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STANDARD VIEW MARC VIEW
RESEARCH ii:. ,, ,
FOR THE STUDY OF f!'iAN
MA I 162 EAST 78 STREET
No. 5 SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 1,1970. 10CENTS hEW YORK l
-. -,- .4:.
a Carnival f
PLENTY BALLS Mhu
The shot-gun wedding of the Liberals and the "socialist" WFP has taken place, with
the bride promising to leave the back-door open for the.Bestman and other "men of
character" (Gal, YOUR character gone!). Noticeably absent from the
wedding-deception was the main guest of "honour", Mr. Badass Sagging Maraj, who is
attending to another "party", to which Dr. Mahabir (late of the PNM) has capital NOT
Dr. Millette is having a party.
One of the DLP's is having a party. ADRIAN ESPINET
Music by Mr. Jamajaw, with Doctor
Bahadoorsingh on. the Trumpup and party. Nothing big. Very 'umble all of a
Doctor Richardson the Fiddle. The sudden. Friends, fellow-citizens. I just
combo is wearing specially-made shirt-jacs come to share a few thoughts with you,
for the session, and they are now looking hoping that you would in turn share a
around for "an image" and "a few of your thoughts withyourselves..aid
philosophy". Any suggestions, anybody? a few of your ideas with me...
The market in philosophies is particularly (Paging Mr. Ingenious Moore.
good, as Mr. Badass is also shopping Impermanent Secretary in the Ministry
around for one. "Whatever philosophy we of Non-Planning). New
adopt", Mr. Badass announced last week, Friends, let us have something NEW -
"is bound to be good". (An interesting like Karl Hudson-Phillips in his ballet
point arises here: if Mr. Jamadar's DLP costume. Citizens, let us have something,
has appropriated Dr. Capildeo's AUTHENTIC like Too-too and
"Democratic Socialism" philosophy, and too-Tool-Bay, like Champa and- Ravish'.
Dr. Capildeo is going to join Bhadase's in that great Trinidadian movie "The
Festival of Three Torches, what Right and the Wrong".
philosophy is Dr. Capildeo going to COUNTRY MEN, let us ave
"adopt" now? Perhaps Dr. Bahadoosingh, something HUMANE, like the Catl the
who is also a writer, will tell us all about Birch, flogging in schools, Ha iging.
it in the book he is writing about "the Manhunts (with $500 Rewards), Mike
philosophy of Democratic Socialism") Hercules. ,
These protnooic fissin sand_ -- PLENTY PARTIES, PLENTY
copulations of the aboriginal DLP are BALLS...
much too bizarre to-be believed; so i'eTin1 i T--
perhaps we can pass on and dig the not for 'umble me to tell you what \ ou ''-
government scene., should be andwhat you should become
The Attorney-General Designate has in the '70's. But you should stop
derived at his designation. Perhaps, for importing foreign habits, like mini-skirts,
some people, it is better to travel Afro-hair-do's, Black Power (in its
hopelessly than to arrive. The New Year American version). That is not to say that
has seen Mr. Karl Hudson-Phillips putting there is anything wrong with importing
his best foot forward right into his foreign habits like the Governor-General's
mouth. Having talked himself out of the Imperial Crest, like beating prisoners to
Privy Council non-debate, the new death in police stations ( in its American
"leader of the bar" has now put on his version), like having Carnival Queens.
"ballet costume" to appear in the Queens of the Crops, Carifta Queens,
"ballet" of a murder-trial in the courts Queens of the Republic?
where men can be hanged for murder Friends, 'Countrymen, Citizens .ou '
(some ballet! The Ballet of the Missing must not import foreign ideologies like
Spinal Chord) and other "causes marijuana, even though most scientists
celebres". This ballet is a good one, Mr. agree that marijuana does no orgaruc
Hudson-Phillips told reporters at his New damage to brain, heart, lungs: even
Year's Press Conference, because it is though marijuana used to be sold on the
"traditional". PNM's Trad Jazz versus open market in Trinidad until a ew years Te Athti
DLP's Mod Jazz? Take your pick, ago when the colonial powers decided to Theuthentic
Trinidad, this is brantub politics. put a stop to it. On the other hand
Ah-HAH (This is Calypso season) friends you should keep on importing a
Mistah Hudson doh only say whole lot of Virginia tobacco because.
That the Courts is a kina ballet although it can give you lung cancer and
Doh mine if the man neck break emphycema., there is a lot of goqd
That is for Tradition sake American money tied.up in it.
And if you want tofind out what true Friends Mike Hercules but not
Wear a gown and a big wig too. Stokely Carmichael.
YOUNG MAN, Said Mr. Justice Ever Friends if I'm talking to you in this
Grease in. the Courts yesterday, I unconventional way, it is because I can
PRONOUNCE SENTENCE OF BAD never:,forget-'that Jesus was a good
BREATH UPON YOU FOR off-w'hite man and look now he's even
IMMORTALITY IN PUBIC AFFAIRS, letting steelband come into his Yard.
"Sah, Ah sorry, Ah can't come". (After that we're going to have Lord
"Rogue and Vagabond, that is your Bryner singing Calypso in the Cathedral -
problem not mines. A hundred strokes, see what a liberal democracy we have?)
or a hundred years in jail, and/or both. Friends, I wish you all a Happy.
Take eet away". Humane, Authentic New Year...with .'
"My honour, I thank you". PLENTY PARTIES, PLF NTY BALLS...
Dr Millette is now having a part\.
NEX CASE: Unlike the other diversions, this is a
serious party. No music, but plenty ot
Mr. Justice CHURCHILL*HIGHWAY* rhetoric. We (the UNIP) are pledged to
ROSEVELT: Boy, kneel down for six solve the unemployment problem in
months. What they charge you with? I Trinidad and Tobago "'virtually
don't want, to hear nothing from you. overnight." How? We have no idea at _-
This court is mines. Guilty of course. present; but that is nothing. There are
What? No evidence offered? Anyway plenty of "technical solutions" available.
boy, kneel down and repeat after me No doubt we will adopt one when we The Humane ?
Gawd, ah beg pardon..." come into office.
Doctor the Right Honourable the Eric Cont'd on Page 8
the Eustace the Williams, C.H., had a
in the country of the blind
In this issue of TAPIA we publish one
of two letters gotten from colleagues of
long standing who have worked with
some of us on New World, at the
University, and so on. Both writers are
UWI teachers at Mona, both are editors of
New World Quarterly, and both were
founders of the Jamaican journalABENG
though neither stayed very long with
These letters express differing opinions
of the value and significance of TAPIA as
a review. George Beckford the Mona
lecturer who in 1965 became the first of
a series of victimisations of University
teachers by a narrow and intolerant
Jamaican regime generously
congratulates us for "a first class paper",
and suggests that this was the sort of
paper he had hoped ABENG might have
Norman Girvan expresses the contrary
response of "disappointment".
Girvan's objection to TAPIA is based,
he says, on a fundamental perception that
it is "evidently" a one-man paper the
man in this case being Lloyd Best. He
acknowledges that there are "a few other
contributors", but these he discounts as
having no effect on the paper's overall
impact as a one-man effort.
From this precarious rock, Girvan
headlong. into the inference that the
whole Tapia House Movement must be
a doctoral operation, because, he argues,
the newspaper must obviously reflect the
general disposition of the movement.
Further and this is perhaps-his most
important point Girvan suggests that
the claims of "democracy" should, in the
paper, take precedence over the claims of
quality. Anticipating any
counter-argument about the presence or
absence of writing "skills", he indicates a
few well-known ways in which a "wider
participation" could be ensured--
reproductions df tape-recordings of
discussion sessions, interviews, and so on.
If quality is sacrificed in the process,
Girvan considers that the sacrifice would
have been well worth the while in the
interests of presenting a democratic ftont.
It is almost unnecessary to say that we
disagree with Girvan's views, in which we
discern a naive and conventional lack of
insight into the nature of social and
political change. But in one respect at
least we are rather pleased than sorry that
he has put these criticisms forward, since
they raise issues that are of fundamental
importance, not just for TAPIA
newspaper, or for the Tapia House
Movement but in fact, we believe, for
the whole difficult and teasing question
of how the individual person can
contribute to the making of a better
The late fake-liberal American
president John F. Kennedy coined one of
those tin slogans which have plenty of
clatter and no content, and which
fake-progressives of the newv states (like
A.N.R. Robinson and Isabel Tesliea in
Trinidad, for instance) have been quick to
seize on: "Ask not what your country
can do for you;askwhat you can do for
your country". (Naturally, all the people
who slavishly and conveniently repeat
this absurd admonition are notoriously
To say that the Tapia House
'Movement rejects the shallow electoral
stratagems of those who are rabid for
office which includes all of the "six
parties" now bidding for political power
in Trinidad is not to say that we are
prepared to fall for Kennedy's phoney
idealism. Indeed, there's no real
difference here between Scylla and
Charybdis; the people who go for the one
are precisely the people who go for the
other. Who in America has been more
avid for office than the Kennedys?
