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I refer to the article: YOU KNOW HOW HARD IT IS TO BUY A BOAT.
The most amazing aspect of all of this is that it was reported that during the evaluation of the bids the Galicia failed some 5 of the 7 criteria set by the experts in the Request For Proposals (RFP), yet the users in both Tobago and Trinidad seem very satisfied that the boat was performing well and do not want what similar experts are offering them today.
Except for the major narrow shipping lane which is used by the big boats and cruise ships which is about 40 foot the depth, the depth of water in the rest of the port area is no more than 20 foot and most of it is less than that. One can see the silt in the bottom of the sea being brought to the surface when these boats start their engines which, it should be noted, is never at full throttle when they do. The whole area becomes regularly silted up by deposits from the Caroni River/Wetlands and other sources.
In simple terms: the Port has not been maintained by regular dredging as it should be and the barge is being offered as an option because it can work in the shallow draught of the limited sea area available in the busiest part of the Port.
With regard to the foundations of the Hyatt being affected - that is all nonsense because the foundations of the Hyatt are protected by a sea wall and peripheral sheet piling to the entire site. The foundations for the buildings also sit on a network of piles that are driven to depths of over 80 feet. Vibration during start up of the vessel may be affecting the guests and the windows but the boat should not be parked where it is in the first place and that problem would have existed from inception - giving more than sufficient time to deal with it.
Whatever decision is arrived at, that Port will have to be dredged and it is going to be done sooner rather than later - and it had better be sooner. I should add here that the last major dredging of the Port resulted in the creation of the most expensive land around the city i.e. the lands immediately south of PriceSmart in Movietowne. It is the same land that Afra Raymond stopped the People’s Partnership from giving out to Derek Chin and others in a contrived RFP process.
I am sure this would have paid for most, if not all, of the dredging costs, were it not for a succession of corrupt, self seeking, incompetent Government officials who we all know by name. There is learning from this which has clearly not been absorbed by our current crop of public officials.
Since then the Port has done dredging to accommodate the cruise ships yet the ferry service between Tobago and Trinidad - which provides a life support service to citizens of both islands, is being denied such attention. Those cruise ships offer no such life support service and are also bad business...in all respects.
Sitting in Tobago, admiring the goats outside of Parliament....oops sorry...admiring the traditional goat races held recently, as distinct from the ones held every 5 years, the geologist from Mason Hall must have wondered why he was not the leader of Bolivia or Paraguay. These countries are land locked. Their leaders do not have to worry about fast ferries. Maybe that is why Eva Morales has done more to improve living conditions for his people in 10-12 years than our successive administrations have done in 55 and counting years.
By the way, persons in Malabar, San Juan and other parts of the country highlighted water woes over the Easter weekend. But they chose a wrong time. The geologist is focusing on sea water now. No, no…not the water that is eroding the Mosquito creek! That is sea water on its way to the mangrove. Don't mix up your waters; take it from the geologist. Fresh water, sea water and mangrove sea water..Got it? Besides the goats in the race drank well!
One can empathise with the geologist. Here is a man who, according to the book jackets on display in the malls, rose from humble beginnings to become the Prime Minister of the country. On the way he fought off Patrick Manning, Anika Gumbs, Verna Alleyne Toppin and Mariano Browne. He was even embraced by Ancel and Ozzie and Vincent although they would have us forget that. (Eat the man Hyatt food and now they want to cuss him).What a fighter! To reach this far; only to be confronted by Ferdi Ferreira, Christine Sahadeo and the rest of the crew on the port!
We all know how hard it is to buy a boat. What? Do we lease Coast Guard vessels? That is different. Steups! It takes a little more than 55 years to figure out how to buy a boat. All yuh just talking! You know how hard it is to find a shipyard! And where we going to find the money during 3 oil booms? How did you all expect with 18 months notice to come up with a solution. You all imagine it is the same as supporting Section 34 or refurbishing the Brian Lara Stadium during an economic downturn.
Now that the administration, desirous of developing tourism, has done an Ancel and virtually told the owners of the "Galicia'' to take the damn boat and go, a way must be found to deal with the situation immediately. Therefore, an investigation (hee! hee!) will be launched into how the contracts were awarded in the first place; then the report will be tabled in Parliament just before the one on what happened on the shooting range in Cumuto.
