Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 8th 2014 Contents B7
Thursday, May 8, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
When I watched the video of the girl
being beaten by her mother, I wondered
why she didn’t curse her and run away
like Bim when his stepfather tries to beat
him in Raoul Pantin’s 1974 film. I would
A Welsh friend described the minor
revenges she exacted on her parents after
beatings—scrubbing the toilet with their
toothbrushes or pouring water down the
back of their TV—amusing, Roald Dahl-
We forgive our parents almost anything.
Their wrongs have a way of evaporating
We think of the good and their sacrifices
and forget their mistakes, ignore the scars
of indifference, neglect, rage, violence. For-
giveness is natural, especially of the mothers
who bore us. But what of our fathers?
In the days after the six-minute moth-
er-daughter epic, a video emerged of a father
chasing and beating his son publicly with
a piece of wood.
Trinis shared the video accompanied with
the words “haha,” or simply, “lol,” because
violence in Trinidad is funny once it’s hap-
pening to somebody else. Who knows
whether the long-term effects of fathers’
licks may be more profound than mothers’
The word “licks” is etymologically inter-
esting and deceptive, the employment of a
soft word for a hard fact. It’s a disguise to
avoid the difficult truth.
A Trini friend told me the worst part of
licks isn’t the fear or apprehension or even
the pain, it’s being told: “Sorry I had to beat
you, I love you,” afterwards.
A difficult truth (love) combined with a
difficult lie (that they had to beat them.)
There are ongoing social negotiations
between authority and subserviency in the
Caribbean. Nobody wants to feel like a slave
ever again, but many are completely cowed
by those who have adopted master mind-
Iconoclastic, anti-authority explosions, like the
shocking murder of Dana Seetahal, may be expressions
of this unresolved and repressed anger.
Or maybe I just want to believe that there was
something more than senseless, wanton destruction
in the killing. It already seems likely that we may
never know why she was killed.
In response to last week’s column, Death in Par-
adise, my friend, the artist Chris Cozier, wrote to
tell me the problem of death is entwined in the prob-
lem of life.
“There is, here, also a struggle to really live,” he
said. “Naipaul has a sentence or two around that in
one of his later works, about people collectively
adjusting to the lives other people have decided or
constructed for them. The constructs of family, school
system and class are quite restrictive and the cal-
lousness around the value of life seems to match
those structures. Absurdly it seems almost normal
that the many have to sacrifice their desires, dreams
and now even their lives daily...
“Climbing through that mental obstacle course is
very different here for each generation. I came from
a very particular moment here, the 1960s and ’70s,
in which the battle with self-doubt still had a slight,
even if faint, British colonial flavour.”
The classroom scene in Bim, where the school-
master lashes the emotionally fragile boy, reflects
the callousness of Trinidadian (née British) author-
itarians, rule-makers, discipliners—the dereliction of
a duty of care.
The same frustrations for young Trinidadians—
taught to “know their place” and to comply with
“how things are done”—are still in place, like the
’60s never happened.
My mother told me children in the ’50s in Britain
were not seen as thinking individuals, just expected
to be quiet obedient creatures, while children in the
Caribbean were seen as appendages able to be left
with whoever was available while parents searched
for a better life in good old Britain.
In England and America, the ’60s cleared a pathway
for young people, swathing through the ancient
timber, creating a new horizon. The defiance of coun-
terculture pioneers like Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, Andy
Warhol, Jimi Hendrix—their words, drugs, clothes,
sex, art, music—gave young people courage to tell
disciplinarian parents and teachers to eff off. Punk
in the ’70s, grunge and house in the ’90s exploded
the remaining constraints of social hierarchy.
The stratification of generations in England is
clearly marked. My grandmother, born in 1928, still
sings war ditties and literally doesn’t understand the
Here in T&T, generations are closer in terms of
behaviour, 70-year-olds wining and smoking weed.
In some ways this is a good thing. But still the
fear young people have of older generations constrains
them. The fear of telling your parents to f--k off if
they are unreasonable or drunk. The fear of getting
lashed with a belt.
The struggle to survive, which Naipaul identifies
and Trinis recognise, must be broken down. And it
ought to be music that breaks it down, as music
But instead, the soca stars want to sing about
drinking and wining—nothing serious—while our
young adults foolishly validate, endorse and repeat
their parents’ mistakes.
Yes, we should forgive our parents’ misdemeanours,
but we shouldn’t forget them.
In the words of the poet Philip Larkin:
They f--k you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had.
And add some extra, just for you.
Take licks...I love you
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