Yet 'this is the kind of phoney
dichotomy with which arguments like
Girvan's confront us. We have been
denouncing "doctor politics", so the
simple-minded and the impure at heart
(which are the same thing) expect a
formalistic "democracy" as the obvious
counter to this disease. They fail to see
that the two are merely obverse sides of
the same coip; that. the "democracy"
they have in mind is merely patronage,
and that the other face of patronage is
arrogance "doctor politics", if you like.
They fail to see that Kennedy's
"idealism" is phoney because it is 'not
based on any reality (what else do we
erect a state for, if not to see after our
needs?) and when Kennedy talks about
"country" he is really talking about the
state. The man who seriously sat down to
ask what he could do for his "country",
rather than what his "country" could do
for him,would be,quite simply, a fool.
***** ***** *****
This is the kind of thing that Sartre
described as the absurd variety of
humanism the humanism that takes
pride in the achievements of abstract
"Man". What real people want is a
genuinely comfortable and self-fulfilling
existence without which life is a pointless
drudge to be supported only by artificial
and mind-destroying props like religion or
patriotism -the.opiates- of .the
The real reason for democracy, let; us
be quite clear and honest about it, has
nothing to do with abstract mystiquesof
"humanity" and love of "country" of the
Kennedy variety: that kind of
"humanity", because it is based on
nothing real, leads only to the
inhumanity of My Lai, Sharpeville and
the Nazi extermination camps of World
War II. A genuine humanity can be
erected only on the firm foundation of
recognizing the reality of individual
self-interest, just as a genuine democracy
can emerge only from the further
recognition that "no man is an island".
Our potential for; happiness and
self-fulfilment is in each other'skeeping, as
a great political thinker recognized when
he advised his followers "Treat other
people as you would like them to treat
you", and, again, "What's the percentage
in grabbing worldly power if it means
losing your humanity?"
This indeed is the most important
lesson of the history of all oppressions.
The experience of West Indian slavery
dehumanized not only the slaves but the
masters as well. It made it impossible for
a society to develop, so that its members
might draw sustenance: from each other
and each develop more fully as human
beings. The experience of oppression has
made pygmies of us all.
This is the real reason for democracy,
and there is nothing, abstract or mystical
about it: if you wish.to live more fully
yourself, you must allow the right of
other people to do the same.
Possibly Dr. Girvan would agree with
all this. Yet he makes the fundamental
mistake of confusing democracy with an
uncritical patronage, which is the
antithesis of democracy. We are surprised
and grieved, because it should be obvious
- once the groundwork of principle has
been established that to patronise a
man is really an oblique way of denying
his full potential for self-development.
Suppose, for instance, a man is talking
nonsense, the really democratic thing to
do is to tell him so, as politely as possible
(and without any implication that he is
less acceptable .as a person for being
"wrong"), rather than to pretend that
shit is the queen's canary,
The problem we are faced with here is
a screwed-up system of values which
places too heavy a premium on being
"right". In the political arena, this means
that when election time is coming around
all the vote-catching machinery is put
into top gear by all the gimcrack
"parties". A little flattery goes a long way
towards destroying the possibility of a
society; that is to say, towards destroying
the possibilities of each and every one of
Let us pursue this idea with some
more specific references to TAPIA and to
the whole recent phenomenon of the
"little newspaper" or "little review". The
period 1968-69 was a crucial turning
point in the history of the
English-speaking Caribbean. The
emergence of the "little newspapers",
from Jamaica to Guyana, has been a very
important symptom of this crisis.
This stage of the post-independence
"nationalist resurgence" was in fact
started in Trinidad, in late October of
1968, at the time of Dr. Walter Rodney's
expulsion from U.W.I. campus at Mona
by unilateral action of the Jamaican
government. MOKO was the first and
immediate fruit of that scandal. It was
started by a group of people connected in
one way or another with UWI's St.
Augustine campus James Millette,
Gordon Rohlehr, Adrian Espinet, Hart
Edwards, Syl Lowhar, among others.
ABENG (Jamaica), RATOON (Guiana),
and the others, followed rapidly. MOKO
had started a whole new style in
Caribbean -journalism; it -started a
bush-fire which, if we are lucky, is ilikely
to burn the.,whole ne -colonialist.
But, pioneer as it was, MOKO by no
means solved certain complex problems
of relationship to the general society or
to the question of change. It remained an
inchoate, vaguely characterized organ o'f
"protest", hardening rapidly into a
"party" voice for James Millette who,
after a few months, was perhaps the only
member of the foundation group left in
***** ***** *****
This development had serious and
deleterious implications for MOKO as,
the less democratic it became in the
structure of its organization, the more it
was forced to make a formalistic show of
democracy. Articles reprinted from all
over the world "proved" its
internationalism ( and incidentally
relieved the members of the organization
from the tiresome business of actually
sitting down and doing work for
themselves, unless that "work" had to do
with the regurgitation of interminable
passages from history-books);anda
definitively unreadable "dialect" column
based on systematic misspelling "proved"
its democratic intentions. By failing to
evolve a genuinely democratic group
activity, MOKO was forced into the
cheap stratagem of welcoming any and
everything that came its way -
increasingly with the single proviso that it
said nothing that might possibly offend a
potential voter. Quite unable to articulate
anything that it stood for, MOKO was at
last brought to the ultimate shift of
"defining" a "philosophy". The only step
left to be taken from there was,obviously,
the neo-P.N.M, stance of a cover-all party-
a set of loopholes vaguely connected by
strings. We have got this recently in Dr.
Millette's launching of the U.N.I.P.
In Jamaica and Guyana, ABENG and
RATOON followed the same pattern with
unimportant variations in the direction of
turgid ideological rehashes the bellyful
of the intellectual masses. In no case did
these post-MOKO .conflagrations
seriously threaten to burn down
anything, or offer any significant threat
to the corruption of existing Caribbean
regimes. Their impact, if anything, is
reinforcive of these regimes, arid perhaps
the best thing that any contemporary
West Indian government could do, from
Burnham to Shearer, better even than
taking C.I.A. money would be to
distribute these publications free to their
TAPIA has been the latest of these
"little newspapers" to be established, and
so far the only one to sustain a frontal
assault on a perverse system of values.
Because this assault has genuinely and
uncompromisingly been sustained,
TAPIA has not found it necessary to
"define a philosophy". The "philosophy"
or point of view, as we would prefer to
call it has emerged steadily, article by
article, as we have focused attention on
the current issues of our time and place.
We do not need to reprint extracts from
Frantz Fanon to demonstrate our
internationalism, for that is implicit in
everything we have written about
Trinidad. We do not need to celebrate
illiteracy or to publish substandard work
to prove that we are democratic.
We are freed from these barren
compulsions by the 'staggeringly' simple
circumstance that we happen to be a
genuinely democratic and genuinely
radical movement we don't need to
fake it by portmanteau "philosophies". If
we have been publishing a newspaper in
which, so far, only a relatively few
contributors have appeared, we don't
need to dodge from the fact that, so. far,
Sthe organization 1;ia;il. yet lajdt'l b- .tit_
to throw up a -sufficient diversity of
peoplte'wocan write pointedly about the
here and now. This does not mean that
the inflow of ideas to the paper is
restricted to these few or, as .Girvan,
not untypically, thinks, to one man. To
think that is a matter of perception, and
perception is precisely the main thing
with which the Tapia House Movement is
Since we are not primarily concerned
with political office since we recognize
the need for changes in perception before
there can be any genuine political change
- we can afford to knock ideas back and
forth at our public sessions. In this w'ay
we feed each other ideas in a genuinely
democratic atmosphere, so that if, so far,
only a few people have been writing for
the newspaper, that is an unfortunate,
but not a fatal circumstance. The
newspaper itself especially by
maintaining a certain standard becomes
a stimulus to the wider development of
skills in articulation and presentation as
we have plenty of evidence for believing
Behind this is the whole nature of the
Tapia operation. We are the only group of
this kind to have built its own house out
of its own resources a house rich in
both practical and symbolic value. We are
the only group to have attempted private
entertainments of a kind not designed to
reach the daily Press or to gain us
electioneering capital as for instance in
our New Year's Eve entertainment of
poetry, songs and music fitted into an
ideological framework. Because all this
has called for a complexity of cooperative
activity, we do not have to fake
"democracy" in our newspaper.
