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Puzzling lack of celebratory spirit
Just one week from the 50th anniversary of the country’s political independence, there is little evidence of a celebration or series of activities to mark this significant period in Trinidad and Tobago’s progress to building a civilisation that all can be proud of. The military tattoo being put on at Woodford Square apart, there is little else to evoke widespread public participation.
The expectation was that there would be concerts in which the major performing artists would be sharing their compositions and interpretations of the last 50 years. In a country that has produced literary giants, readings of the works of the likes of Naipaul, Selvon, Walcott, the amazing insights in the books of CLR James and so many others should be filling the libraries and town halls. So too should the displays of leading and emerging artists and reflections on the cultures of the multi-cultural society that is Trinidad and Tobago be within easy reach of the population.
The steelbands should be parading the streets in communities in which they grew up; chutney performances, interpretations by groups such as Marionettes and Lydians should be filling the space to inspire and to keep confusion and kankatang out. The gift of ourselves given by Beryl McBurnie, the work of the Balkaransinghs and the dougla fusion music sounds of Patasar should be dazzling and ringing in our ears.
What of public discussions at town meetings and in the media about the advances and declines that have occurred in the society over the first 50 years of the existence of T&T as a nation? The announcement that Michael Anthony is launching a new compilation of 50 great achievers is welcome news in this place arid of true celebrations.
Similarly, that there will be festival cricket games at the Queen’s Park Oval to remind us of national accomplishments and heroes makes the heart sing. But what of football, athletics and the other sports in which nationals have put T&T on the world map?
Instead of contention over the one-way traffic going west out of the city and similar concerns about getting into town from the West, there should be evenings of street celebrations on those routes, in San Fernando, in Arima, in Chaguanas and in the deep south of the country. Surely what is being advocated here must have some power to influence and inspire that sense of patriotism that is a requirement for fostering greater nationhood.
The noise that has been heard in the public space has been squabbling about issues such as whether Dr Eric Williams is being given sufficient place in the celebrations. Media houses must also share in the responsibility for informing and engaging readers, viewers and listeners with television and radio programmes and newspaper articles on this 50th anniversary.
The lack of celebratory activities and atmosphere is particularly puzzling when there is no one who could legitimately lay a charge against the national spirit that revels in celebration. Is this lack of the festive spirit an indication that perhaps there are large numbers of people who genuinely feel there is nothing to celebrate?
Is it political narrow-mindedness on the part of a government that feels that it was not sufficiently part of the making of Independence, so that to raise the level would shine too much of a light on the opposition PNM? Is it that the PNM prefers to go off and sulk and find reason to gripe rather than interact positively with the Government to mark this occasion? The nation, while far from being perfect, is still in its infancy and needs more credit, appreciation and encouragement than is being given to date.
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