It seems, folks that regardless of what the Chamber/s of Commerce say the barge option will prevail. Rohit Sinanan of the PNM merchant marine has raised the bar/barge from 3 feet height at the side to 8 feet in response to claims that water will splash over into the barge. And do you know what the lady from the Tobago Chamber of Commerce responded, with she 'farse' self? She quoted the Met office which regularly says that waves will be 3 metres in open water. Now one metre is a little over 3 feet which will give us something like 9 feet.
Me, I suspect the Prime Minister is about to build a Bailey bridge from Toco to Tobago. He is just waiting on the right moment to make the announcement.
Someone said that murders are at an unacceptable level. Such a statement leads one to ask whether society can tolerate a level of murders that is acceptable.
One would think that even one murder per year is one too much. But we live in a capitalist society in which crime provides opportunities for business ideas to take flight and flourish. Crime provides the reason for governments to spend money on security by building more prisons and there are companies who create the design and supply the hardware and software which are marketed as having the capacity to protect us from the criminals.
Because of crime, security companies have sprung up like wild fires. They are all over the place. Security systems for our homes and cars are some of the hot selling items in stores these days. We can now have GPS systems on our phones and in our cars. It is now possible to be away from our homes and still be aware of what is happening at home.
Because of crime, the prisons are overcrowded and the Judiciary is overwhelmed as a result of a backlog of cases which has led to prisoners on remand having to languish in inhumane conditions. That situation has created opportunities for favoured security companies to pride themselves in boasting that they deliver “justice on time.” because they have benefited from the decision by the government to outsource the business of transporting prisoners to and from the Courts.
The sub-culture of crime is comprised of different social and cultural strata and practices with which we are quite familiar. For example, we talk about white collar and blue collar crimes. Lawyers are popping up all over the place. Defending the guilty is big business and politically connected attorneys are making millions at the expense of the public purse as inquiries into potential criminal actions themselves re-distribute millions into the pockets of lawyers.
Religion benefits from the broken souls who flock to the Churches every Sunday and because of the good work which the Churches, Mosques and Mandirs are doing, by keeping the battered souls docile they are supported financially by the business community and elements in the illegal drug trade.
Pharmaceutical companies benefit because the society is constantly living under stressful conditions, which leads to diseases such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and the many and varied types of cancers. In addition, it has also done physiological damage to many members of the society. To the extent, where relationships in homes have been destroyed and families are left to go their separate ways because of domestic violence, incestuous relationships, and the many and varied abuses to which children are subjected.
Some of these ills to which the children are subjected have been happening for a very long time in this country. Although we may wish to throw some of the blame on the internet and television, many of our fathers, grand fathers, uncles, brothers and friends of the families, have been engaging in these practices.
All of these ills are damaging to the human spirit, but they are seen by the multinational companies who are in the business of making super profits as markets in which billions of dollars can be made and in, fact, are being made. These companies have even gone to the extent to produce drugs, which can only provide relief; but some also carry warnings about several side effects that can do you more harm than good. So crime is big business and capitalism cannot do without it.
Maybe, that is why it can be possible to talk about having an acceptable level of crime in the same way that economists talk about having an acceptable level of unemployment in the economy. The problem is not just corruption/crime/dysfunctional governance/plantation economy/neo-liberalism. The problem is capitalism!
If one reads the commentaries carefully these are some of the darkest times for immigrants in America as President Donald Trump seems bent on breaking Obama's benchmark for deportations. (Real news; not alternative news!). Obama's administration had the highest volume of deportations. His version of Black power one might say.
Today, under the administration of former casino pit boss, Donald, less are coming in and more are going out. These communities are apparently well defined - Iraqis, Iranians, ex Tobago footballers and Mexicans; which brings us to the West Indian community.
My faith in their resilience, their ability to weather the storm when the 'Trump-et' sounds heralding the arrival of immigration officials; my faith has been re-affirmed by recent events in the Caribbean. In true modern day cricket tradition, our team kept the West Indian cricket flag dragging. Men over 90 can show more 'backraise' than this team of gummy bears. Can you imagine what would happen if/when men vs. women games are played?
I am suggesting any region that can endure such repeated humiliation and trauma and have it broadcast live all over some few remaining parts of the world who have any interest, have 'real belly' as we say in the Caribbean.
No shame, just belly like de Alberto sang about. The last game in Barbados lasted just a little longer than a football final with extra time and a penalty shoot-out.