It is precisely because we are not a
doctoral operation that we do not need
to pretend that we are a fishnet.
For All Your UPHOLSTERING NEEDS
SHAKEER & SONS
Cor. La Clave St., & Main Rd., Montrose,
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__ I --
First of a Series
Two questions spring to mind when we reflect on the Government's proposals for a
Scheme of Social Security in Trinidad and Tobago. The first question is HOW can we
best organise such a Scheme? The second question is WHY do we need to organise it?
In assessing the meaning of the proposals the WHY is by far the more important
question than the HOW.
Government schemes of social security LLOYD BEST
presume- a situation in which the
population is, in some important sense, might be built. But the path of
"insecure". -In other words, the need for industrialization here need not now be
social security arises when dispossession the same as it was in the North Atlantic,
- i.e. not being provided for is an Now that our society is breaking free
integral part of the social landscape. of the shackles of North Atlantic
Now the existence of large numbers of domination and is trying to establish
deprived, destitute and dispossessed itself on its own terms, we must reject the
people has been one of the assumption that the only pattern. of social
distinguishing features of the civilization and economic re-organisation is the North
which has dominated the world over the Atlantic one. If the emancipation of the
last five hundred (500) years. But it is a colonized peoples is to mean anything, it
new and unique feature of this must be cast in terms of fresh political
civilization. It arose because the theory and philosophy, in terms of new
particular pattern of industrialization and frames of social and economic
economicc transformation which took organization, in terms of new styles of
place in Europe and which was imposed being and living.
on the rest of the world's peoples, broke It is in devising these new forms that
up the family and the local community. we can see the true significance of "black
Industry uprooted huge populations from power". We can see its significance in the
the land and threw them onto the market inheritance of Afro-Asian traditions on
as wage-labour. which we are privileged to draw.
In the process the forms of business
organization and the pattern of "Black-power" in the Caribbean must
ownership placed ultimate control of the mean drawing on this rich heritage of
means of social security in the hands of humane community security, drawing on
the few. In socialist and communist it to transform the degradations imposed
society these favoured few have been a by Europe, while at the same time saving
political elite of party Commissars; in the noble strains that we have
capitalist society, they have been a undoubtedly gotten from the European
coalition of the business executives and historical connection.
the political captains of the state We are lucky here to have ties with
nowadays a coalition of corporate Africa and Asia. These continents may
executives and the captains of the welfare have been disrupted by European
state. penetration; but in many ways they have
West Indian society was founded as retained the cultural memory of a time
part of this process. Millions of men were when industry and machinery did not
captured in their home continent or plunder the land and subjugate the
brambled into leaving their homes for people, when the tribes and the localities
these islands, sothat a plantation economy still held responsibility for the individual
TAPIA Page 3
instead of leaving him to drift in lonely expression of the twisted philosophies of
cities. the North Atlantic, were to take the le a
That memory lingers still. Gandhiji, in the fight to restore humanity to human.
that giant among morals, tried in vain to culture. We may be exceptionally
evoke it as a guide to modem India. He well-placed for the task. If we are, it is
did not want to throw the machine out or simply because our identity cannot help
to block technological advance and straddling the three continents,
industrialisationn; he wanted simply to It is against this background that we
make them the servant of man and not must talk nf social security; it is against
his master. He wanted humane controls the background of a plan and a strategy
over the mad rush to sacrifice man in the to pass control back where it belongs -
conquest of *nature. Educated in the to the localities and the people.
North Atlantic and unable to trust their Is the proposed Scheme of Social
own philosophy, the modern Indian Security a mere palliative in an inherently
leadership paid no heed. They did not iniquitous economy and society?
dare to understand Gandhi: because it Dutous en ae te simply doing
would have meant denying the basis of foes it evisage the State s eoply ding
their own eminence: their education, favors for the people, or are the people
their own eminence: their education. to be helped to take charge of their own
But the philosophy of the old needs?
continents is not yet dead. On the Which of the people are favoured? The
contrary, we can see it asserting itself relatively more secure or the helpless and
daily in such a state as Tanzania. Nyerere insecure?
has taken up the call to authenticity and What are thetermsof the Scheme, what
the relevance of this bold re-assertion of are the means to implement it?
tradition is every day becoming more
evident as the blacks, the youth and the NAIPAUL:
dispossessed in the North Atlantic "TH IL
continue to expose the bankruptcy of "THE LOSS OF
urban industrial culture. EL DORADO"
We in the Caribbean must join this
movement.. There could be no finer The Bookslo
poetry than if this society, the exclusive 111 FredferW k St.
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February 16th to March 19th
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Registration Fee. $1.00 per student to cover cost of reproducing materials.
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Page 4 TAPIA
Thanks a lot for the copies of TAPIA.
I have read through the three copies and I
have to say that I am extremely
disappointed. Mainly because (i) it is far
too much an evidently Lloyd Best paper.
I note that there are a few other
contributors, but the overall impact is
very much that of a personal organ. There
is absolutely no evidence of any wide
participation in the creation of the
content of the paper. I don't know if you
would argue that some have writing skills,
and some have not (this is the argument
one was always encountering in ABENG).
However, I think that this is true only in
the conventional sense. There is a myriad
variety of ways in which wide
participation can be brought about, as,
you know. TAPIA reporter, interviews,
tape-recorded sessions, and-so on.
All this assumes that a certain kind of
objective lies behind the paper. Perhaps I
am mistaken in making such an
assumption. But I cannot imagine that
you would hold any view other than that
the kind of paper produced should be
consistent with the kind of politics that
you seek to establish. If this is reflected
in TAPIA, then the kind of politics that
you seek to establish will be entirely fresh
in rhetoric and entirely traditional in
I don't know if you would also argue
that it will take a long time and a lot of
hard work to bring about a wide
participation, and that it is better to start
something now than to wait. The trouble
with this argument is that is that it is very
much like saying that we need to start on
the basis of "Doctor" journalism and
then develop wider participation. But
surely that is as difficult as is to start a
new political party, or take political
office, on the basis of "Doctor" politics
and then t6 turn around and ask everyone
to start participating. Would it not be
better to Wait until a movement had
developed which is capable of putting out
a genuinely popular paper?
This brings me to the second source of
my disappointment, that the paper is so
preoccupied with the conventional
political scene (the coming election, the
Doctor, the DLP, etc.) Again, it was my
understanding from your written
statements that the electoral games and
the preoccupation with political office is
really irrelevant to the needs of a new
politics. If the real task is to participate in
the building of community self-help
groups which give people a chance to
develop their capacities and their
confidence in dealing with the social and
economic problems which confront them,
then whether the Doctor calls elections
sooner rather than later is surely
irrelevant, and will continue so at least
until the movement has developed to a
point where it can contemplate the taking
of political office sure of its popular
In fact, the impression I have from the
preoccupation with the political scene,
and with solutions, in the first and
succeeding issues of TAPIA, is that the
paper may actually have been started
precisely because you think that elections
may be called soon, and you want to get
ready to intervene. If this is so, then it is
a matter of conventional politics once
L.J. LATCHMAN'S & SONS
62 Frederick St., P.O.S.
Specialist in Trophies
Like the dispossessed elsewhere in human history, Afro-Negro peoples have
laboured and sacrificed to establish the significance' and uniqueness of human
And it is in the phenomena of their history as a people striving to command their
own original experiences that we may find meaning and understanding in resistance
and even violence.
There appears in the oral tradition of
Trinidad-slave history a tale which treats
of violence in defence of the slaves'
pursuit after self-discovery in an alien
climate of oppression and greed.
The tale is reproduced from a
collection of folk-ltre pieces compiled by
the late Edwin "Ball" Harper. This piece is
important for what it reveals about the
value attached to self-inquiry in chattel
slave tradition. It deals with a certain
need for self-work, work on self to
liberate mind and body from undue
identification with suffering so as to
cultivate self-awareness, conscious and
creative growth in the understanding of
In part the tale read:
"It was lawful for a master to beat and
maltreat on his own estate.
