The 22-member team which originally comprised government members, businessmen, economists and activists is supposed to present a COVID-19 Roadmap to Recovery for Trinidad and Tobago.
As it stands the emphasis is on economic recovery, but shouldn’t the committee be looking simultaneously at a system of values which could stimulate the society?
If I have to get the ear of the Committee, I would suggest that it looks at the matter of Education with particular emphasis on Culture ( a way of life), and Creativity (which can be taught), as a means of stimulating a national thrust for self-reliance, a key attribute for developing the society more so that we have to face the so-called New Normal.
In a 2017 article. “EDUCATION AND TLC (NOT JUST TENDER LOVING CARE) I wrote “Education has to play a very important part in transforming our economy to where we want it to be”.
I referenced a book “Re-Inventing the Corporation” (1985) by John Naisbitt & Patricia Aburdene which among other concerns dealt with the role of Creativity.
In the face of previous criticism of the committee (my own included) an opposition politician, Mr. Vasant Bharath. has been included and now there are belated requests to the public, which may make submissions via the Government’s official website.
But why could not the committee have included someone like Dr Hollis Liverpool (Chalkdust)? He has the credentials and the capacity for offering guidance for Education, Culture and Creativity with special emphasis on the Creative Arts.
Where Culture is concerned artistes such as the calypsonians hold a collective wisdom which can guide us. Notwithstanding the belief in some quarters that calypso is merely Carnival music there is a much-repeated statement that “By Calypso Our Stories are Told” which actually is a line from Sniper’s (Mervyn Hodge) “Portrait of Trinidad”.
Without digressing too much let us look at the need for commentary, documentation and direction on psycho-social issues which have become more critical because of COVID-19.
I have heard Ayanna Webster-Roy, Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister quoting Sasha Ann Moses’ calypso “Letter of Restraint” which dealt with the distressing situation when women facing domestic violence are not well protected even when they have restraining orders. There is also Singing Francine’s (Francine Edwards) “Runaway”.
Furthermore, Warrior Empress’ (Iya Ajètunmobi Somorin Bernard) “The You in You” and Joanne Rowley (Tigress) “Who feels it knows it”, have sung about depression.
After all, when we are looking for guidance or inspirational statements, we tend to look many artistes from other genres, from Shakespeare to Bob Marley. So, what is the problem with calypso?
Beside Chalkdust there are quite a few others who can provide direction for Education, Culture and Creativity. Among them are Jessel Murray, Wendell Manwarren, Raviji, Ken Ramchand, Sonja Dumas, Mungal Patasar, Earl Lovelace, Yao Ramesar, Errol Fabien and Christopher Laird.
We have to foster an approach comparable to what NJAC said in The People’s Declaration of Policy for the Development of a New Trinidad and Tobago (the Blue Book,1981) regarding the steps toward a culture of self- reliance.
“There is no underestimating the damage done to peoples by distorting the knowledge of the past. You destroy a man’s image of his history; you also destroy his image of himself in the present and his vision for the future. The education system is still continuing this damage”.
“Part of our resignation to a non-participatory role in politics comes from the rape of our self-confidence through denial of Self-Knowledge and the introduction of malicious falsehoods”.
“The belief and will needed for economic transformation also demand a rebuilding of that self-confidence”.
“This is so vital to the whole process of transformation of the society that we further elaborate as a basic principle”.
“The cultural development of the entire society must be firmloy wedded to a concept of self reliance.”