But being a close observer of the shame...oops…game, as it is played by our team, I came away with positives. I am positive that we can and will do worse and our administrators will facilitate the process. I am positive that Disneyland, when it opens it own T20 league, will hire our coach and team captains as mascots. I am positive that we will pioneer the One day Test format. We will bat twice before tea, (referrals included), collapse for 143 runs and invite the opposing team to chase the score. I am certain former Leicester City boss Ancelotti and soon to be ex-Arsenal boss Wenger will be soon joining our coaching staff as cricket consultants. Why not? Can they do worse?
Oddly enough, recently I was in the library and tried to borrow "Beyond A Boundary''. Oh gosh man, not "Beyond the tape''. The former is a seminal work on cricket in West Indian culture by C.L.R James. Were he alive, his text would be filed under "Alternative news''. I could not borrow it because it is a reference book. I understand why one has to read it in the library where one has to weep silently. Out here the mental health authorities would detain you for sobbing loudly with a book in your hand. It have a God after all?
So let Donald and Myrtle (is that the US First Lady's name?) try to faze us. We have been through much worse on the cricket pitch at home and abroad. There is not a region where we have not gone in the cricket world and shown how to organise controlled collapse, and we will continue in this rich vein until finally baseball becomes our national/regional game.
P.S. If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one around, does it make a noise? And if our shambolic cricket team collapses somewhere in the cricketing forest will anyone (except me) still take note?
I was extremely privileged to attend a symposium at UWI (March 30-April 1, 2017) hosted by the Institute for Gender and Development Studies (IGDS) under the new but capable leadership of Dr. Gabrielle Hosein, along with the Department of Geography.
The symposium was titled – Indigenous Geographies and Caribbean Feminisms: Common Struggles Against Global Capitalism. Present were First Peoples from, Suriname, Guyana, Belize, Dominica, St. Vincent and Trinidad and Tobago. Nations represented included the Garifuna, Maya and Calinago, also present were members of our own Santa Rosa First Peoples Community.
I say privileged because I do not think that in my entire life have I ever found myself in a room so filled with extraordinary human beings. It was also a particularly striking experience for me being one of the few men participating. Or perhaps it is the extraordinary energy of our First Peoples the keepers and guardians of our earth.
However let me say that what I offer here is more of my own reflection and elaboration rather than a proper report. Presentations revolved around the realities of First Peoples’ confrontations with the global capitalist machine that is plundering and destroying our planet. There was also focus on women of these communities in their struggles to survive, thrive and lead; this in and against a system and reality that is still colonizing and patriarchal.
It is clear that this is for them an intense and all too often painful journey. Here the gathering afforded a space where women can tell their stories. Here we were able to learn of the great heroines who are carrying these burdens. It needs to be recognized the critical role First Nation women are playing in so sustaining our communities and keeping our vital cultural forms alive.
The keynote address was given by noted Mayan activist Cristina Coc, spokesperson of the Maya Leaders Alliance (MLA). Cristina, at 35, has to be one of our region’s most talented, capable and charismatic leaders. She told her story of the Mayan confrontation with the Belizean Settler State for the right of First Peoples to their own lands; this in the face of the exploitative capitalist machine. Here the Maya has won landmark court decisions (including from the Caribbean Court of Justice) which the Belizean State appears quite happy to ignore.
Indeed in her struggle against that colonial Settler State apparatus for the Mayan people to implement their own laws and customs and to defend themselves against the threat of violence, her community was intimidated and assaulted by said apparatus. She described to us a scene of military invasion by the regime where she was placed under arrest and incarcerated in handcuffs at gunpoint.
Cristina is emerging as one of a cadre of First Nation warrior women. Here we mention Berta Caceres of Honduras murdered by the capitalists last year; the gathering was dedicated to her memory. Miriam Miranda a Garifuna activist who has been persecuted and harassed by the Honduran State and police.
She has been forced to go underground under threat of death by this same capitalist machine, the conglomerates that want to seize Garifuna land. It is not surprising that Honduras has been declared one of the most dangerous places on earth for environmental activists. It is important that we stand in solidarity with these struggles.
A critical issue th
at arose is that of language. Language is a key carrier of fundamental worldview thus the erasure of a people’s language constitutes an act of genocide. Now the issue is not that all members of the First Peoples speak their original languages - this may be unrealistic. However, measures need to be taken to prevent further language loss in transmission to the next generation in communities where the languages are spoken. It is critical that these original languages be kept alive in the First Communities as a whole.