And as a result he sometimes maimed
or killed a slave.
It was a different matter altogether
If a master entered another's estate
And ordered another man's slaves to
break up a fete,
Especially at this time, Canboulay
Slaves knew about this "law" and
waited in rage quietly
For the next move from the
Throwing sense to the winds, the
trespasser drew from the stack a heavy
And in a voice loud with rage gave the
That was a challenge no stick-man
The drums changed tune.
Out of the crowd a black man came.
He entered the circle
And drew a stick and then began to
dance to the tune.
The "Beast" stood flat, fascinated.
Nimbly the black man danced, round
and round the Beast.'
The crowd took up the tune.
It was the bloody sahn: "Samblay
Sahn pou senay yoh".
There was no retreat now for either
"Carray!" the black man cried, making
a lot of height on his toes.
"Whapp the blow fell.
"Sotahn!" shouted the crowd.
As the lifeless body of the Beast, it's
skull cracked, was borne over the
boundary of its own estate.
And then the drums rolled-out in fury
Never to be dishonoured over the hills
Now put in a language of action the
tale would read: he values nothing who
does not learn how to value his own
A similar struggle to find meaning in
the work of self-study' expresses itself in
certain written records of chattel slavery.
In "Truths from the West Indies", for
instance, published about the late 1830's,
Hodgkin, the author, describes an
impressionable encounter with an old
Mandingo in Trinidad. Apparently
Hodgkin was seeking to ascertain from
the Mandingo, who was said to have been
85 years old at his visit, how the Act of
Emancipation had personally affected the
The Mandingo is noted to have
remarked: "I was born free; and I wish to
die free. I want no compensation for the
fifty years I was a slave. The church to
which I belong will take care of me".
What emerges here in depth is a state
of being already-free-within, a conscious,
free striving for self-possession.
It is this conscious self-possession, an
intentional reliance on his own capacity
to perceive that will church the
Mandingo, direct him, that is, through
the experiences of physical and legalised
And in-this reliance on his own inner,
possibilities, the Mandingo retains an
elemental freedom to extend him-self
from within, to establish a continuity of
his own consciousness from birth to
So that he disclaims monetary
compensation for what he had not lost in
a degrading bondage his command of
his own individuality, his in-born capacity
to grow freely within and on his own
Now, if we consider the "church" to
which the Mandingo belonged as
symbolic also for an outward channel of
communication ot iiiuividual
experiencing that is, a community of
persons intentionally created to open up
and perfect the work towards
self-cultivation, towards an extension of
understanding, then it is easy to see that
whenanoppressed Afro-Negro, slave or
freed-man, seeks intentionally to extend
other men's capacities for conscious and
creative experience, he shifts the ground
of authority in the community of the
oppressor from "other" to self.
It is in the work of establishing a
community of consciousness, a
communion of beliefs, feelings and
perceptions, that oppressed and oppressor
meet on the same ground.
Violence may then become a necessary
mode of expression to safeguard the work
of expanding the church, of extending
the bounds of self-discovery.
In essence these seem to be the
indications of the tales selected here.
And yet we are entitled to ask: do we
not destroy our capacity for self-directed
growth, growth in the understanding of
self, when we express ourselves in
The answer depends, it would seem,
on who, rather on what, the
self-in-command seeks to express in
violence. Let us consider the matter
concretely and with reference to the
general slave insurrection which took
place in Trinidad in 1806.
It is indicative, I think, how none of
the principal persons who appear in this
episode function as if they perceived a
self-regenerative function in violence -
that is, that violence may serve to
perpetuate life-as-consciousness, as
illuminatedd conscience, so to speak.
The story unfolds in a letter.which
appears in Fraser's history of Trinidad.
The letter reads:
19th December, 1806.
We had nearly experienced a rebellion
of the negroes here and a general
massacre of whites, which, had it taken
place, would have involved all the
Windward Islands in general devastation.
The explosion of such a volcano here
as well as at St. bomingo would have
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29 Frederick Street, 48 Queen Street, Port-of-Spain.
completely overwhelmed not only the
British but all the other Colonies. One of
the Kings or Emperors, a negro of
Shand's estate, has this day been
executed in the Square of the town;
tomorrow six others of the Royal
Dynasty take their leave of this world,
and the severest scrutiny is being made
into the intentions of these nefarious
Colonel J. Gloster discovered the plot
in the valley where he is Commandant,
and made immediate communication of it
to the Governor, who sent a strong
detachment of the Regulars in the dead
of night and took all the conspirators into
Custody. Their uniforms and standards
were found concealed.
The Council has had a permanent
sitting of eight days, the universal
solicitude of our excellent Governor,
Lieutenant-General Hislop, is above all
praise. The project of these scoundrels
was to get rid of all whitemen by grinding
them in Mr. Shand's new windmill, and
they were to cast lots for the white ladies.
Not a child was to have escaped their
fury. The plans of these monsters have
fortunately been completely frustrated,
and no injurious consequences are now
It is related in Fraser's'account that a
special Thanksgiving service was offered
in the Protestant church and the
Governor thanked officially a Reverend
Mr. Clapham for conducting the special
Now, whatever reservations we may
have of the letter or of Fraser's account
of the 1806 crisis there is abundant
evidence that towards the end of the 18th
century a great awakening, a large scale
re-valuation of experience was taking
place among oppressed peoples in the
New World particularly.
For instance, Phillip Foner affirms in
his recent history of Cuba:"The doctrines
of the "Declaration of the Rights of Man
and of Citizens" adopted by the National
Assembly of France in 1789, proclaiming,
like the American Declaration of
Independence in 1776, that all men are
created equal, that all have equal rigths,
that the sovereignty of a country must
reside in its people, and that the people
have the right to revolt when they are
oppressed, had a profound influence in
Cuba as in pll of Latin America".
However, these declarations and the
associations they had with the excessive
violence and victories of the oppressed in
the old world especially had the general
effect of deadening rather than
regenerating human consciousness in
important areas of the New World .
In this connection Foner wrote
instructively: "The great awakening of
the early 1790's had barely gotten under
way when the attention of Cubans was
riveted on events in the half-French,
half-Spanish island of Haiti, a few
hundred miles off the coast of Cuba".
"Remember Haiti", he said, became a
standard reply of Cubans who did not
want to change the conditions of the
oppressed. Many creoles whether within
or without the planter group were so
frightened by the possibility of Negro
revolts that they were timid about
asserting basic freedoms even for the
"whites". Foner adds interestingly that
for over sixty years after the Haitian
Revolution, the slogan "Remember
Haiti" appeared in every formal
declaration which sought to maintain the
long-existing state of oppression and
slavery in Cuba.
In fact recent available evidence points
out sharply that the framers of the
American Declaration of Independence
intentionally altered the original draft of
the constitution to deaden consciousness
about the plight of the enslaved
Afro-Negro.in the Americas.,
The compilers of "Chronicles of Black
Protest", first published in 1969, noted
that the delegates who were responsible
for refining the original draft of the
Declaration, formulated almost entirely
by Thomas Jefferson, made thirty-eight
alterations to the draft. But there was
only a single substantive alteration. This
alteration consisted of an entire clause or
paragraph which was a denunciation of
the slave traffic, written as one of the
several indictments of King George III.
Jefferson, it is reported, advanced the
following explanation for the omission in
his "Autobiography": "The Clause". it
read, reprobating the enslaving of the
inhabitants of Africa was struck out in
complaisance to South Carolina and
Georgia, who have never attempted to
restrain the importation of slaves, and
who on the contrary still wished to
"Our Northern brethren also I believe
felt a little tender under these censures;
for their people have very few slaves
themselves yet they had been pretty
considerable carriers of them to others".
The omitted clause appears as follows
from the document reproduced in
"Chronicles of Black Protest": He (the
,king of Great Britain) has waged cruel
war against human nature itself. Violating
its most sacred rights of life and liberty in
the persons of a distant people, who
never offended him, captivating and
carrying them into slavery in another
hemisphere, or to incur miserable death
in their transportation thither, this
piratical warfare, the opprobrium of
infidel powers, is the warfare of the
Christian King of Great Britain.
Determined to keep open a market where
MEN should be bought and sold, he has
prostituted his negative for suppressing
every legislative attempt to prohibit or
restrain this execrable commerce."
