Few good , most bad - such are politicians
large, I have little use for politicians and those so inclined. With
few exceptions – Lincoln, Gandhi, Mandela, Kennedy, Trudeau, Clark,
Jagan, and a sprinkling of others, history has shown that politicians
do a lot more harm than good.
originate, whatever their colour, class, creed, or gender, they are
all basically cut from the same cloth – parasites who seek political
office not to serve others but to serve themselves and their cronies.
In essence, they have as much dedication to the common good as the man
in the moon. Each political scandal that is unveiled simply comes
across as "deja-vu" - no surprise whatsoever. And why should there be?
The politician is just one of us, pretending to be otherwise.
Why do we
have politicians? It was Aristotle, the Greek philosopher (384-322 BC)
who said "man is by nature a political animal". Most people, it seems,
would prefer to be led than to lead. Politicians and political
posturing show up in just about every aspect of life – at work, at
play, school, religious institutions - you name it. Like the
cockroach, they have been around from the beginning of time.
They are the
bold, the brazen, the bully, the manipulator, the self-server who
needs no invitation. Their agendas are very often the same – ego and
empire. Their dictum - "numero uno" - look after yourself, and to hell
with the rest. They capitalize on the meek and the weak, on the
gullible, the ignorant, on the belief that the masses are the asses.
Some even know how to quote the Bible when it suits them.
lifespan, like the life of a cockroach, can be a short one. Yet that
does not deter individuals from seeking political office. Think about
it. What qualifications do you need to be elected to office? What
skills or attributes? As little as having good looks can take you a
long way. The right connections don’t hurt either. A platform that can
stir some passion, rouse some emotion, offer some promise can launch
you into high office. You don’t have to be clever – you just have to
sound clever. As the playwright George Bernard Shaw (1856-1890) said,
"He knows nothing; and he thinks he knows everything. That points
clearly to a political career."
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850–1894) said "Politics is perhaps the only
profession for which no preparation is thought necessary". The gift of
the gab, some grooming, some backers, and you are ready to face the
tape. The prize is such that politicians who win are most unwilling to
let go. Why?
Which job do
you know where your ego is being stroked constantly by fawning
hangers-on and sycophants? You get regular attention and airtime in
spite of having nothing worthwhile to say. You are given front row
seating at events; complimentary passes; you have a budget for work,
play, travel, and an army of assistants and aides for your every whim;
the media at your fingertips, a robust salary and perks? You set your
own terms of employment, pension, tenure and dismissal; receive
consultations, directorships and other job offers, power and
priviledge that one can only dream of – the world at your feet?
people give politicians their sweat, their taxes, their purse strings,
their lives (in times of war) and what do they get in return – scandal
after scandal, cover up after cover up, lie after lie. Thank God for
reporters and the free press whose brave voices attempt to call
politicians to account.
Charles De Gaulle (1890-1970) French General and President who said,
"Since a politician never believes what he says, he is surprised when
others believe him. In order to become the master, the politician
poses as the servant." He should know.
in their defense say that it is a thankless job, involving long hours
and little security. e.e. cummings (1894-1962) the American poet said
‘A politician is an arse upon which everyone has sat except a man."
Some may enter politics with good intentions but many get corrupted
along the way, even if they are not already that inclined.
that the world will be a much better place without politicians. They
seem to be forever caught between a lie and an indiscretion. It was
Napoleon (1769-1821) who said "I still love you, but in politics there
is no heart, only head". Ronald Reagan topped it when he announced, "I
used to say that politics was the second lowest profession. I have
come to know that it bears a great similarity to the first."
who have the opportunity to do great good often do nothing, or worse
yet, do great evil. There has got to be a better way if we are to
survive as a civilization. My mother-in-law (God bless her soul), used
to say, that the world would be a much better place if it was run by
women. Although not a Thatcherite (far from it), she might have agreed
with Margaret Thatcher (1925 - ) British politician and former Prime
Minister who said, "In politics, if you want anything said, ask a man;
if you want anything done, ask a woman."
For myself, I
would rather be a poet than a politician. Power corrupts. But in
essence, you don’t have power when you sell your soul. You have
political office. Ah gone. If the creeks don’t rise and the sun still
shines, I’ll be talking to you.
‘Finding a Place’ seeks literary
Kris Rampersad, Finding a Place: IndoTrinidadian
Literature, Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle Publishers, 2002.
A Review By Frank Birbalsingh
Finding a Place: IndoTrinidadian Literature
is something of a breakthrough insofar as it acknowledges ethnic roots
in West Indian society and literature.
In post-colonial societies world wide, whether in
Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Ireland, Bosnia or the Caribbean, ethnicity has
been regarded as an obstruction to nationality or nation building. So
far as the Caribbean is concerned, because of their Indian ethnicity,
Indo-Trinidadians and Indo-Guyanese have been regarded with suspicion
as a group with divided loyalties, not fully committed to true West
Indian or Creole nationhood.
Dr. Eric Williams, first Prime Minister of
Trinidad and Tobago, once made an infamous remark about
Indo-Trinidadians as a "recalcitrant minority"; and, in Guyana, Dr.