This is related to education. It was discussed that in many Indigenous villages there was still not proper access to education. This is a particularly pressing concern to the communities’ caregivers. There is also the question – What is an education? This at all levels. And we may further ask – What is the role of the Academy, that is, our own regional tertiary institutions? Across the board we require an education system that educates, one that is not about preparing slaves for the capitalist plantation.
The issue of land also arose. First Peoples practice communal holding of land consistent with their traditional egalitarian worldview. However members of the community were here encountering financing difficulties because they did not possess individual title to land. Here then is a clash of worldviews. On the one hand is the capitalist model of exploitative private ownership. On the other there is the fundamentally different understanding of community that does not “own” land but belongs to the land. In order for this traditional ethos to be sus
tained new financial institutions need to be established like perhaps an Indigenous bank.
There was as well the very important focus on healing, network building and community. It is a process that this conference appears to have stimulated and it is fundamental for the struggles ahead. Let it also be clear that the First Nation women themselves are fully committed and able to carry on this task.
The Guyanese scholar Shona Jackson made a very important presentation addressing the question of indigeneity. This needs to be squarely addressed as a great deal of our understanding and theorizing of the Caribbean has had as its point of departure the plantation. Here a key focus has been on African enslavement and its aftermath; this, while the Indigenous Peoples were rendered invisible and indeed spoken of in the past tense.
But our story does not begin in the plantation. In the first place it needs to be pointed out that enslavement in our region termed the “Caribbean”
began with what the Europeans did to the Indigenous Peoples. But far more fundamentally these Peoples have and continue to sustain their own worldview, their own ontology. It is an ontology of all-embracing continuity and relation. It is that of the collective as embodied community. It is a cosmology that is radically alien to the fractured isolated violent and oppressive worldview of the modern individual. In this the vital ontology of the First Peoples the story of our space begins.
The plantation narrative has also been used to cut Africans off from their own ancestral grounding. They are presented as coming here as blank slates, culturally stripped, ontologically defined by and constituted in slavery and rendered “creoles”. As for the Indians, yes, they too were subject to the plantation but because they have all this out of place cultural baggage they have been viewed as not really belonging here and dismissed.
Let it be clear, the terrible violence of enslavement and colonization happened to us but it does not determine who we are as our primal point of departure. The survival and vital presence of the First Peoples is a constant living reminder of this.
We were truly blessed to have among us yet another warrior woman a senior elder in the struggle, Cynthia Ellis of the Garifuna Nation sharing her experience and midwifing the deliberations. Her presence was that of the wisdom and strength of the Mother Goddess herself. She also spoke of the women who gave their lives to this struggle calling by name Jacqueline Creft. In this context I wish to also mention Beverley Jones. In the discussions concerns were indeed raised for the protection of activists.
An important intervention was made concerning “Banwari Woman”. This is said to be the oldest Indigenous remains found in the region, this in South Trinidad. It was revealed that they were kept not far from where the gathering was taking place in the UWI zoological department. Deep concerns were shared concerning the inadequacy of this and the need for this prime Indigenous person to be treated with due respect.
This indeed casts light on the awful and inexcusable manner these issues concerning the First Peoples are treated by the colonial Settler State now called “The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago”. It is a tale that begins with the very marginalization of this community. Thus the State has still not adequately responded to and prefers to ignore the Indigenous remains found beneath the Red House a few years ago. The long tradition of colonial disrespect continues.
Naparima (misnamed San Fernando) Hill which was almost destroyed only a few decades ago has still not been properly acknowledged. It is sacred to the Warao Nation whose members are still among us. Then there is the very naming of our region as “Caribbean”. When we consider that Carib is a reference to “cannibal” the very word has the character of a racial slur.
Do not misunderstand me, I am not campaigning for or even proposing any specific solutions to these issues. It is not my place. But I am seeking to point out the depth, the enormity, of what might be termed the “ontological” violence that has been inflicted on our First Nations and on our landscape as a whole.
Even the word “revolution” does not begin to address these radical questions. But perhaps it is a good place to start. Of course in the midst of all this the elephant in the room is that of “power”. To stand up to the system First Peoples will need to fundamentally participate in the actual running of what are at present settler States. And their own Indigenous institutions will have to be vested with the real capacity for radical self-determination. Moreover we are dealing with colonizers who have never given ground willingly. The struggle is nowhere near completion until this issue of “power” is addressed. And let us be clear, this struggle against global capitalism is a fight to the death.