In Trinidad during the events of 1806
a similar degeneration of consciousness
was proceeding. Again, ,here, none
apparently perceived that sovereignty,
freedom and equality might have had
meanings other than, the literal and
obvious ones commonly adopted then
and now like constitutional
independence, physical freedom and
None seemed to have realized that
freedom, equality and sovereignty are
also more fundamentally powers within
the human mind, capacities of human
consciousness. That all self-government
lies in the command which each self, each
person attains over these capacities. That
all government resides in the capacity for
MESSIAHSHIP: The Nazi experience
For Trinidad there are many important lessons to be learned from the Nazi
In history twelve years is a short
time. However, tragedy sets no limit on
time or people; therelativelyshort period
of the Third Reich (1933-1945) was
.enough for Adolph Hitler to realise one
of the lesser ends of dictatorship, In
proportion to his intense sense of mission
- Hitler saw himself as the "daring ruler"
or "lord of the Earth" as formulated by
Nietzsche 'ihe *hastenedthe perversion of
government to inevitable collapse.
It is worthwhile to consider a few
traits of the Nazi leader. Charisma,
doubtlessly first, ably aided by potent
oratorical powers, saw him through from
a young tramp in Vienna to Chancellor of
the German Reich at 43. His ability to
bluff, to act on the indecisiveness, minor
schisms and misinterpretations of his
political enemies and allies, were a few of
the resources brought into the service of
Lloyd Braithwaite and Maslow may
help to contribute to a clearer picture of
this type of the Authoritarian
personality. They have pointed to the
jungle outlook, the generalization of
superi'rity-inferiority, the hunger-drive
for power and prestige, the tendency to
use people, and the identification of
kindness with weakness.
Adolph Hitler did possess genius and
vision, though of a distorted kind.To the
Germans he had a Messianic aura; he
would save them from the repressions of
the Hohenzollern emperors and
Hapsburgh monarchy. Lovely timing!
We may now consider the part played
by the repressed. The large majority of
Germans gullibly accepted the idea of
their racial superiority. Their racial
heritage of the Nibelungenlied heroics
and the probable revival on an altered
plane appealed to them; that would be
"Kultur", and they would be a People.
Consequently, any act to this end had the
signature of authenticity; it was an easy
way of engendering authoritarianism.
Small wonder too, that on Judgement
Day there is always one at the
Nuremberg Trials, the chief culprits
parroted, "I only followed orders".
The latter days of the Reich are more
indicative of the chaos. The ruling
National Socialist Party was headed by
the Feuhrer. He, and therefore the party,
made decisions for the people. As he said,
"I alone lead the movement and no one
can impose conditions on me as long as I
personally bear the responsibility."
The arts, press, radio integers of the
consciousness of a culture were either
decrepit, inarticulate or Nazi-oriented.
Hitler (himself a mediocre painter) was
director-supreme assigning responsible
positions to medicoritieg and
non-competent party-liners. Authentic
-communication between the government
and the populace the kind generated by
work at all levels was simply
One lesson here is clear. The cancer of
authoritarianism will malinger until the
population assumes the responsibility to
act for itself at all levels.
TAPIA P:je 5.
self-government in individualities who
know how to act collectively, though
they remain individual and independent
.as persons. That sovereignty is a capacity
to direct human experience from the
source of its expression in human
In 1808 a mood of uncreative terror
"Pain nous ka mangay.
C'est viande bekay
Di vin nous da bouay
C'est sang bekay
Hay St. Domingo, songe St. Domingo".
The bread we eat
Is the white man's flesh
The wine we drink
Is the white man's blood
He St. Domingo, remember St. Domingo.
That was part of the chant and
ceremony which a secret society of
slave-platters invented to prepare
themselves and their followers for a mass
slaughter of white and coloured peoples
on the Christmas day of 1806.
Four'times a year, Fraser wrote, adepts
of the society went through a parody of
the Christian Sacrament of Holy
Communion when the supreme
commander of the slave insurrection
administered bread and wine with the
exhortation: "Songay, pain z'autes ka
mangay, c'est viande bekay; di vin z'autes
ka bouay, c'est sang bekay".
(Remember, the bread you are eating
is white man's flesh; the wine you are
drinking is white man's blood".)
The whites retaliated swiftly, with
severe, systematic violence.
Three of the four ring-leaders captured
were beheaded and their heads exposed in
the Public Square of the town while their
bodies hung in chains in different parts of
Others had their ears out off and were
made to endure the severest flogging
which in the opinion of the medical
attendant they could service. Others
again had iron rings of ten pounds weight
riveted on their legs to be worn for two
years; and all who escaped capital
punishment were, in addition to their
other sentences, banished from the
The plot, it is said, involved slaves
throughout the entire island. But it was
the slaves from areas mainly inhabited by
French settlers who formed the greater
proportion of the insurrectionists. And
the districts of Maraval, Diego Martin and
Carenage were heavily represented among
Their plan was to kill two principal
proprietors of lands in the French
dominated area, M. Rochard and
Chevalier de Gannes de la Chancellerie, all
the white and coloured people and then
march to Port of Spain annihilating people
and property by fire and slaughter. What
lines of thought appear now from this
That violence provokes
self-destruction when it seeks to
perpetuate itself as the source of its own
power. ('black violence' would eliminate
'white violence' by sheer violence).
SThat when the external world, the
world of events outside human
consciousness dictates the modes of
expression of the interior-world, the
world of thoughts, feelings and
perceptions, then the 'death' of the
life-within, the voluntary destruction of
self-consciousness proceeds inevitably.
('Black power' is already overcome by
'white power' when it seeks salvation in
the 'mysteries' of 'white power' in the
'rituals' of the "christian communion" of
And it is this betrayal of principle, this
'death' of self-confidence, of creative and
original capacity that deprives the
violence of the oppressed of authentic
power; of creative function, the power to
Cont'd on Page 6
age 6 TAPIA
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BEYOND A BOUNDARY
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BEYOND A BOUNDARY, has won warm kudos from both knowledgeable cricket
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subtleties of this esoteric game.
Many West Indians have been unable MICHAEL GIBBES
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by the prohibitive cost of the tirst edition In his brilliant biographical sketch of
(Hutchinson $7.20). For these there is Learie Constantine's career in England, he
good news, for it has now been reprinted reveals how the game has anticipated
in a paperbook edition, more moderately social change and enhanced the status of
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Any one who has merely browsed cricket's role as a social medium, as an
through James' BEYOND A BOUNDARY expression of social movement in a West
even a reader wlfi is not a cricket devotee Indian context.
and whose interest in the game is at best a He paints equally brilliant pen portraits
lukewarm one can hardly fail to come of early eminent West Indian players like
to the conclusion that this book is one of Wilton St. Hill, George John and Headley,
the great social documents of our time. revealing the human personalities behind
Certainly, Mr. James' book should be the bare statistics; and in his analysis- of
deemed required reading by all West the forces that motivated them as players,
Indians who would gain some insight into he shows an eye for detail that would do
the social and historical background credit to a Victorian novelist, and
against which West Indian cricket grew imagery worthy of Neville Cardus
and developed into the position of himself.
eminence it now occupies. It mirrors in a Among the most fascinating chapters
sense the social revolution of the in the book are those on W.G. Grace, the
twentieth century. rounaer of modem batsmanship, whose
Obviously, it is the product of a very
versatile mind and fine intellect, the
brainchild of a man of erudition, an
cultivated tastes, rare discernment and V olence and
wide symathies. Its central theme is
cricket, but in reality its province is the
entire realm of art, aesthetics and social Cont'd from Page 5
history. It is not often that one comes
across in a volume about cricket such illuminate life-as-consciousness.
seemingly divergent and contrasting In this connection, Wilson Harris note:
personalities and temperaments as those rightly: "The fact is, even when sincerely
of Michelangelo aid Miller, Hazlitt and held, political radicalism is merely a
Headley, Schopenhauer and Victor fashionable attitude unless it is
Trumper, Constantine and Tolstoy, accompanied by profound insights into
Wordsworth and Worrell. Names like the experimental nature of the arts and
Shapespeare and W.G. Grace, Karl Marx sciences".
and Captain Cipriani, Burke and Marcus So too has C.L.R. James observed
Garvey, all jostle cheek by jowl for the significantly: "We have a history, we
reader'satteinloi F don't know it, we will never know it until
To many, this smay seem a strange we respect ourselves, and relate oui
amalgam of human beings, but such is Mr. present, our past and our future".
