Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 8th 2017 Contents A16 editorial lead
Sunday, October 8, 2017
One of our colonial legacies is our parliamentary system
and there's a lot to be proud of it. Unfortunately, we also
imported some of the less interesting elements of Britain's
House of Commons, including the boisterous behaviour of
MPs during debates.
The private schoolboy behaviour may make good televi-
sion---and amusing newspaper reporting---but it does nothing
when it comes to improving the way the country is run. Even
less so when the country faces such a dif icult time and fol-
lowing a fractious budget.
The behaviour of some of the most senior Government
ministers during the Opposition Leader's Budget response
on Friday was childish at best, requiring the Speaker to send
some of them 'for a walk', just like primary school teachers
may need to get a child out of the class when being naughty.
Perhaps in the bubble politicians live, issues like tax rises,
high levels of de icit and public debt, fuel hikes, recession
and an ongoing foreign exchange crunch may feel like per-
fect subjects for jokes and bad behaviour in parliament. For
us, poor mortals, they don't.
The Minister of Finance called his Budget 'Changing the
Paradigm'. One change we would all welcome, from both
sides of the house, is a more grown up behaviour not only
to help ix the economy, but all the critical problems this
To be blunt, MPs, we deserve more respect.
We need to look carefully at what is happening with our
young people's health.
It was troubling to see that, last week, a number of second-
ary school children had blood pressure levels high enough to
prompt Ministry of Health of icials, who took pressure tests
as part of a new campaign launched by the ministry, to send
them to hospital for further checks.
Unless the initial assessments were wrong, just the thought
that hypertension is increasingly affecting teenagers in our
country is very worrying. This must be checked and urgently.
Beyond the personal tragedy of our children facing a life-
time of illness (with the additional burden to the health
system that brings with it), the nation may also risk joining
countries like Russia, currently heading in the wrong direc-
tion as far as life expectancy is concerned.
Best of luck to all the children who are running today at the
RBC's Race for Kids, in aid of the bank's Caribbean Children's
Cancer Fund. It will never feel right to see a child diagnosed
with cancer---or any other life-threatening disease---but it is
essential that help is there when needed.
RBC's run comes just a week after Scotiabank's Women
Against Breast Cancer race, another great and inspiring
event to increase awareness of cancer prevention and raise
funds to help those in need.
These events, together with many others, large and small,
not only help raise much needed fund but also bring us
closer together by campaigning for good causes and ighting
this much feared disease.
which were origi-
nally intended to
be only skeletal in
creating a fledgling
system of schooling
in the Caribbean, have hardened
and fossilised. Ideologies have be-
come dogma and curiosity has be-
come motionless. But it does not
have to be this way.
The future is always open to
suggestions. There is no immac-
ulate perception. The past is al-
ways ahead of us and it bleeds
backwards into the present. New
education systems will not simply
appear out of the blue but will
require deliberate effort. Well-be-
ing and freedom to live a decent
human life need to be the ulti-
mate objective of the economy.
Ours is a diasporic society. It
is an inheritance of tremendous
worth. Failure to embrace it as
an asset would be a catastrophe.
Distance was never an obstacle in
our history, and distance across
the globe today can no longer
limit the distribution of probabil-
Culture must be about making
things different from what they
are, the future unlike the present.
Derek Walcott reminds us that
once "We were the colour of
shadows when we came down/
with tinkling leg-irons to join the
chains of the sea."
The colonial recipe of assimila-
tion and conversion when dealing
with difference is no longer tena-
ble in a multi-centred world.
Post-modern Europe has
emerged ashen-faced in the midst
of its present migration crisis,
very much like our ancestors
from the Bight of Benin and the
berths of Kolkata, who, from an
overcrowded barracoon, crossed
the Middle Passage to become
plantation labourers in a New
Massimo D'Alema points out
that cultural métissage or hybrid-
isation is unavoidable. It triggers a
mixing of cultural inspirations.
In the end it becomes a source
of enrichment and an engine
of creativity. The schooling of a
newly arriving Asiatic indentured
labouring class, at institutions
separate from the rest of the pop-
ulation in Trinidad and Tobago,
has had enduring consequences.
Amin Maalouf concludes that
when the traditions of the orig-
inal culture are respected, the
immigrant feels less rejected on
account of his or her different
identity. This in turn makes them
more open to the cultural options
of the new country.
Even so, there is only
a ine thread that
ment from erasure.
The veritable Babel
that was Trinidad's
linguistic lushness included
speakers of Yao, Warao, Kalina,
Lokono, Carinepagoto, Chaima,
Kalipunian, Chaguane, Igneri,
Nepoio, Dutch, French, German,
Italian, Latin, Lisboa Portuguese,
Spanish, Akan, Mandinka, Hausa,
Yoruba, Ibo, Kikongo, Bengali,
Bhojpuri, Tamil, Sindhi, Guja-
rati, Nepali, Malayalam, Sanskrit,
Urdu, Telugu, Hakka, Cantonese,
north Levantine (Syrian and Leb-
anese) Arabic and English.
Life in the confluence of these
multiple Vygotskian zones of
proximal development is an ad-
vantage that has slipped through
our ingers like sand. Eric Heisser-
er's 2016 ilm, Arrival, is an
unnerving lamentation of the par-
adise we have lost. The languages
we listen to, speak, read and write
impact, reflect and shape the way
we think and how we perceive the
Alejo Carpentier, in The Lost
Steps, envisions the post-colonial
project as an engagement with
the past that creates a new, un-
predictable and unknown future
that can yield immense original-
ity. Inherent in such a task is the
impulse to commemorate the
past as much as to celebrate the
possibility of producing an entire
New World reality.
Embracing a paradisal perspec-
tive on the new world is crucial if
education is to have any chance
of driving innovation and entre-
preneurship across these "leaves
of brown islands" which "stick to
the rim of this Caribbean" (Derek
Walcott, The Schooner Flight).
The Adamic innocence of the
New World compels us to look at
the awakening intelligence of the
West Indian mindscape and the
possibility of our children taking
on Adam's task of naming the
world. Like "nail holes of stars in
the sky roof " they have the poten-
tial to illuminate and change the
world. The task is how to get be-
yond the colonial circle of white
boulders that ring the flagstaff
and unfurl their capabilities and
to let their curiosity blow freely
across the curriculum.
Frontline players of Skiffle Steel Orchestra have fun during their performance at The Big 5's We goin Down Sando
concert at the Southern Academy for the Performing Arts, San Fernando, on Thursday night. PICTURE TONY HOWELL
Dr Fazal Ali
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