The First Peoples of “Our America” are still all too invisible. Yet this symposium has demonstrated that theirs is a very present presence across the region. Let us therefore desist from speaking of them in the past tense. Indeed it is necessary for all of us committed to this new world that is still very possible to join in the process of transformation together with the First Guardians of our earth - for they are also the future.
Moreover this gathering may very well indicate that it is the women who are the leaders. Cristina in her address spoke of the Maya being called “squatters”. But who is squatting? Surely not the People who have always belonged to the Land and who have led us all in the glorious path of resistance.
It is the colonial Settler State that is squatting. And I say unequivocally if we (from wherever we came) do not give this First Community due respect and acknowledgement; if we fail to seek its permission for our very being here then we are the squatters.
Let me close with a remark made by another elder during the gathering. Nelcia Robinson well known Garifuna woman and activist from St. Vincent told us that a Cherokee elder once shared with her that there is no such thing as “half a Cherokee”, that one can have a drop of Indigenous blood and be fully and thoroughly Indigenous. Hence when we speak of “blood” it is not about biological purity, it may only take one drop.
I suggest that blood here includes the reality of vital cultural connection, solidarity and continuity. Thus we recognize that many, perhaps even most, Trinidadians may legitimately define themselves as Indigenous in terms of ancestry and in terms of such vital cultural communal collective nexus. But do we have such an Indigenous awareness?
Maybe if the masses of Trinidad-and-Tobago as a whole were to collectively understand and claim these, the original inhabitants, as being our true source and grounding we can finally unite and deal with the real invaders.
I was privileged to meet John La Rose and Darcus Howe, two giants of the campaign for respect and recognition for black immigrants and their descendants in Britain, when back in the mid 1980’s I had the opportunity to attend two editions of the International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books in London.
The Bookfair was organised jointly by New Beacon Books, Bogle-L'Ouverture Books and Race Today Publications. John la Rose, Jessica Huntley and Darcus Howe were the principals of those three organisations.
John’s and Sarah White’s home at Stroud Green Road was the focal point of the after–the-days-activities lime where in addition to John and Darcus one could meet and interface with the likes of Nobel literature laureate Wole Soyinka, noted Kenyan activist and writer Ngugi Wa Thiongo as well as our own Earl Lovelace, among other writers and cultural activists from throughout the Third World.
In Brixton, where the Race Today Collective was based, you could meet CLR James or ‘Nello’ as he was called, and hang out with the renowned dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson. As a young man in my twenties I treasured those experiences and learnt so much.
Hanging out with Darcus I learned firsthand about the Mangrove Nine, the Black Peoples March and the struggle against racism in Britain and even about QRC in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s and a bit about Renegades in that pre-Independence period. I also met pan pioneers Philmore ‘Boots’ Davidson and Sterling Betancourt as well as Russell Henderson and got a firsthand account of the TASPO story, as well as the early years of pan in Britain.
I probably learnt more in those weeks in London than during all my time as an undergraduate student at UWI, because this was a first hand education from people and experiences I had only previously ‘met’ in books.
Darcus I will always remember you, compere, as a fighter, as a thinker and as a charismatic personality who humanised activism and made it a wholesome and enriching experience despite the inherent ugliness it fought against.
I realize that I may be called upon to respond and perhaps even critique two of my last pieces: the first pertaining to the so-called child marriage issue; the second - an examination of patriarchy. As regards child marriage while painting a rather grim picture of our present scenario there is clearly a need for some manner of constructive proposal.
And in my engagement of patriarchy while attempting to describe in a very simple if not simplistic way how patriarchy works in our capitalist societies I evaded precisely the kind of messy questions concerning the presence of that range of cultural traditions that were the focus of the first piece and as I said requires a more practical engagement.
The only problem is when it comes to the real hardcore practical solution/s I don’t have the answers. To be honest there is good reason to believe that no one actually has the answers. But I am sure that there are many out there who are way ahead of me and have a critical role in such resolution.
It is thus my aim in what follows to point out what I believe to be real concerns and hence to assist the process and to assist those heroines and heroes who are actually out in the trenches getting their hands dirty. I shall endeavour to do this while not sounding like an armchair academic sitting on the sidelines shouting out of order advice. However I must confess that some of my concerns might appear rather theoretical. Is that a dirty word?
