Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 14th 2014 Contents chaotic, enraged society we live in today.
(Crime was down, and other social
indicators were moving in approved
directions during the first UNC. Could
this enraging of the underclass have
caused the reversal? Hmmm. Is that
It s important to reiterate this, since
that decade (1997-2007) of media-cre-
ated overt Afrocentric racial hatred has
never (except for my book) been
acknowledged or discussed, though its
consequences persist. The media, by
facilitating enraged Indian columnists,
and rabid African columnists (saying
things like Indian doctors tied African
women s tubes), in a staged, continuous
cussout, set the tone and limits of eth-
nic and cultural discourse.
Afro-Trini interlocutors claimed the
same moral rights as African Americans,
and the Indian government became the
new oppressors. The Nation of Islam set
up shop here, and its representative
hosted a radio show called The Black
Agenda. "Oppression and resistance"
became national cultural themes.
Such were the contours of early Trini
multi-culti. Indo-Trini culture had
pushed its way into national conscious-
ness, but the gatekeepers of that con-
sciousness pushed back, to authorise the
"African/Creole position" as the legiti-
mate culture and others as minority.
This was, as described last week, a sim-
ilar tableau to the Canadian one---an
Anglocentric strategy to neutralise
This ideological reframing became a
permanent cultural trope, persisting long
after the Indian government was unseat-
ed. Artist Eddie Bowen describing his
experiences on a (2006) Carifesta IX
sub-committee on art, wrote that his
presence as a "white" Trinidadian was
seen as a "novelty." He withdrew from
the committee because (inter alia) the
government hacks promoted a "thematic
of resistance," excluded important
artists, and appropriated the festival, a
process he described as "socarisation."
Claire Broadbridge, a former curator of
the national museum and art gallery, in
2009 elaborated her experience of simi-
lar policy diktats, which illustrated that
regime s approach to culture: "They...
would be the inventors of local culture.
They were going to prescribe everything
we did---dictate TV and radio station
programming. Best Village type-dance
and drama to be given prime time
space. Music was to be controlled. Cre-
ative art was to concentrate only on
local subjects. Carnival was to be closely
directed. Guidance given to dance com-
panies and even creative writers."
Two years later, Annette Dopwell of
the Classical Music Development Foun-
dation, observed: "Our children are
being actively dissuaded from having
contact with the classical genius of
Mozart, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky. Instead,
what our children are exposed to is
what was referred to as all we need: ah
lil Marley, chutney, soca, and calypso. "
And here we are: early in the 21st
century, Government s cultural thrust
remains Carnival. There is a Carnival
Studies Unit at the UWI, and a Carnival
Arts MA at the UTT. Books and other
academic media, like the "Th?nk" con-
ferences in recent years---all repeat the
same thing: Carnival is Trinidadian cul-
ture. It is an African festival. It s neces-
sary to tourism and of economic value.
It s inclusive, everybody welcome. But
it s African.
The driver of this Orwellian cultural
regime remains the ignorance or cyni-
cism of the PP, which, in its haste to
get into power, was suckered into
endorsing Carnival. "Multiculturalism"
was a sop for those interested in culture
(rather than money), since the PP has
strongly suggested that its conception of
culture is a mamaguy to distract the
public while their friends and girlfriends
Thus the cultural perversity of post-
independence abides, and the human
and social capital consequences of this
status quo have been discussed in this
space extensively. But Neil Bissoondath s
novels give a glimpse of more devastat-
ing consequences of the failure of Trini
multiculti---the human factor.
(To be continued)
To pick up from last week, Trinidadian/Cana-
dian novelist Neil Bissoondath emerged as a
critic of Canadian multiculturalism in the 1990s.
His concept of multi-culti was strongly informed
by his Trinidadian experience in the early 1970s.
Back then, Indo culture was invisible in the pub-
lic sphere. Indians were not "real" Trinidadians,
and politics was suffused with paranoia about
Indo-Trinidadians "taking over," which persisted
well into the 1990s.
National culture was, post-independence, a
device to preserve the Afro-Creole constitution
of the State. The first radio station dedicated to
Indian music was launched in 1993, because
Afro-Creole cultural and economic logic could
not conceive a market for such music. (Experi-
ence has shown that the only stations that
struggle for listenership are those dedicated to
calypso and pan.)
Times have changed somewhat in 2014. Multi-
culturalism has been formally added to the offi-
cial lexicon. There is a ministry dedicated to arts
and multiculturalism whose Web site announces
its mandate: "to provide an environment where
each culture can flourish in a spirit of under-
standing, tolerance and harmony."
This is like trying to create an environment
where rain and drought can flourish simultane-
ously, since PNM cultural policy persists to the
present under the PP.
The post-independence paradigm changed
post-1996, when T&T was forced into a crude,
unarticulated, and grudging multiculti, when the
much-feared eschatological event of an Indian
government irrupted. Then, the culture wars, and
their political fields of battle, became explicit.
The "national" media suddenly realised Indian
music, shows, culture, and people existed in a
greater proportion than the coverage they got.
Simultaneously, an "African" cultural counter-
movement coalesced and Carnival, slavery and
emancipation "traditions" fused into a single
structure, wearing the sheen of nationalist
authenticity, which was seen to be under threat.
Calypsonians and commentators began publicly
making explicit statements about "Indian" pre-
sumptuousness at seizing Africans patrimony,
cultural and otherwise. Talk radio began its cam-
paign of rage, which fed this rhetoric into the
minds of the underclass, and created the violent,
Wednesday, May 14, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
The Admini a i e S pe i o
c/o G a dian Bo Y1806
San Fe nando
THE MULTICULTURAL TURN, PT II: TRINI MULTI-CULTI
Scourge of squatting
Squatting is becoming rampant in this country and it
seems that the authorities are condoning this law-
lessness. I admit that people need places to live, but
squatting can and should be regulated.
Lawful homeowners have to go through many legal
hoops, first to purchase the land then to build their
houses, but squatters can just go anywhere and erect
their "houses" without regard to regulations.
Not all squatters are potential wrong-doers, however,
but one bad apple can spoil the whole barrel. Why can't
the authorities not have special areas for squatters so
that these people can have proper roads, water and
lights, for which they will have to pay a fee, but at least
they will be able to live in a dignified manner. Anyone
found putting up illegal shacks will have the option of
going to these places or else their shacks will be bull-
dozed. Giving letters of comfort is ludicrous and just en-
There is too much lawlessness in the country and
many times inaction by the authorities are to blame.
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