Dr. Kwame Nantambu

Portrait of America in TnT

By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
January 29, 2007

It is a universally accepted truism that Trinbagonians are the world's perfect copycats of the modus vivendi of another foreign country. It is also a universally accepted truism that Trinbagonians copy the absolute worst aspects of daily life and values of that alien culture.

It is this truism that is progressively eating away at the very core of sane, civilized human existence in TnT. Not too long ago, there existed the "Portrait of Trinidad" during which TnT was a true, de jure paradise and Trinibagonians were "poor and polite." This was a time when sanity, human respect/dignity, inward-looking way of life and indigenous values ruled. This was a time, indeed," when neighbour looked after neighbour."

This was a time when "Trini to D-bone" was not just a calypso/song. Trinbagonians lived out this concept , 24-7-365; however, something has happened along the way.

Today, a new portrait has descended across the landscape of TnT and as a result, "total madness" now permeates all aspects of life in TnT. In other words, this new portrait of America has not only engulfed TnT but it has also brought it its wake, very deleterious, negative and self-destructive consequences. TnT has now been transformed into paradise lost.

This new portrait of America in TnT is manifested in the stark reality that young Trinbagonian males think that it is "cool" to wear their pants down to their knees while at the same time displaying/exposing their underwear for all to see. They think that it is also "cool" to mimic this African-American criminal behaviour.

The fact of the matter is that the sole, primary reason why African-American criminals wear their pants this way is because prison authorities do not want them to harm, albeit kill, fellow inmates, prison officers and/or themselves. Ergo, the prison authorities have taken away their belts.

These young African-American criminals are not making a fashion statement. They are not trying to be "cool." This mode of African-American criminal conduct/attire is a defense mechanism imposed by prison authorities.

The crucial question that immediately arises is: Why are young Trinbagonian males mimicking/living-out such criminal behaviour?.

The answer lies in the fact that these young men not only feel frustrated, dejected and excluded from mainstream life in TnT, but also the fact that they do not see any valid, serious, workable, viable, workable alternative.

Ergo, they have opted/resorted to adopt the negative, violent, degrading, self-destructive and gang-oriented African-American ghetto lifestyle/pattern to fill that TnT void/vacuum in their lives. These young Trinbagonian males have also internalized/filled this void/vacuum by the culture, mind-set, speech patterns and mannerisms they see on BET-TV, 24-7-365.

African-American ghetto behaviour and lifestyle have now become their tragic social norm and reality. Hence, it need occasion no great surprise that youth gang violence, drive-by-shootings, kidnappings, exponential increase in the proclivity for crass materialism, instant gratification, pornography among children, and Fifty Cent's philosophy of, "get rich or die trying" have not only overwhelmed/overpowered young Trinbagonian males but have also made them numb to the realities of a sane, civilized way of life and being.

The void/vacuum in which these young Trinbagonian males exist has come about as a result of a total breakdown of their family life up close and personal, a national moribund Euro-centric education system and ill-conceived /dead-end/ disguised employment/politically-motivated public policy programmes.

However, while the behaviour of young Trinbagonian males is disgusting, anti-social and totally unacceptable, on the other hand, one finds that the portrait of America in TnT acts in a very socially acceptable, palatable and refreshing manner when it comes to the culinary habits of all Trinbagonians.

The insatiable consumption of American fast-foods has completely torn down the marquee for local dishes. In fact, one can justify the conclusion that Trinbagonians now have an innate disdain/disgust for local foods. This conclusion can be easily verified by observing the extremely long lines of Trinbagonians who congregate at these American fast-food outlets throughout TnT and compare them to the paucity of customers at local food outlets.

In other words, the Trinbagonians who criticize, vilify and castigate young Trinbagonian males for wearing their pants down to their knees a la African-American male criminals are the very same people who consume American fast-foods, 24-7-365.

The only difference in these two bahavioural patterns is that the former American copycatting is dangerous, violent and unacceptable while the latter is deemed to be safe, acceptable and sociable. It is at this juncture that sanity gives way to insanity and colonization gives way to re-colonization.

The portrait of America in TnT also manifests itself in the way Trinbagonians drive. The fact of the matter is that the way Trinbagonians drive in TnT, they would never drive that very same way in New York, Washington, D.C., North Carolina, California or any where in the United States. Trinbagonian copycats are not that dumb, crazy or stupid. They know fully well that traffic laws are carried out and enforced to the nth degree in America. They are also fully aware of the reality, albeit tragedy, of being Black and pulled-aside by a White policeman in America. The reality is that these Trinbagonians know they can get away with their overt driving indiscretions because traffic laws are neither carried out nor obeyed/adhered to, in TnT.

However, the portrait of America in TnT does not stop there. On the political spectrum, one finds that the ruling PNM government wants to introduce an Executive Presidency in TnT's system of governance a la United States of America. This is nothing more than deja-vu all over again, that is, the colonized moves from European colonization to European re-colonization in the era of putative political independence.

In other words, TnT has just moved from under the portrait of Britain to voluntarily wallow under the portrait of America.

In the final analysis, the virus of the portrait of America has not only infected the immature, mis-directed, detoured young and mature adults but also educated, supposedly responsible politicians in TnT.

The sad, scary tragedy is that for all intent and purposes, Trinbagonians are in denial that such infection exists in TnT's immune system. If this infection is one of the stages in the process to achieve developed country status by 20/20, then in 2007, the vision of TnT has a reading of 00/00.

Shem Hotep ("I go in peace").

Dr. Kwame Nantambu is a part-time lecturer at Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies and University of the West Indies.

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