Now, in these very messy trenches there are a network or intertwined networks of activists working with the marginalized; this including engaging critical issues of violence and abuse of women and children. Those involved come at this from various intersecting trajectories. Many are profoundly organically grounded in our communities some may formally identify with different cultural and religious traditions. Some belong to organizations and groups (NGOs etc.). Some are concerned with activism addressing specific social issues. Some are socialists or from that background. And there is very present here the Western liberal position based on the individual.
As a professed liberal non-believer I have to confess that this tradition centred as it is on the “rights of man” and democracy has made a profound contribution to the struggle for human dignity. It can moreover be very effective in agitation against power and in the mobilization of citizens around important indeed critical causes concerning “human rights” and pertaining to the marginalized such as the oppression of the poor and the abuse of women and children.
On the other hand this liberal perspective can be and has been readily deployed as a moral high-ground. This is evident in the discourse of the metropolitan capitalist democracies and such hegemonic international organizations as the United Nations that so love to preach down to us Third World savages. Here is a racist sub-text that views “other” traditions and groups (to borrow an image from a colleague) as natives out of an Indiana Jones movie. Of course such discourse has been readily utilized (often unwittingly) by various spokespersons and activists in the advocating of “human rights” etc.
I shall return to the liberals but I want to turn to our traditions. And yes I do seek to defend our traditions that articulate our ancestral vision of and insight into community. But we do have to face up to the reality that they are flawed; that no tradition or people is perfect. And that we have been badly fractured by our violent ongoing colonial modern history.
So for starters most of our prominent religious groupings and institutions are patriarchal. And our presiding cultural hierarchies intersect with and all too often participate in the dominant oppressive power structure. Moreover as someone who has been involved in and researching and writing about our cultural traditions for decades let me say that one gets the sinking feeling that things are more screwed up than many are prepared to admit. We can trust neither pastor, pundit nor calypsonian.
So who has the answers? Nobody! And who possesses the moral authority to intervene? The answer is the same – nobody. Yet the intervention impulse is strong. That goes back to when the good old Christian Spanish wanted to deal with the heathen cannibals… oh… and thanks for the gold and the real-estate. Now the Americans are bombing heathen Muslims in the name of democracy… oh… and thanks for the oil and the real-estate…
Liberals are similarly driven by this intervention impulse. If you don’t want to do anything about it we’ll get the State to do its thing. So up North they are so concerned about the smallest act of child abuse they are effectively placing children into the tender, loving, caring capable hands of the State apparatus. These guys are brilliant! Yeah, the universe is a dangerous place and parents may be pretty bad at raising their offspring but I can think of at least one agency that’s worse. And of course this intervention model is being exported to us in the colonies.
While we must learn all that is positive in the liberal model, its orthodoxy is coming to an end. Just as judgment day came for classical Eurocentric socialism at the end of the 20th century so does the 21st promise to be a long and grim one for liberalism. But just as socialism has creatively morphed and indeed its arrowhead is just a few mile off our coast, so we, in our own landscape of “Trinago”, may articulate our own vision drawing on the insights of this resurging socialism - the best of the modern West and our own traditions and communities that primordially ground us.
The Venezuelans say – we create or we err. I promise to be, or at least attempt to be, practical in my recommendations. We need to draw on these various strands in the developing of a new praxis - one that moves away from the “individual”; one that affirms the collective not as abstract, but as vitally embodied in our still living communities, traditions and social patterns; one that is relational and thus affirms the person and not only the human person but the ecology as a whole; one that opposes and combats oppression wherever it is found.
The new praxis means rebuilding a new network of organic activists rooted in our communities, our various social formations and traditions. And it has to hit the ground running, addressing the real life hard situations. While its ultimate aim has to be revolutionary in that it is concerned with radical social and thus political transformation it cannot wait for the revolution while women, children and other oppressed are immersed in cultures of violence; working class youth are being shot in the streets by the police and other criminals; our communities are living in a state of disruption, if not terror, and the environment despoiled.
Of course in this network there will also be a range of perspectives. The days of barren ideological squabbling are over. Moreover it is not rebuilding from scratch as we work with whoever is there on the ground.
