By Keith Noel
THERE IS, among Caribbean people, a longing for a 'Utopia that almost was'. A feeling that, in the past, we were a potentially beautiful people and that, lamentably, we have seen this potential slip away as our societies become more crass, more cruel, more insensitive.
In Trinidad, especially, the lamentation had come to the fore some months ago when Peter Minshall, a world-famous 'Artist of the Carnival', had written a poetic beautifully phrased rant on the ills that had befallen the twin-island republic.
Here too, in Jamaica, we keep hearing about the beauty that was and no longer is. We throw our hands up in despair and speak of 'leaving it all up to the Almighty' as only He could save this land of ours from absolute perdition.
This was brought starkly to my attention twice in the past few days. First by an article copied to me by a friend of mine, another Trini-Jamaican. It was written in a Trinidadian newspaper and it spoke passionately of the reasons why the writer had problems joining fully in their fiftieth anniversary celebrations. And yesterday, my niece, visiting from Trinidad, spoke of her determination, as a media person, to use all in her power to help to turn the attention of her audience towards a rethinking of the values and attitudes that were promulgated by the media in that country.
She said to me earnestly. "I think our generation has dropped the ball." This suggested that in the '60s something good had been started and it had all subsequently gone horribly awry.
MORE CRASS, CRUEL
And there is much that may be true in the statements that are used to support this attitude. A cursory look (and listen) to the media immediately suggests that our societies have, indeed, become more crass, more cruel, more insensitive. Just look at the level of murders in our countries. And look at the number of these murders that appear senseless and to reflect a complete lack of an appreciation of the value of life.
What happened? What went wrong?
But hold on!
I looked again at the newspaper article. It ended with a statement of belief that eventually, "We will rebuild this society, and this nation, without oil money and handouts and deceit and corruption and crime and injustice", and, in doing so, "we will have earned our independence … . We will become a proud people because we did this for ourselves." In this statement and in the very attitude of my niece lies the denial that all went askew.
The generation born in and around 1962 is replete with people, like them, who are assessing the situation around them and deciding to make a difference, to nudge, or force, if necessary, the society to go in the direction that is needed.
RESIST CALL TO HATE
We must remember that out of the pit of the horror of slavery and colonialism, we created a wholeness that is remarkable. The scars, however, still remain. The more we were released from the need to bond with each other to survive, the more we became selfish and self-centred.
'Divide and rule' was a principle taught to us by our erstwhile masters and our new leaders imbibed it well. But the magnificent people of these islands have resisted the call to hate. Unlike many African states, unlike Eastern Europe, unlike India and Pakistan, unlike the Middle East.
We have no equivalent of the hate crimes committed all over the world!
'The people I have 'limed' with in Scarborough, in Barataria, in Chaguanas, in the stadium and in 'panyards' in Trinidad and Tobago and in Rivoli, Grants Pen, Yallahs, Ulster Spring, in the stadium and at 'shows' in Jamaica are truly good persons.
Our leaders are people I know. So I am aware that they are full of foibles. And we are a part of the modern world, so like elsewhere, creativity is dulled by sensual pleasures.
'But da is orrite. We islands still nice! Even doe I understand why peeple does talk dem bad!'
Let us forget the dreams of this Utopia that never was and celebrate what we have achieved and what we will continue to achieve because of these bright, passionate, level-headed 50-year-olds.
Keith Noel is an educator. Send comments to columns @ gleanerjm.com