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Let the Jackasses Bray

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
July 24, 2016

My good friend called. She was irate: "Why don't you speak to [not with] yo' good friend Sat?" "Why yo' say so," I asked. "He called Manning a racist." I don't know if I was supposed to return the insult, but I am aware that if everyone is a racist then no one is really a racist. Counter accusations are generally useless.

Sat claimed Manning was a racist because, among other things, he closed down Caroni 1975 Limited and paid the workers $2m. That Manning may have calculated that the sugar industry was no longer economically viable did not enter into Sat's thinking? But even if Manning paid the workers $4m it would not have endeared him to Sat.

Sat was born in 1931. He is solidly ensconced in a past in which he is comfortable. Nothing can release him from the psychological trauma that time holds for him. His world is determined by beliefs and practices (ideology) that cripple and enslave him rather than open him to exploring his humanity.

Though it is 2016 Sat sees nothing wrong with a girl marrying at the age of 9. He is not even open to the possibility that a child of 9 is not emotionally or physically mature to consent to marriage. Anyone who holds a contrary position is told to mind his own business. He does not understand that it is our collective business to protect all 9-year- olds in our society.

But there are modern versions of the Sat phenomenon that hide underneath the veneer of post-modernism and castrated satire as George Lamming once described V. S. Naipaul's earlier works. As the "old men" of the IRO grappled with the moral dilemma inherent in the marriage of 9-year -olds, Raymond Ramcharitar suggested they read Vladimir Nabakov's Lolita to get a better understanding of the problem. He says that "if the ideas the book carries entered the collective consciousness of a group of key people (like those who make decisions for the rest of us) we might all be affected for the better" (Guardian, June 22).

Ramcharitar wants to suggest that a reading of Lolita may do the transgressive work that Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran, did for readers in that theocratic state. But even if one derives aesthetic pleasure from reading Lolita the rape of a twelve-year old is not the message one wants to send to the IRO or the nation.

Then there is Kelvin Baldeosingh, an angry anti-religionist, who sees nothing wrong with insulting Muslims on one of their "holiest days in the Islamic calendar" (Ishan Ishmael, Guardian, July 8). He castigates Islamic teachings against homosexuality and how women dress by using flagrant Islamic stereotypes. Several years ago, I woke up on a Christmas morning to his parading his atheism in the newspapers.

Such constipated mockery hides deep psychological wounds. Frantz Fanon has analyzed the deep inferiority complex that has taken root in colonial subjects. Might Baldeosingh's attempt to inflect pain on those he feels are weaker be one way to come to grips with his own psychological insecurities?

I will not judge Keith Rowley as harshly as Michael Harris did in "A Conversation Worth Having" (Express, July 18). Rowley wanted to refute Sat's overwrought rhetoric which, together with the self-indulgences of Baldeosingh and Ramcharitar, creates greater national unease than Rowley's interventions.

Although there is a danger that "even irresponsibility in the end develops its own logic" (Nabakov, Invitation to A Beheading), Eric Williams offered the best antidote to this crippling psychological disorder. He counselled: "Let the jackass bray." One day they may exhaust themselves.

Professor Cudjoe's email address is He can be reached at @ProfessorCudjoe.

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