Of course such a network would be pivotal in articulating the vision and providing the answers we are searching for, this in its very praxis. Because one day, maybe tomorrow maybe a hundred years from now this is all going to come crashing down. On that day when the system some call “Babylon” collapses the still unanswered question remains – With what do we replace it?
Hard to imagine for a generation that feared if Eric Williams died Trinidad and Tobago would wither and die but March 29th marked 36th anniversary of his death: some say at the hands and marching feet of the labour movement especially the teachers, i.e. TTUTA, who took him on in their struggle for one union for teachers.
Remember: to establish TTUTA the teachers had to over throw the PSA .and Trinidad and Tobago Teachers Union whom Williams legislated were the representatives of teachers. He did the same with the cane farmers who by law were represented by The Trinidad Islandwide Cane Farmers Association. In each case these unions were led by PNM minions namely James Manswell, St. Elmo Gopaul and Norman Girwar. It took a united labour movement, not a JTUM, to change this, which it did.
I always felt that when Williams saw the children of his loyal “middle class” howling for "Deafy to go'' his heart must have sunk. This was not the future he imagined would come out of their “school bags'' as he prophesised at Independence 1962, especially after the generation he spoke to at Independence led a massive youth revolt against his regime in 1970. Ironically, almost to the day 36 years later, the modern TTUTA generation is howling for the head of the Minister of Education, a former TTUTA leader, who has steeped himself in the same cauldron that consumed the aforementioned Manswell, Gopaul and Girwar. Celebration time?
Last year I wrote in apiece entitled Hearing Aids, False Teeth and Gamecocks that the 50th anniversary of the founding of the PNM was equally low keyed. A display was mounted not at Balisier House but at the foyer of the NALIS building on Abercromby Street. Who would have imagined that the legacy of the party 'that is great and will prevail' could be represented in a room barely 15x20 feet?
I have asked persons what is the institutional memory of Dr. Williams. For example: Butler symbolises labour, Frank Worrell represented and transcended West Indian cricket, Claudia Jones/Elma Francois/Audrey Jeffers women's leadership in politics, social welfare, trade union struggle, Sparrow in calypso. What is Williams' institutional memory? And why is it not celebrated in a similar way? Your guess is a good as mine, if not better.
Maybe part of the indifference, if not oblivion, is linked to what is happening in Crown Trace and Maraval and Arima. Or what is happening and not happening in the schools, prisons, hospitals and centres of production. Coming out of the social constructs the Party has created, some have imagined that commemorations, efforts at national celebrations might turn into fiascos if not fights, given that the Father of the Nation, allegedly, boasted of keeping his children, Oil and Sugar, apart.
All is not lost however for the loyalists. Sometime in the far future a Cudjoe or a Ryan will probably invent a more palatable version of the Doc. It is called 'revisionism.'
Much has been written about the current gas shortage and various measures taken to try to mitigate the fallout from this problem. Criticism of NGC has been suggested for not agreeing a contract with MHTL and concerns raised about our continued attraction for foreign investors.
I think most of these miss the point which is we have simply run out of gas. We can make all sorts of contracts and hope to buy gas from Venezuela but these will not create any more T&T gas.
I have been writing in the press since 2003 to warn the seemingly deaf-to-the-facts ministers of Energy about the shortage of proven reserves relative to the commitments we have, while the same ministers continued to pretend that our gas reserves are infinite and new gas will mysteriously appear like manna from heaven.
We should never have approved LNG train 4 that consumes 800 bcfd of gas. We had no need for the ‘Cross Island Pipeline’ since the existing pipelines provided enough capacity for a reduced, steady and longer-term supply to the existing industries, with potential production rates in reserve that would provide security of supply during localised interruption difficulties offshore.
Policy seemed to be to approve any gas consuming scheme that was proposed with no regard whatever for the ability to produce the resultant aggregate production rate required or how long this would be possible. We advertised this as proof of T&T being an ‘investment friendly’ nation, and have strutted around the world claiming to be advanced thinkers on a ‘business model’ and world leaders in gas utilization.
This apparently still continues in the face of evidence of the impossibility of ever producing enough gas in the foreseeable future. Clear evidence of this is in the construction of the Massy/Mitsubishi methanol/DME plant when MHTL has to shut down for lack of gas! Why was this project approved by both PNM and PP governments?