James' superb literary skill that one Understood in a language ol
senses he has woven the lot admirably consciousness, all of this would read:
into a unity that supports his fond thesis Unless the struggle for a change in
that there exists a peculiar interrelation outward conditions is directed by
among all forms of human activity consciously creative work, unless the
;particularly so creative endeavour that advocates of change are involved in
more than hints at the fundamental directing their own creativity, then they
impact on the aesthetic sensibility cannot give authentic direction, creative
induced by creative artists of differing determination to the struggle for
types. He deplores any arbitrary and self-determination, the strivings within
puerile categorisation that erects a barrier the human person for authentic
between the "sophisticated" fine arts and self-government. For in essence all
the popular arts, like cricket. For him, self-government is the capacity to direct
the aesthetic responses aroused by a the creative expression of all modes of
Nijinsky or a Worrell are essentially alike. human experience, even the experience of
"What do they know of cricket who only violence.
cricket know?" Ho4w then can the violence of the
The book traces the author's boyhood
days in Tunapuna, when cricket obsessed
his waking.. hours, recalls his memories of
his College days at Queen's Royal
College, the teachers who influenced his
formative years, and his adulation for the
glories of English Literature and the
Classics. Yet, despite being, steeped in
Anglo-Saxon traditions and its attendant
puritanical streak, even then there was
taking shape in his mind faced as he
was with the reality of West Indian life
under colonialism the nationalist
stirring and aspirations that culminated
in 'The Case for West Indian
Self-Goverment," a book inspired by
One of the recurrent themes running
through the book is the concept o
cricket as one of the few avenues of
activity, in the colonial era, along which
the humble, underprivileged West Indian
rould achieve sorpe measure of status in
his society. Commerce, politics, law were'
reserved for the few. The cricket hero was
a national figure, whose influence
(certainly in the case of Constantine and
Sir Frank Worrell) extended beyond the
boundary. He spares no pains in
emphasising that cricket has always been
inore than a mere game in the West
Indies, that it has long since been
absorbed into the national consciousness
and that our social history is deeply
involved and interwoven with cricket.
James shows that cricket in the Caribbean
is politics, sociology, art, philosophy,
history and sport rolled into one.
oppressed serve as an expression, a
pressing out of life-as-consciousness? How
may violence and resistance to
oppress:ior perpetuate life as a language
of consciousness, as the expression of
original and creative conscience?
The answer can only be in the work of
illuminating and clarifying human
experience. For all violence against
oppression aims at an elemental freedom
- at liberating human experience through
the 'death' of human consciousness, be it.
the 'death' of consciousness in self or
So that it is in the struggle to originate
iife-as-, understanding, to overcome the
'death' of consciousness-as-understanding
that the violence of the oppressed may be
made to serve a profound liberation a
freedom from oppression within.
And it is this work of conscious
illumination, of seeking after clarity of
perception through a struggle to
understand that gives to
death-of-sacrifice, the creative
self-offering of the oppressed a life of
consciousness of its own.
We may now understand the
underlying call to an authentic and
original existence, to a life of
self-struggle, the struggle within to attain
deep and permanent consciousness that
Claude McKay has made immortal in the
literary tradition of Afro-Negro
"If we must die, let it not be like hogs
Haunted and penned in an inglorious
While round us bark the mad and hungry
gargantuan personality dominated the
English scene for decades, and whose
career helped shape the modem game
that West Indian play.James' studies of
the driving forces that shape great men's
lives and influence their contemporaries
are perceptive and erudite, ithoughi
polemical ones, and attest once again to
the intellectual gifts of this
myriad-minded litterateur, while his
predilection for disputation is one of his
most endearing qualities.
.he book climaxes with a shrewd
'analysis of his campaign for Worrell as
captain of the 1961 team to Australia,
and there can be no denying that the
force of his arguments and his sustained
assaulton the oligrachical structure of our
cricke-t administration played no small
part in the successful culmination of that
campaign, with what happy results the
world now knows.
Displaying a deep reverence for the
attitude of the Greek,city states towards
organised games, he stresses their social
impact.on a nation's life, viewing them as
the art-form of the people, and shows
how West Indians have superimposed a
distinctive stamp upon the essentially
English game of cricket.
It may forever remain a mystery to
many how a confirmed Marxist in politics
should nurture such an affection for this
facet of Anglo-Saxon culture. The key to
the riddle may lie in remembering that
this man-of-many-parts-author, politician,
literary critic, journalist, biographer is
first and foremost perhaps a social
historian, reared in an atmosphere where
the impact of British traditions outlived
the influence of Trotsky. The subjective
analysis of cricket's appeal is reflected on
every page of his fascinating book, which
remains a burning testament to his regard
for the game and for the welfare of the
West Indian people.
I think that this book will live (along
with the cricket gems of Nyren, Cardus
and Fingleton) as among the finest
contributions to cricket literature,
blending as it does literary art and.
contemporary social issues into the
central theme of cricket in an amalgam
that carries it at times to dizzy heights.
Of such stuff is fashioned the chronicle of
Making their mock at our accursed lot,
If we must die, 0 let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honour us
O kinsmen! We must meet the common
Though far outnumbered, let us show
And for their thousand blows deal one
And what though before us lies the
Like men we"il face the murderous,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting
Do elements of a new world lie in the
tradition of Afro-Negro resistance?
Whatever responses we make to the
question, it remains true that tradition has
been vital to the growth of human
experience to an enlargement of the
concept of man as person, to the
destruction of man-made bounds on the
elemental refinement of human
Where flamingoes hop, and branches fly like traps
We set in boy hood
Debris and huts appear, boxwood and tin;
Black lips of oily trenches,
mud flats of dry river,
men crawling on hands like crabs.
At ocean's edge people make sacrifice
to gods, ancient and new;
drunken themselves with dance,
the shango dance.
They chant their paens to remembered tribes;
beat drums of hollow bark and burnt goat-skin;
African totems speak forgotten tongues.
The leaning hut partitioning the sty -
sea-creature scaled with corrugated zinc -
is dripping slime below the virgin's shrine.
They sedd leave the sea, these islanders.
Though they ascend waves rumble at their heel.
They see windjammers anchored at the dock.
So many ships lie rotting in the mang,
so many vultures crowd the broken decks.
0 what a tide it was, and what a wreck!
I thought of Finnigen who died laughing
at life, mocking the shallows, daring the swells.
Still flows the current that has sucked him in.
A sexton and his bell, ping pong, ping pong!
chiming the angelus each god-damned day,
raking among the rubbish, made the sound
that rose to Laventille from the la base.
And so it was, this miracle of pan.
From such crude unsuspected source shall spring
a flood of change. Not from a house of bricks
but one of thatch, earth and cowshit.
BARD IN THE RUBBI;
Our past has in good measure become the facile plaything of our rhetoric. By this I
mean that we only too readily introduce the argument from slavery and colonialism to
explain or explain away aspects of West Indian consciousness. To fix oneself in the
posture of victim often blinds us to the extent of our complicity, of the inevitable
degree of complicity which has attended on the processes of West Indian life.
This is surely the point of Sparrow's Dan is the Man. The scholar, no matter how
unexceptionable his latter day anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism, loses his original
innocence by becoming well-educated. His consciousness can no longer be one with
the approximately literate.
In an age of populism, certain kinds of sophistication can generate unease, guilt
feelings, an unwished-for sense of difference. Reserving our position on the wider
meanings of the word alienation, we may say that education may portend the
beginnings of a state of alienation.
By the very nature of his calling, the man-of-letters in the West Indies is particularly
susceptible to such feelings of alienation, although, generally speaking, he has tended
to express his sense of difference with reference to the middle classes, to avoid whose
irritations and incomprehension he may flee to some metropolitan centre.
Nevertheless, no matter how much the intellectual and writer may extol the
peasant, though he may strive to enter into the spirit of folk consciousness,' he is
condemned to be other than folk in his own consciousness.
The reason is that to practise his art, he must, in one fashion or another, make his
own the Western literary humanist tradition. To be inducted into this tradition is to be
introduced into the broader dilemma and seductions of modern Western spiritual life
and to become thereby incapable of sharing in the kind of spontaneous simplicity and
vitality as well as the ingenuous quality of belief which tends to characterise folk
consciousness. At the level of contact with "the people" the writer may well admire
the strength of their endurance and their creative efforts in the face of the stress of
their colonial situation, but he may also be onlytooacutely aware of the assimilation of
unsavoury or ludicrous aspects of the colonizers' mores by these very people, for
example in regard to dress habits for formal'occasions.
