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Parissram Jaggernath

Death, anger, then sadness prevail in this global epoch. Death by racist hands has stirred emotive forces into angry retaliation that mutes sadness of death by COVID.

When sociological shifts are as enormous and vitriolic as the current narrative is set to trigger, internally we reach into experiences, art, culture, music, literature for clarity and perspective.

In this search, one finds an awakening in Dr Eric William’s articulate work of 1944, Capitalism and Slavery. I am less aware for having not navigated this work before.

The level of detail of the dastardly Triangular Trade that proliferated among Bristol, Liverpool, Glasgow and the Plantations of the West Indies, with its continuous profit motive and the economic stimulation it provided the Crown and Kingdom, is nurtured by the blood of our African brethren’s ancestral legacy.

Williams quoted from local annalist of the eighteenth century in his book.

“There is not a brick in the city but what is cemented with the blood of a slave. Sumptuous mansions, luxurious living, liveried menials were the produce of the wealth made from the sufferings and groans of the slaves brought and sold by the Bristol Merchants, in their childlike simplicity they could not feel the iniquity of the merchandise but they could feel it lucrative.”

The planters and the merchant traders were complicit in their opposition to the abolitionist. Williams writes, “An analysis of a committee set up in 1789 to oppose the movement for the abolition of the slave trade shows that among the members elected, there were nine merchants at some time Mayors of Bristol, five who were Sheriffs, seven had been or were to be Masters of the society of Merchant Venturers.”

The systemic structure of racism and human degradation has its tentacles in the legacy of the business class.

“The combination of these two forces, planters and merchants, coupled with colonial agents in England, constituted the powerful West India Interest of the eighteenth century. In the classic age of parliamentary corruption and electoral venality their money talked. They bought votes and rotten boroughs and got into parliament.”

Has much changed?

I find an awakening with questions in this writing. Yet accepting that knowing and documenting with such clarity these atrocities that were survived by our people by such a man as Williams, who led our youthful nation for almost two decades post-independence, I can look around and still find concern yet comfort in all that we have struggled to achieve as a multicultural multi-ethnic proletariat.

Naipaul – Middle Passage

I quote here from another distinguished son of the soil, disliked by many for acidic words knitted into organic, fluidic prose carrying a self-portrayal of disgust and dislike, making it difficult to look into the mirror of the message.

“Exhausting their energies in petty power squabbles and the maintaining of the petty prejudices of petty societies. I had seen how deep in nearly every West Indian, high and low, the prejudices of race were; how often these prejudices were rooted in self-contempt… With an absence of a feeling of community, there was an absence of pride. For the uneducated masses, quick to respond to racial stirrings and childishly pleased with destructive gestures, the protest leader will always be a hero. The West Indies will never have a shortage of such leaders, and the danger of mob rule and authoritarianism will never cease to be real.”

Has much changed?

Yes it has.

Our democracy is intact. The negative mutterings and musings in the www cyberspace is representative of a balancing of the forces of our historic and cultural differences and the resistance that is expected from a society that portrays growing equanimity. We have come a long way. We all do have an equal place here, once we are willing to work and earn it. We all share the opportunity and chance to attend SAGHS, Convent, UWI and UTT, once it is in our motivation to so do. We all share the right to participate in the process that has seen our Parliament stocked with minds charged with negotiating our way in the world and expect robust and intelligent debate that result in decisions and direction that serve the interest and wellbeing of the people.

The economic pundits say it’s going to be a difficult period for this Parliament. I don’t doubt them. But difficulty should spout creativity. We must find new ways to view and treat with our problems.

And parsimonious fiscal orthodoxy will not energise our society.

Just as we guarantee all SEA students a place in secondary school, we must guarantee all tertiary level exiting student a paid apprenticeship.

I urge that we expand the OJT to encompass all tertiary level achievers.

Putting money in young people’s hands will stimulate opportunity and interest and boost our productive capacity. Some may argue that this is yet another transfer and subsidy. But I dare say that it is one that targets a different demographic. Giving young people an opportunity to help their families and themselves. To build on that free education that we have all paid for.

Year after year we throw a large portion of our budget towards National Security. Have we seen results. Let’s be honest? Redirect resources to areas where we can leverage and stimulate a different conversation, a different interest. This may reduce the need for young people getting involved in nefarious activity and possibly crime. Guns and batons are a means to an end, but ideas and opportunity for them to flourish can be a more potent one.

The promise to focus on agriculture is appealing. Again, redirect resources here. We cannot compete with global big producers but we can stimulate internal competitive specialised segmentation. Let Moruga be expert at what it can be, Blanchisseuse and Biche too.

Expectation for the three overpasses on the Churchill Roosevelt Highway by 2021 is high. A bold promise by a motivated parliamentarian. Achieve that and the cloud of stagnation for business process and execution that hangs over our nation will gladly precipitate in an awe of national pride.

COVID-19 is not going to break us as a nation. Of this I am sure.

Let us not let our historic differences slow us down.

We need to get back to that measure of being the happiest people on the planet. We have not yet drifted too far.