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Fierce old comforts

By Sheila Rampersad

Political mischief, public meetings on Constitution reform, shades of skin colour, teen pregnancies and Sat Maharaj not only demonstrate obviously abysmal backwardness let loose but negate decisively the continuous boast about free education in T&T.
This and these are what decades of handsome financial investment in the country’s education schema and strident defence of corporal punishment wproduced—a set of people who lived in and were formed by a dark and brutal past that overdetermines their views today of both themselves and others, and their actions towards themselves and others, but who all proclaim how psychologically healthy and well-adjusted they are.
By these measures, T&T’s national anthem would be “If yuh black, stay back; if yuh brown, stick around and if yuh white, it’s alright”; girls as young as 12 would be married off normal normal and their photos proudly published in the newspapers’ wedding pages; children would be beaten, starved, prostituted, locked out of homes and into dog kennels because they are the property of their parents and have no right to physical integrity; people found guilty of crimes would be routinely gunned down by the police or their genitalia clinically dissected in Woodford Square; LGBT people would be dragged through animal farms while being made to declare: “Yes, yes, I agree; some animals are equal than others”; men would be allowed to beat, torture and kill women at will because T&T’s men love their women passionately; and the country would be dedicating its intellectual resources to discovering whether Indians drink more rum than Africans and whether Africans are more licentious than Indians.
In 2014, this is the world that many citizens envision, citizens who all have had access to free primary and secondary school education and who, more recently, are recipients of free tertiary education.

In this potent mix of fascism and/or undeclared anarchy, I see no leader stepping forward with progressive ideas or in support of those ideas that would walk the country and its people towards an intelligent, enlightened future.
What the collective has done in response to the desperate juncture in which it finds itself is revert to its fierce historical comforts—race and violence—which generate a faux stability in this moment of mounting disorder. The falsity of that look-back is evidenced in national hypocrisy and schizophrenia: Dr Keith Rowley is too dark-skinned to be a suitable prime ministerial candidate; how the Express could use that Rowley-too-dark-skinned headline?
As if hundreds of people and pets in this country are not named Blackie because they black; as if they never heard that “if you eh red, yuh dead”; as if dark-skinned men and women don’t routinely access upward mobility by wedding those lighter skinned than themselves; as if our very desire has not been constructed around colour; as if they are blind to the number of light-skinned Indian households in which dark-skinned Indians serve as maids and assorted helpers; as if we forgot Sprangalang was told he was unsuitable for TV because he too black and ugly; as if that black-and-ugly phrase is not routine in households and has helped in large measure to create wounded, dysfunctional and perverse people at all levels of the society.
At the time of writing this yesterday, Sat Maharaj had hours before debuted his contender for hitherto-most-inflammatory racial abuse. It’s easy to predict the response. Except neither he nor his view is new. He said the very same thing when former minister Verna St Rose Greaves tried to start the process of changing the legal age of marriage in the Hindu, Muslim and Orisha marriage acts; he made then the same dim defence of the Hindu Marriage Act with talk about teenage pregnancy among Africans.
As if the Hindu Women’s Organisation did not do its own work among Hindus and publicly supported repeal; as if he is not over 80 years old with old ideas in a new time; as if he has not been general secretary of the SDMS for way too long for that organisation to claim democracy; as if the organisational vehicle he uses actually represents all Hindus in T&T; as if it has not been observed that he routinely conflates Hindu and Indian so as to broaden his organisation’s leverage; as if Mr Maharaj was not the elder who talked about a female teacher’s panty line; as if religion does not fornicate with politics; and as if he is known for all the progressive ideas about women, children and African people he has blessed the country with.

Children are routinely abused in this country and have been routinely abused for decades yet we are aghast at the statistics presented in Parliament, and the Prime Minister, I suppose, had no access to those statistics from her Minister of Education because she had to wait till he spoke in Parliament before she stepped up to say something is being done, by which she means that the Child Protection Task Force, with its initial six-week deadline, will stretch out both its mandate and its reporting schedule.
Progressive patriots, please step out and help take this tiny, shapely place into the future.
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