It is really no comfort that their leaders and thie middle classes have led the way to
The second aspect of the impact of the Western liberal humanist tradition is the
fact that, ravaged by the onslaughts of rationalism as it has operated in the West, and
sceptical of the new faiths which are usually of an economic and political kind, this
tradition has now become largely incapable of affirmations of any sort. Flung back
upon itself, sceptical of the belief structures of organized religion, yet deeply yearning
for a spiritual base, the literary humanist tradition is assured only when asserting its
belief in the power and transcendence of artistic creativity.
This becomes the sustaining faith to which the literary intellectual looks to rescue
and redeem him from the absurdities of historical experience, in well known jargon,
"to reconcile the contradictory aspects of experience," the gulf between dream and
desire, on the one hand, and reality on the other.
The only writer who has dramatized this dilemma of the West Indian literary
intellectual is Derek Walcott.
It has often been asked why Walcott, who could so easily organize the mechanics of
gaining a livlihood elsewhere, has stayed in the West Indies. I think the answer is that,
quite early, he realized that a theme which would be fundamental to his poetry was
the destiny of the man-of-letters in the West Indies. This awareness is expressed in the
"Prelude" to In a Green Night:
iMeanwhile the streamers which divide horizons prove us lost;
Found only in tourist booklets, behind ardent binoculars;
Found in the blue reflection of eyes
That have known cities and think us here happy.
Then the poet continues,
And my life,...... must not be made public
Until I have learnt to suffer
In accurate jambics.
Already heir to the religious scepticism of the literary humanist tradition, the poet
notes in "Steerman, My Brother,"
Now, what rides the violent waters of my life, is a mere craft-of
words, and thirst
For those fresh springs of grace, which, as I write,
Mourning my faith's death in your death, derides
That earlier, steady trust
that there are harbours, there are fields of light,
But vision cannot see them for time's dust.
When the poet refers to "a mere craft of words", as elsewhere when he speaks of
"this English language that I love", he is surely indulging in understatement, for such
phrases resume his whole involvement with the rich and complex tradition of English
tters to which the sensitive colonial is drawn.
How does a poet reject a colonialism wtuch has given him his "craft of words"?
Which West Indian literary critic would expel English Lietrature from the Literature
syllabus?Which west Indian political thinker would wish his base of liberal ideas swept
from the scene altogether because they come from Europe?
Moreover, in his loss of faith the poet defines his separation from the people, and
the word "faith" here must be seen not only as a reference to the people's religiosity
but as gradually expanding to their political enthusiasm and so many other values to
which they are receptive.
He moves from the quietly stated:
.. Heaven remains
Where it is, in the hearts of these people,
In the womb of their church, though the rain's
Shroud is drawn across its steeple.
(Return to D'Ennery, Rain)
to the contradictory movement of sympathy and revulsion of "Laventille" where he
notes how the "inheritors of the middle passage ... still clamped below their hatch,/
breeding like felonies, "produce for the purposes of christening" the stifling odour
of bayrum and talc, the particular neat sweetness of the crowd/... the black, fawing
verger/ his bow tie akimbo, grinning, the clown-gloves/fashionable wear..,. that
muggy, steaming, self-assuring air/of tropical Sabbath afternoons,"
Such scenes are the poet's cup of bitterness, his "dark nightmare of the soul." At
such a point he is on common ground with Naipaul.
But Walcott has never been as insensitive as Naipaul to the endurance of the
inheritors of the middle passage and in fact in one of his finest poems in The Castaway
he finds an "objective correlative" to celebrate them. I refer to "the Almond Trees."
Welded in one flame,
huddling naked, stripped of their name
for Greek or Roman tags, they were lashed
The Problem of Wa/cott's Poetry
raw by wind, washed
out with salt and fire-dried
bitterly nourished where their branches died,
their leaves' broad dialect a coarse
they shared together.
At the same time, unless a poet can drink at the revivifying springs of a shared
belief and shared values, as a result either a traumatic experience or of a change in the.
value-qualities of his cultural environment, he .is.more and more cast back upon
himself, must feed more and more on the isolated consciousness. And so it is that the
poet grows in his sense of desolation and solitude, as documented by Gordon Roehler
in his review of The Gulf. The poet assumes his Purgatory, desperately fighting chaos
now only by the power to order experience contained in what he has once referred to
as his "mere craft of words".
The Castaway therefore invokes images of solitude and the "small terrors", which
might beset a man close to middle age. The lyrical movement, the sweet sounds of the
poet's verse rythms are in this collection continually threatened by these small terrors.
The poet's brain is
The ripe brain rotting like a yellow nut
Its babel of searlice,,sandfly and maggot
In The Swamp he broods on
Fearful original sinuousities! Each mangrove sapling
Serpent like, its roots obscene
As a six-fingered hand,
Conceals within its clutch the moss-backed: toad,
Toadstools, the potent gingerlily
Petals of blood.
And always a brooding sense of the absence of some sustaining faith, a negative
In any church mu brain is a charred bault where demons roost, a
In any church my brain is a charred vault
where demons roost,
A blackened, shifting dust.
(The Wedding of an Actress)
A cry of absence in the heart leads him to excalim for those who have
held some dream of innocence and seen their life-scheme run to chaos
drunks, castaways, beach combers, all of us
yearn forthose fantasies
of innocence, for our faith's arrested phase
when the clear voice
startled itself saying, "water, heaven, Christ'
hoarding such heresies as
God's loneliness moves in His smallest creatures
I have quoted such a steady stream of examplesbecause I would argue that although
not unmindful of public and historical life, Walcott is much more the sensitive
interpreter of the, private drama and the intensities of the individual consciousness.
The nationalist would have the poet devote his rhetorical skill to the encouraging
homily or flaming denunciation, arid is rendered uneasy by the writer who would
focus our perceptions of experience from a different angle. The "social" poet may
merely be the purveyor of held opinions rather than honestly perceived states of
consciousness. The social reformer who would impose order on the chaos of public
and administrative life, may be the more intense because his own private life has beert
soured by secret tensions he has suppressed.
The point is that we need both intensities.
Nevertheless, any poet, concerned with the quality of the lives we live must
necessarily attend to public events, for this age of ours is by definition a public age in
which, through the newspapers and television, we read of and see things as they
happen. Walcott's technique has been to refer the public event to a subjective context
where such things are always threatened by the taste for ambiguity of themodem
The results can sometimes be painful. The best known example is the much quoted
line from the poem "Far cry from Africa" where the poet feels the need to choose
"Between this Africa and the English tongue I love" after "cursing the drunken officer
of British rule". We know enough now of colonialismto beiembarrassedbytheBritish
Empire-type sentiment that it was the drunken officer who needed to inspire us with
terror arid revulsion.
Another is the poem "Mass Man" perhaps the worst poem in The Gulf and one
'which it is a little unfair to use too heavily against Walcott. On the other hand there
are excellent pieces like "The Glory Trumpeter" and "Laventille" in The Castaways
and "The Gulf", "Elegy" and "Negatives" in The Gulf.
In the poems of The Gulf Walcott makes little or no concession to populism, and
while it is the finest collection of poems put out by a West Indian in the sixties, this
collection is unlikely to be greeted by genuine widespread enthusiasm. It is guaranteed
in fact to leave our social science realists cold, for the poet's vision is not of the
purgatory or hell of the masses held in thrall by administrative and political devils, but
of his own private definition: of purgatory. His theme is the gulf between desire and
reality, between dream and fulfilment, which is he cprro$ive core of the modem
politics of experience in its proclaimed pursuit of the bird of paradise. It is in the
sixties that the revolutionary idealism of Che Guevara, which dreamed of the end of
administrative corruption, suffered a brutal, senseless blow in the death of the man
Cont'd on Page 8
MEETINGS TAPIA .8:00 P.M. TAPIA MEETINGS TAPIA
THURSDAYS' Tapia House 91, Tunapuna Rd., Tunapuna.
TUESDAYS Avant-Garde Club Coffee Street, San Fernando.
