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We Have Come Far, But We Have Far To Go
On the August 31, 2012, our nation would celebrate 50 years of Independence! 50 years of Independence is nothing to scoff at and, each and every one of us can take pride in a job well done. Since 1962, as a nation, we have distinguished ourselves globally in all fields and spheres with the boundless faith that greatness is our destiny.
As we have grown in independence, so have we developed interdependence amongst ourselves, creating a framework of expanding and investing the social capital of this nation so that we can instil and foster a national identity which has become the brand of Trinidad & Tobago. Dr Eric Williams must still expect the continued development of the confidence of the nation’s emotional, social and intellectual capacity to define its own future and the confidence that our great nation will continue to evolve equip itself with the tools needed to ride all future storms.
He therefore, must be disturbed by the issue of the growing segregation between the two major groups within this great nation; a clear indication that our past continues to live in our future. Colonialism fostered a society seeped in sectionalism and individualism. Germane to the principles of colonialism was emotional, psychological and social fragmentation of the people to enhance and perpetuate self-segregation without chains or walls.
Thus, African tribes were segregated, freed slaves were kept apart from Indian indentured labourers, the contrast between town folks and country folks were nurtured to develop internal class structures that would breed inferiority and ill-will and sustain segregation, distinctions and gradations of colour within the people were deliberately imposed - the list goes on as historians have extensively chronicled these attempts to divide and conquer, under the banner of colonialism.
On the day of our independence 50 years ago, this emotional millstone was the legacy that was our reality, as much as independence from colonialism was our hope. However, our Independence 50 years ago was founded in the principles of equality and tolerance. Dr Williams stated most eloquently at the 5th Annual PNM Convention (1961): “We were slaves and indentured labourers together in the age of colonialism, equal in our oppressions and equal in the disabilities inflicted on us.
We are citizens together in the days of Independence, equal in our rights, privileges, responsibilities and obligations in the national community.” The intent of Independence was freedom for us all, regardless of race, colour or creed. That together we would forge a new identity where there would only be one Mother Trinidad and Tobago, with the assurance that a mother will never discriminate among her children.
As disputes rage amongst our own leaders as to whether the Steelpan, the only new acoustic musical instrument to be invented and accepted world - wide in the 20th century, is an original invention because it came from the Indian Tassa Drum, and there is a marked omission of the contributions of Dr Williams in celebrations to mark the nation’s 50th Anniversary of Independence; the only thing that is becoming evident is that national pride is being dissected by partisan politics.
As we continue to forge our identity that is founded in our history, our ancestors and uniquely unified culture, it is critical that we acknowledge that, in evolving, we are not erasing, nor obliterating nor reconstructing our past. In embracing our historic leaders and activists and the contributions they made, we are able to celebrate the changes that the future would bring with the confidence of our nation’s continued growth and development.
Almost prophetically, Dr Williams in 1969 on the first lunar landing by Apollo 11 wrote in his goodwill message: “It is our earnest hope for mankind that while we gain the moon, we shall not lose the world.” Sadly, as our nation grows from strength to strength and embraces all the new technology and information so readily available to sustain its growth, as the growth in our nation’s intelligentsia fulfils the promises that Independence made 50 years ago, there now exists strong evidence of a regression to the segregation and individualisms of the colonial years of yore.
It is not unreasonable to be concerned that as we reach for that elusive moon, as a nation, we are at risk of losing the true substance of the beautiful world that unification has allowed us to achieve. In the words of the Chief Secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly, the honourable Mr Orville London: “We have come far, but we still have far to go.” For a nation, a 50th anniversary is an early milestone in a journey that is infinite. Yes, there is a lot to celebrate but there is still a lot more to do to ensure the sustainability of our nation and our people.
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