain difficult because we still have people here, from all groups that think Independence was a bad idea and that Trinidad and Tobago started going downhill August 31st, 1962., meanwhile, listed the recipients of this year's Independence Day awards and explained why he thought the Government Information Service could play a greater role in “educat[ing] and inspir[ing] a culture of national pride”:

For those deserving, congratulations. And those not, well that’s just my opinion.

Nation building, progressiveness and evolution rests squarely on the shoulders of those honored. Where the process fails is in its delivery. The one day or two hours reserved for honoring our patriots does little to achieve what its objective should be. In a society sorely lacking in everything from morality to manners the promotion of and elevation of the few role models we have is essential. Why must we wait until the day before to find out who the honorees are?

The GISL by having and continuing to disavow its core values, mission and vision provides little value to the Republic and will continue to be seen as a propaganda machine for electioneering. After 50 years of independence shouldn’t we as a Republic matured, even just a little bit?

The Eternal Pantomime also weighed in on the awards:

This government is INADEQUATE! Poor planning, abuse of the flag as a symbol of national pride, Kamla and Jack on commemorative coffee mugs. In short the entire politicizing of our national symbols by a party that is anything but patriotic.

The supporters and defenders of this regime are unpatriotic and don’t deserve to be citizens here. They don’t love Trinidad and Tobago….they love her treasury and resources and only happy and patriotic when they eating ah food and sucking the country dry.

And some of these parasites got awards yesterday…national awards…

Plain Talk added that the corporate sector of the country also had to shoulder its share of the responsibility for nation-building:

Head of [Downtown Owners and Merchants Association] DOMA Gregory Aboud has put out a call to all citizens to demonstrate patriotism by holding hands and singing the National Anthem and I would not only like to support and congratulate him on his call, I would like to encourage him to go further and demonstrate corporate patriotism and support the call for businesses to contribute a fixed percentage of their earnings every year to the communities within which they operate so as to engender this same feeling of goodwill and love of country throughout the year.

Forget patriotism and national pride for a second and get down to real economics; the savings to companies in security and advertising alone would be more than worth the contribution as no one would be allowed to ‘touch’ a business that supports the community they operate in, and how much more ‘top of mind’ could you get than a mother sitting in a park provided and maintained by the supermarket chain she shops at?

Creative thinker Seon Thompson created and showcased a clever, interactive, independence-related project on his blog, Copy Book Page:

How much do we really know about our history and the people that contributed to the development of this nation? I decided to do some research of my own on notable national personalities who shaped our destiny and quickly realized that I was in need of a history lesson. I was learning so much that I decided to create some minimalist portraits of these icons in our national colors (Red, White & Black) to further extend this history lesson to the public. By simply highlighting some of the notable features of these individuals, I was able to draw on the viewers previous knowledge of their national history and ultimately stimulate dialogue about these influential personalities. I am aiming for 50 personalities so as I post, test your knowledge.

Check out the images here, here and here.

Despite the myriad of ways in which the country and its citizens celebrated the occasion, however, the overriding feeling in the blogosphere seemed to be one of despair. The TnT River summed it up this way:

What do we really have to celebrate for 50 years? Lately, it seems that all we want to do is celebrate, and celebrate, and celebrate without fixing anything! Our crime rate is so out of control…We’re celebrating while our mothers and sisters cry. Our fathers and brothers are helpless.

It’s as if we’re on crack or cocaine. We abuse a substance called ‘feteing’ to fool us into thinking everything is alright. How many beds and medication in our hospitals need to be purchased? How many more ambulances need to be put on the roads to make them more efficient? How much (sic) police cars are needed? How many safe-houses for children need repair and construction? How many roads need fixing and alteration? How many schools need help?

So how do we justify spending millions in just celebrations that in no direct way will solve our woes. That literally go up in smoke once we light those fireworks.

So lets celebrate, and claim we are the greatest multi-cultural nation and country in this world. Because when all the confetti, fireworks, grinding and music have stopped, it’s back to our stark reality. And brother I hope you enjoyed that slim moment of happiness because you’ll have to wait another 50 years to see it again.

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