* Cont'd from Page 7
the corpse glows candle white on its cold altar-
its stone Bolivian Indian butcher's slab -
from your own fear, cabron, its pallor grows,
The above lines, tough, sardonic, wasting no time on self pity or inopportune
rehtoric, and representative of the tone of the collection. The poet does not say what'
dreams were generated in him by Guevara. Each reader must make the poem his own,
recognizee his own dreams and fear on that "cold altar". The poet turns this way and
that, discovering the rigid postures of the wrong and wronged. In "Elegy" he evokes
Grant Wood's famous painting of the American couple,"American Gothic", as an image
of WASP society (WASP stands for White, Anglo Saxon Protestant) which has trapped
and sought to inflict pain and destruction on the blacks and Indians who were and are
the Others. On the one hand
Some splintered arrowhead lodged in his brain
sets the black singer howling in his bear trap
shines young eyes with the brightness of the mad,
on the other, WASP:
while the farm couple framed in their Gothic door
like Calvin's saints, waspish, pragmatic, poor,
gripping the devil's pitchfork
stare rigidly towards the immortal wheat
At the personal level also, the poet discovers the violence at the core of our con-
temporary life in his neat and savage little poem on race, "Blues". The ultimate
black is the one who is so black he looks blue. One evening in New York, the poet,
who is a "yellow nigger" finds ironically what it means to be caught in the rigid streets
.. ., wasn't too far from
home, but not too bright
for a nigger, and not too dark.
In the West Indies a "yellow nigger" doesn't have to be too bright to get by
"... .they-beat this yellow nigger"
black and blue.
The noet learns "from cuts and tears" what race hatred has done to interpersonal
0 Cont'd from Page 1
The UNIP is indeed a very serious
party. It. has armed itself with an emblem
(a pair of scales) and a motto (One for
All, and All for One.) This highly original
motto is excellent; it may be more
appropriate than Dr. Millette recognizes.
The question is: who is The One? But
we all know the answer to that. You
only have to read Moko to see' it.
The emblem is another matter. Here
Dr. Millette appears to have lost his
vision, because the appropriate symbol
would have been a grappling-hook to
symbolize the catch-all nature of the
-We are not launching a socialist
-But the solutions we propose will
come somewhere very close to socialism...
-We will remove the I.S.A., which is
anianachronism in the twentieth century...
-We will establish a true democracy
under God, which is not at all
anachronistic in the twentieth century,
because there are a hell ofa lot of Roman
Catholic voters in Trinidad.
-Bayliss must be courted and given
high office, because although we criticise
Dr. Williams for this sort of bribery, still
the fact remains that Tobago is very
important for electoral purposes...
-Unemployment is of the highest
priority. There are plenty of unemployed
-We pledge ourselves to solve
unemployment almost overnight. How?
We don't know. But there are plenty of
UNEMPLOYMENT"'There are plenty
,f unemployed voters.:..
Read MOKO regularly we even have
an illiterate column which is supposed to
be easy for illiterate people to read. It is
easy for them to read because we make a
point of mis-spelling every word, and that
shows them that it's a column for them.
By mis-spelling all the words we not only
prove to the illiterate that we are on their
side, but we also relieve ourselves of the
necessity of saying anything vital or
True. But man doant like natural. Dey
sen woman from he go ovahsee to get a
negro man to run behine seh suh dat dem
hoo sen shi kud wok on di negro-man.
How yuh call dat?
"Dem call dat diplomacy. But it kiamt
wok. Yuh si, yuh can fool people fuh
some a di time but not fuh all di time..."
This highly original, highly
incomprehensible gibberish proves that
we are a democratic party. And having a
Negro man with an Indian woman proves
that we are a multi-racial party...
What is the meaning of all this sham,
imposture, absurdity? How is it possible,
after 13 years of P.N.M. fiddling, for Trin-
idad still to be taken inthe cheap gimickry
of treadmilletism, of anthony-pantinism,
of DLPissism? Why does our "national"
Press, (owned by Lord Thompson of
Feet and Lord Charles of Solo) continue
to glut us, day after day, with these
transcriptions of futility? In 1970, how is
it possible that Williams can dare to have
a Cabinet Reshuffle catering to the cult
of youth while the most incompetent and
corrupt members of his Cabinet are left
Why is it that in 1970 we still cannot
find out who killed Kenneth Cadogan in
*a police cell at St. Joseph? Why have we
heard nothing more in the Press about the
"inquiry" into the death of a woman who
was "accidentally" shot in the head by a
police inspector of Joyeau Street, Curepe,
"while he was off-loading his service
How is it still possible for Trinidad to
put up with fradulence, sadism, gimmicky
- to put up with Mr. Churchill-Highway,
,Dr. Treadmill, Mr. Conrod
O'Brainless and still olaim to want
After 13 years of PNM "working
things out", have we not learned that the
only way out of Babylon is for everybody
to take up his bed and walk?
Instead we have
SO MUCH PARTIES, SO MUCH
Nearer home, the images do not improve. In "A Georgetown Journal" which says
so much about what politics has done to Guyana without a mention of politics, the
"an elegy that chokes its canals
like the idle rotting lillies of the frontier,
and discovers that
The air has been cleared of hawks
and the bourgeois gurgling like canals
reminisce over carrion.
The examples'could be multiplied of the contradictions between all that the heart
yearns for and the widening .terrors.of contemporary life. From a provincial base,
the poet probes the modern condition in which we are all caught refusing the
obvious rhetoric, and from his own line of vision, that of the bewildered humanist who
is forced to say of love, "if it's so tough,/ forget it."
The problem of the literary humanist as man of letters, such as I take Walcott to be,
is that his posture in the face of violence is one of impotence, for his resistance to
things as they are is seen to lie in the language of his life, in the life of his language.
This is the limitation of the literary humanist, especially if he decides that his
essential response to the violence of his times must emerge through his art.
There are, of course, alternatives. There is the kind of "social protest writing"
which is so common in Latin American writers, sometimes to the detriment of their
art. This is an alternative in which Walcott as poet would seem not to be interested. He
'has chosen to address himself to the language of our lives, a language with which we
are condemned to struggle, rooted as it is in the history of those who colonized us.
POLICE REPORT 1970
Pleasantville a sign of our times
Pleasantville is a "garden" suburb on the east side of San Fernando, rolling up a low
hill from the new by-pass. A group calling itself U.M.R.O.B.I; of which I am a
member -- was recently conducting a Black Studies programme for young San
Fernandians, and, not having a meeting-place of our own, we used an abandoned
apartment in one of the N.H.A. flats in Pleasantville. Admittedly we had no authority
from the N.H.A. to use this decrepit, broken down and obviously abandoned
apartment, and so were legally subject to eviction. Readers can judge whether our
eviction on Sunday morning, January 11, 1970, -- by pistol-toting police -- was or was
not a legal exercise.
On that morning our group was
holding a study-meeting when, at about
11.45 a.m., a policeman forced his way
into the room. His right hand was
fingering a revolver which hung loosely
from his pocket, and immediately on
entering the rooi he broke into a stream
of obscene invective.-He said:
I don't want to know about black
power or white power, but this power..."
(indicating the gun.)
As I have already acknowledged, there
was an obvious legal angle to our use of
the N.H.A. flat but (as the above quote
clearly indicates) this was not the angle
pursued by the policeman who evicted us.
His objection appeared to be, not that we
were trespassing on abandoned
government property (indeed, he at no
point asked whether we had any
authority to use the flat) but to the fact,
that we were conducting a black-studies
We did not report this highly
questionable intrusion to the local police
station because of a grave and reasonable&
fear of further intimidation at the station.
All the same, the report got around in a
very short time with a most interesting:
sequel. I was approached by two'
Ministers of the PNM government, both
based in San Fernando, and who both
advised me to "drop the matter", as it
might prove embarrassing to my father,
who happens to be a prominent and
active member of'the P.N.M. party.
My answer to these gentlemen was to
the effect that my father's politics were
his own business, and my own were my
own. I had, nor have, no intention of
"dropping the matter." Within 24 hours
of the incident I had filed reports to both
the Guardian and the Express. It' is
interesting to note that neither of these.
"national" newspapers has considered
this as news.
I am personally not afraid of
intimidation, and there are a number of
large .questions that occur to me as
arising from this incident. For a start,
who was responsible for this (surely
Two Why have our "national"'
newspapers refused to publish a report of
this kind. We all know that if the police
had reported an assault on one of their
officers by a member of our group even
a purely verbal assault it would have
been taken up with alacrity by the Press.
Three Do "fellow-citizens" have any
rights in this 'country? What is the
meaning of Dr. Williams's Christmas
Message to the nation?
Printed for the publishers, THE TAPIA HOUSE Publishing Co. Ltd., by Vanguard Publishing Co. Ltd., San Fernando.
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