Cheddi Jagan whose political party relied mainly on Indo-Guyanese for
success during elections, had to temper his support for West Indian
Federation when he realized that Federation might encourage an influx
of Afro-Caribbean immigrants into Guyana and alter an ethnic ratio
that brought him success.
That is why, since Independence in the 1960s,
there has been a trend among West Indian commentators to champion a
species of West Indian culture or nationality in which post-slavery,
minority ethnic elements are considered as inimical.
The achievement of Finding a Place is that
it bucks this trend by contending that established Indo-Trinidadian
writers like the Naipauls (Seepersad, Vidia, Shiva and Neil
Bissoondath), Ismith Khan, even Samuel Selvon, did not function within
a putative, composite Trinidadian culture formed out of a blend of
original African, Indian, French creole, Syrian, Chinese, Portuguese
and other ethnic elements, but out of a more concrete and specific
background of Indo-Trinidadian social and cultural expression which,
while it did not coincide exactly with other forms of culture in
Trinidad, had more in common with them than with cultures anywhere
else. According to Rampersad, indentured Indians who first arrived in
Trinidad in 1845 soon began to write in English and, by the 1930s, had
produced several newspapers, journals or magazines in English.
Rampersad’s contention is that by establishing this fledgling, social,
cultural and literary tradition, Indo- Trinidadians had done much the
same as other groups in Trinidad: they had faced up to the demands of
their ethnicity, and greatly advanced the process of indigenising
themselves in a new homeland, different from that of their ancestors.
Nothing confirms the originality of Rampersad’s
contention more than her examination in Finding a Place of
eleven IndoTrinidadian newspapers, periodicals and magazines published
between the 1890s and 1950s. It is worth listing these publications
since they are rare documents, some of them so frail and tattered that
they are ready to crumble. Rampersad takes this into account in
quoting extensively from the more fragile documents since it might
provide future researchers with their only chance of seeing such
documents. Described as "the first formal literary product of
Indo-Trinidadians" (p.82), The Indian Koh-I-Noor Gazette
(1898-99) was edited by the India-born Effendi Bey. Other publications
were The East Indian Herald (1919-21,1922,1924), The East
Indian Patriot (1921-25), The East Indian Weekly (1928-32),
The West Indian Magnet (1932), The East Indian Advocate
(1934), The Indian (1937), The Minerva Review (1941-43),
The Indian Centenary Review (1945), The Observer
(1941-58), The Spectator (1948-65). Some publications are also
examined if they include work by Indo-Trinidadians although they are
not owned or edited by Indo-Trinidadians, for example, The
Trinidadian Presbyterian (1860-1960), The Beacon (1931,
1933, 1939), The Port-of-Spain Gazette (1850s-1900), and The
San Fernando Gazette (1850-54; 1865-96). As the main printed
sources in Finding a Place, these publications are examined
chronologically, in separate chapters, with numerous sub headings that
clarify and simplify our reading of the text.
As one might expect, these publications all gave
voice to typical preoccupations of Indo-Trinidadians: the preservation
of their ancestral languages and culture; the urgency and necessity of
learning English; feelings of divided loyalty to India and Trinidad;
conflict between Indians who had converted to Presbyterian
Christianity and their original Hindu/Muslim community; admiration for
the heroes of Indian Independence, for example Gandhi; the ethnic pros
and cons of West Indian Federation; and the historical (economic)
contribution of Indians to Trinidad. But, not only in the editorial
columns and letter pages of their publications did Indo-Trinidadians
get an opportunity to air their opinions and preoccupations: by the
1920s, literary clubs had also sprung up, and publications like The
Herald and The Patriot encouraged informed analysis and
discussion in these clubs, while it promoted Indo-Trinidadian
literature in particular.
From its coverage of Indo-Trinidadian
publications up to the 1950s Finding a Place gives an
impression of Trinidad and Tobago as small islands with a mixed
population of ethnic groups in vigorous, dynamic movement and
interaction, both within themselves and with other groups. So rapid is
the movement that although, by the 1930s, most Indo-Trinidadians still
remained agricultural labourers or artisans, many had become
merchants, shopkeepers, and landowners, or had entered the
professions; and the result is that hotly debated issues such as rival
claims of Hindi versus English, or the claim of repatriation to India
gradually lost their strength, as time-expired Indian indentured
immigrants gradually died out. This transformation of an ethnic group
from being temporary immigrants to permanent residents in Trinidad and
Tobago is what is sometimes called creolisation, a term usually taken
to mean Africanisation because Africans form a majority in most
Caribbean territories and are seen to provide a cultural model for
other ethnic groups in the region. If all it does is provide solid
proof of an ethnic Caribbean group achieving creolisation by
transforming their ethnic inheritance into a creole model that is
similar to other such models, without coinciding with any of them,
Finding a Place has performed an invaluable service to Caribbean
The volume also provides a service of
recuperation in restoring attention to publications which, in the
early decades of the twentieth century, provided a vehicle for
discussion and debate that spurred on Indo-Trinidadian creolisation,
but which, by the closing decades of the same century, had been almost