It’s all very well to say that the PP government OK’d the deal, but it was definitely started by the preceding PNM government who knew of the dire reserve shortage and are now in power and still saying nothing while construction commences. Word on the street is that other Pt Lisas gas plants are considering legal action due to the 4 – 5 years of starved gas supplies they have had to bear. Is this present government deaf dumb and blind? Why isn’t the project being stopped before the inevitable non-supply to them triggers yet another law suit, and severe national embarrassment?
If any attempt is to be made to manage this catastrophe, there is the consideration of best use of gas. Newer plants are more efficient and from the same quantity of gas make more methanol and ammonia than older plants. I do hope that somebody somewhere in authority is making a careful analysis of which plants bring the most benefit to T&T, considering all the many aspects such as age, efficiency, overall profit, tax, jobs, foreign exchange retained etc.
From this the priority for plant shut downs can be derived and announced. It’s no point keeping everything secret and claiming that’s required by the buyers of gas. A new-build plant will face severe difficulties in such an analysis since it is new (and unnecessary) capital, leading to large deductions for plant wear and tear and consequent reduced tax payment. We really don’t need foreign direct investment that shuts down other plants and reduces tax receipts.
This is a national crisis and requires critical action.
Violence against women has become very much a major issue in the public domain and discourse. This is a very important development because our record as Caribbean men in this area has not been particularly good. And we do need to take stock and re-learn some key relationship patterns.
What bothers me however is that it is very easy for us, men and women, to believe that this is enough. To deal with the issue of “violence against women” alone and not engage the key underlying issue of power.
What makes men engage in such violence? Yes there is the raw brute force that so manifests itself because men are for the most part physically bigger and stronger. But this is the tip of the iceberg. The experience of such physical power is in reality articulated in terms of an overarching power relation where the male is defined as the source of power, violence, control and command. The fancy word for this is “patriarchy”.
It is this question of power that needs to be addressed and we must be careful that this issue of violence against women is not cleverly used by certain elites as a distraction. So that certain men (all too often working class men) are readily demonized but the core issue of power remains hidden.
So violence against women becomes a safe middle class issue. And we can put it together with other safe middle class gender issues, like gender-based discrimination in the workplace and elsewhere or sexual harassment etc. Yes I would sincerely hope that all right thinking decent people would oppose all this (unfortunately I cannot make this assumption) but we are not going to effectively engage patriarchy by remaining in this comfort zone.
Moreover it is not in the middle tier that patriarchy really shows its teeth. To begin with we need a sharper understanding of what patriarchy is. And here I find the tools of analysis of “critical theory” to actually be quite helpful. This analytical approach would in my view correctly maintain that we must understand the oppressive power-relation in terms of the intersection of race, class and gender. Thus we avoid in the process any simplistic view of women versus men or a reductionist viewing of the workings of power.
There is oppressing and oppressive elite at the intersection of race, class and gender. When examined this elite, that in actuality presides over the capitalist system, possesses or tends to have a certain race/ethnic/colour/culture profile (I can say a great deal about this but I will stop here). They are principally men (though there are wives, daughters and other associates who belong, who benefit and who are complicit). And they are just that – an elite class; this in an essentially oppressive class structure.
This is the structure that characterizes the patriarchal system. And as I said the full weight does not fall on the middle tier. Actually in certain key middleclass areas – like education and employment – women may even be ahead of men. And while I want to make it clear that even here issues of violence and discrimination are to be taken seriously, it is the working class woman who remains most vulnerable across the board.
But as also ought to be clear the middle class success of women in terms of education and employment in absolutely no way diminishes the nature of patriarchal oppression. Men clearly preside over the elite tier and it is the oppressed lower class that bears the brunt. We have not begun to dismantle the system; if anything it is getting worse.
Moreover, working class men are also the victims of patriarchy in terms of poverty and criminalization and in being shot and incarcerated by the capitalist state apparatus. Indeed, a great deal of working class male violence against women is to be viewed in this light (though it in no way justifies such violence). And here such working class males may readily be caught and processed through the system. Of course elite men don’t abuse women!
Having said this it is very often women who most profoundly experience the effects of systemic violence, of poverty, dislocation, privation and raw brute force. Moreso as it is they who are locked into the roles of family and caregiving.
Finally, I humbly suggest that if we follow this issue of violence against women honestly we would be led to the same place as if we follow all the other burning social and political issues to their logical conclusion. We would be forced to conclude that there is need for fundamental, radical, thorough and permanent change in the dominant power-relation.
There is a word for that!
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