Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 18th 2013 Contents B6
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T&T is a society shaped from the
trauma of its history with no energy
left to build the mental and emotional
infrastructure it needs, says Dr Ray-
Ramcharitar, a T&T Guardian
columnist, said this during his feature
address at the reading and discussion
forum, titled the Third Generation:
Introducing Neil Bissoondath.
It was the third in a series of events
leading up to an international confer-
ence on Nobel Laureate VS Naipaul
next year. Bissoondath, is Naipaul s
The first two events in the series
focused on Naipaul s father, Seepersad
and his brother, Shiva. The event was
hosted by Friends of Mr Biswas and
related to the Naipaul Literary Museum,
recently opened in St James.
At the National Library, Port-of-
Spain on December 4, Ramcharitar
compared Bissoondath s response to
Canadian multiculturalism with his
T&T experience. This was based on
Bissoondath s novel Selling Illusions:
The Cult of Multi-culturalism in Cana-
His address focused on multi-cul-
turalism and whether it was applicable
to the cultural current situation in T&T.
Ramcharitar said Bissoondath was
15 at the time of the Black Power Move-
ment and would have internalised fear,
the terrible sense of isolation and threat,
and racial paranoia which he would
have been privy to among his parents
"The sense of trauma pervades his
writing about Trinidad. A significant
part of this unwritten and much avoided
cultural history of Trinidad is the way
Trinidadians have reacted to a period
of trauma," he said.
In his conclusion, Ramcharitar said
T&T is a society shaped by trauma.
"The reality is, we live in a society
shaped by trauma, and most if not all
our psychic resources are spent denying
this, or fleeing this. There is no energy
left to build a nation, to create the men-
tal and emotional infrastructure a nation
requires," he said.
He said newspaper clippings from
1960 and 1986 showed T&T was a
country suffering a decades-long nerv-
"Crime shot up, but not only crime:
the very fabric of society seemed to
come apart. Indians were erased from
the nationalist symbolic imagery. Hun-
dreds of thousands of Trinidadians of
all ethnicities left, and were replaced
by about 150,000 illegal immigrants
from the small islands, who created an
urban underclass and a schizoid national
identity," he said.
He gave several examples of books
such as Naipaul s Mimic Men and
Guerrillas, and Walcott s poems The
Spoiler s Return and The Schooner
"Those legacies are so terrible they
drove away a third of the population,"
Ramcharitar claimed citizens have a
sense of contempt, love or patriotism
for T&T. He also said despite historical
facts of repression of "Indo" culture
and politics, the situation has changed.
"It is foolish to be held back by the
past. Indo destiny, for the last 20 years,
has been in Indian hands," he said.
Ramcharitar said the national imag-
ination must be freed from the con-
strictive yoke of Carnival and the $100
million wasted on it must be distributed
Referring to the novel, Selling Illu-
sions, he outlined Bissoondath s journey
to Canada and his political position of
being opposed to Canada s multicultural
"But from Trinidad to Canada, the
country of immigrants, power is
unimaginably distant, hence matters
of identity and ethnicity are bereft of
that element which makes them deadly.
There, instead of the violent jostle for
cultural and political space, and dom-
inance, the emphasis was stability," he
"Immigrants did not have to change,
nor conform to fit into the society. The
society respected and valued different,
and would accommodate its immi-
grants," he said.
Ramcharitar said Bissoondath wrote
of a "racist past of Canadian immigra-
tion laws well into the 20th century
were protective of its racial exclusivity
and discriminated against Asians,
Africans and African Americans alike."
He said Selling Illusions was pub-
lished in 1994 and things have changed,
and not for the better.
At the forum, Shivanee Ramlochan,
Patti-Anne Ali and Prof Ken Ramchand
gave an ensemble reading from The
Worlds Within Her.
Professor Ken Ramchand, Professor Bridget Brereton and Raymond Ramcharitar discuss Neil Bissoondath's
books at Nalis. PHOTO: SEAN NERO
Bissoondath was 15 at
the time of the Black
Power Movement and
internalised fear, the
terrible sense of
isolation and threat,
and racial paranoia
which he would have
been privy to among
his parents and
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