Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 4th 2014 Contents BY THE TIME I was born Trinidad and Tobago was al-
ready independent. I was too young to participate in the
post-Independence excitement but I can imagine, based
on conversations with people who were there, how ex-
hilarating it must have felt. Finally, after years of living
according to the rules, customs and preferences of our
colonisers we would have a say in our life as a nation. It's
now 50 years later and we are still a nation with lots of
challenges that have their foundation in the colonial pe-
riod. In this article I want to talk a bit about how this chal-
lenge plays out in our lives
Walter Rodney states that, "Colonialism was not merely
a system of exploitation, but one whose essential pur-
pose was to repatriate the profits to the so-called
'mother country'." This is the central premise of the eco-
nomic part of colonialism and, at first glance, it may seem
simple to overcome. If the purpose of colonialism was to
repatriate profits then all we have to do is to ensure that
we interrupt the process right? Easy to say, eh? But
what does that mean on a practical level?
1. We have to make many of the goods and provide a
high percentage of the services that we need. Once again
it seems simple. Make the goods and provide the serv-
ices that we need. How difficult can that be? Near to im-
possible based on current evidence, and worsening since
Independence. As a nation we are importing most of the
goods that we buy and about $4 billion in food annually.
We have become almost 100% dependent on one local
industry, the fossil fuel industry. Add to that our high level
of consumerism and almost every dollar we make (the
profit from the oil and gas industry) is spent on goods
made outside our borders.
2. So then maybe we have to go back one step. We have
to be prepared and trained to make many of the goods
and provide a high percentage of the services that we
need. Hmmm... So we have to prepare the local popula-
tion to grow and process food products, create durable
goods, etc. We also have to decide what services we
need and train the local population to provide these serv-
ices. In the service sector we are not doing badly. The sit-
uation has improved since Independence. Many of our
professionals are local and while we do have a tendency
to be constantly hiring foreign consultants (I could al-
most say we have an addiction to this), our police, teach-
ers, doctors, lawyers, physical therapists, social workers
and more are usually local --- not the case in the colonised
period. But on the food and durable goods front? We are
re-packers. With few exceptions we import edible goods
(or their ingredients) from overseas, put them into
smaller containers and then stamp the bags "Made in
Trinidad and Tobago". Any non-food products? Turn the
bag over and it probably says "Made in China".
From my personal observation having been a business
owner of three local companies in the past eight years I
would say that our biggest problem is that our minds are
still colonised. We still believe:
1. That we CANNOT do the job. Witness the recent
Memorandum of Understanding that the Government
signed to allow cocoa liquor to be exported to an Eng-
lish company to make chocolate. The profit from cocoa
bean to chocolate bar is extremely high --- over 1,000%.
Why can't we make high quality chocolate bars locally?
We already have about eight small companies making
high quality local chocolate. I was told in past years that
it was too hot. What is an AC for? Why are we deter-
mined to keep building capacity abroad and staying at
the lowest level of food processing? Why don't we give
our local food-processing sector a chance?
2. That we cannot think of another way to do the job. I
repeatedly hear or read statements implying our need
for a return to colonialism. But our deficiencies and lack
of imagination are what are hindering
us, not our inherent ability. We
don't think we deserve the
full benefit of our work.
Witness a different atti-
tude. A cocoa farmers'
cooperative in Ghana
decided that they
would let an English
company make the
their beans but
they made sure
that they, the
owned a sub-
company: Forty-five per cent of the stock of Divina
Chocolates belongs to Kuaka Kokoo cooperative. Why
aren't we coming up with similar approaches to be able
to benefit from the upstream parts of our industries?
So in order to move in a direction that has concrete pos-
itive economic repercussions we have to begin to believe
that we are CAPABLE and to start equipping ourselves
with the skills to reflect this capability. But since all action
sits on belief systems, the belief system that makes us
feel inferior will have to change.
In the next instalment we will discuss ways to decolonise
our minds. We will also discuss how someone like me,
who tries to "unplug from average" as much as I can, at-
tempts to make decisions that are free from the weight
of a colonised mind.
Until then check out the book Prospero's Daughter by
Elizabeth Nunez (a writer from Trinidad and Tobago).
She gives, in a fictional context, really detailed descrip-
tions of the colonial mind and the process of colonising
the mind of an individual. And, as always, write me at
| INSPIRATION |
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