MAKING T&T PROUD
Jehue Gordon —Photo: Getty
Time for a reality check
I might be in a unique position to fully appreciate what sport does for Trinidad and Tobago internationally. I remember in 2001 when coach Anil Roberts and I attended the World Championships in Fukoka, Japan and placed fourth in the 200m IM, few people in swimming knew what country our flag represented or could locate Trinidad and Tobago on a map.
Over the course of representing the Red, White and Black, there have been countless instances where people have initially written me off as some Third World, wannabe athlete, lumped in with the likes of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Myanmar when I say that I come from a country that they have absolutely never heard of before.
This truth is hard to imagine when living here, except perhaps when trying to obtain a visa for travel. Many of us seem to think of Trinidad as the centre of the universe. Now, I am proud to say that in the sport of swimming, Trinidad and Tobago is renowned, and more importantly we are feared and respected by the rest of the world. It is because I am aware of that international ignorance and inconsequential attitude towards Trinidad and Tobago in general, that I take such pride in the sporting success of our country.
Hasely Crawford, Keshorn Walcott, Jehue Gordon, Ato Boldon, Richard Thompson, Wendell Motley, Edwin Skinner, Lalonde Gordon, Brian Lara and Dwight Yorke, just to name a few, have done an invaluable service to our country over the course of our 51-year history. They have and continue to earn us respect around the world. By showcasing our talented athletes, the nation will gain more in terms of growing our nation’s esteem and becoming internationally renowned than Carnival of Pan ever could.
That is the power of sport.
It is because I take such tremendous pride in our top athletes and their sporting accomplishments that I naturally want the Red, White, and Black to become fashionable and synonymous with success, I might add, in the way that Jamaica is becoming. However, I see some serious obstacles in our way, the greatest being the mindset of our general population.
This is intended to be brutally honest. Take it as you will. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
Some people are optimists, some are pessimists. I aspire to be a realist.
There are some aspects of our unique Trinbagonian culture and general perspective on life that I believe are severely limiting our potential. Since I have returned home, I am noticing the difference in mentality everywhere and I feel compelled to address what I can in the limited space provided.
This perspective is mostly evident in sport, but due to its pervasiveness, it seems ubiquitous in our daily lives. Perhaps the reason I even notice the sharp contrast is due to the fact that for the past few months, I have been abroad and surrounded by some very successful individuals, athletes and teams.
Let’s be honest with ourselves, fellow Trinbagonians. I get so fed up of hearing about the power of positive thinking.
I am not sure where this blind faith idea comes from, whether the idea is from Oprah, or the book entitled “The Secret” or what? I am constantly hearing phrases like “Don’t worry, just think positive and we will win,” or “Just ask God,” or “Think positive, put it out into the universe,” reiterated everywhere. Sound familiar?
Honesty is a fundamental part of any successful endeavour. I don’t lie to myself. It is what it is. I believe in a more proactive approach. If things aren’t going well, no amount of positive thinking will change the course. We need to be objective and recognise a poor performance for what it was.
Responsibility must be taken, something must need to be addressed or changed.
If there is a failure to achieve the desired result, there must be mistakes or reasons why that directly influence the outcome. The results of our nation’s track and field team at the recent World Championships in Moscow was deemed a “good World Championships by the teams officials.”
Let’s be honest here. Aside from Jehue Gordon’s amazing triumph, for a country that was as successful as we were in London, we had a disappointing showing overall. Jamaica had a good World Championships.
In order to get better we need to be honest with ourselves. For example, let’s imagine an extreme, hypothetical situation in which you are a broke, lonely, a failure. You adopt an optimistic outlook and apply the power of positive thinking. You manage to convince yourself this is how it’s meant to be and that your current state is the result of some external force beyond your control, otherwise known as an external locus of control, and that things could always be worse. Perhaps you even start to believe that you are pretty lucky. The delusion that things are beyond your control and the blind faith in the fact that matters will improve by themselves, become the chains that keep you down.
Are you being honest with yourself? If you were honest with yourself your disgust at your pathetic situation would compel you to accept responsibility and immediately spring to action to rectify your life in whatever way possible.
We Trinbagonians, are fixated on the concept of “swag”. If we put as much energy into achieving results as we do towards faking the “swag” we would have more to back it up, and wouldn’t need to waste energy faking it in the first place. Swag isn’t your mohawk, gold chain, hat, clothes, shoes or red hood. True swag is worn effortlessly, it’s the undeniably evident respect earned from your peers. An alpha wolf has true swag, he doesn’t need to fake it. Those who really have it, know exactly what I am talking about.
Trinbagonians must realise that if something was easy, everyone would do it. If being successful was easy, everyone would be successful, but it’s not. It requires tremendous sacrifice and hard work.
For some populations in other countries, tremendous sacrifice and hard work is the cultural norm. Compared to most other places in the world Trinbagonians have it sweet. We recognise this when we repeat the adage “God is a Trini”. Our current situation: “We like it so.” We like to party so much that some people even joke that the motto of our country should be: “Don’t stop the carnival.”
Trinbagonians have never had to endure war, famine, or winter and our country has never had to fight desperately at unimaginable human cost for its survival like so many other nations.
It is probably largely due to a history of unreasonably harsh demands placed on populations due to war that countries such as Serbia, Croatia, Russia, Japan, America, China, England, Israel, Italy, France and Germany all culturally exalt and place such heroic emphasis on sacrifice and hard work.
The very concepts of sacrifice and work have become ingrained into their national psyche. When we as Trinbagonians step out onto the world stage, it is against this heroic, militant work ethic that we must compete. If we want to beat these countries in competition, we must first be willing to match and surpass their sacrifice and hard work when it comes to preparation.
We already know we can succeed out there, we have seen it, let’s make this the rule and not the exception!