We tend to see the world through our own experiences….We often think it is structure or circumstance that constrains our choices, but it’s the behavior of others that alters theirs.”
In other words, other poor people are poor because they make bad choices – but if I’m poor, it’s because of an unfair system. As a result of this phenomenon….poor people tend to be hardest on each other.….some of nastiest things you ever hear about women on welfare come out of the mouths of women on welfare.”
The mindset laid out in this very important article is no less existent here in T&T. As I read in one thesis, traditionally, the attitude of the managers of the various industries in this country has been one where “while some attitudes and practices associated with industrialism took root in Trinidad – the attitudes to labour, the desire for profit at the expense of humanity, the “mechanised” structures of feeling (which looked at the body and its constitution as an inorganic, unfeeling unit of production), all of which would emerge by the second decade of the 20th C – the counterpoint ideas of humanism were entirely absent.”
Yet, witness the level of vitriol heaped at labour unions; vitriol that is often justifiable, yes, but when a labour leader could point out that major safety concerns were behind the reasons for his unions’ stance against a major British firm (that already has a well-documented record of safety and environmental violations), and the overwhelming response was that we need them more than they need us and that the union only concerned about encouraging more laziness…….
Apathy towards the poorer classes of people surfaced very clearly again when many callers to the radio talk shows – most of whom were lower-middle income bracket, ironically – supported the comments by Mario Sabga-Aboud. It’s one thing to praise (rightly so) people who “worked hard to get where they are.” It’s another thing to say it implying – and often much more than just implying – that the people who make up this nation’s lower-income group, were in that position because they lazy and didn’t want to work hard.
So that even though as the article points out “The myth of meritocracy turns out to be deeply anti-meritocratic,” it does next to nothing to change the thinking of most Trinidadians. Even no less than Dr Kublalsingh recently hit we this one “Big man like you, and the Syrians oppressing you? No Syrian can oppress you brother, unless you share in, consent to, this alleged oppression.”
I can see with that; in fact I am very much in support of this statement. But this: “You, who have come from a history of colonial oppression, are ALLOWING A MINORITY ETHNIC GROUP oppress you?”
Followed by: “If you fail to use your historical economic bootstrings to pull yourself up, must you blame another group in the cosmos for this?”
Kublalsingh, doh fuck me up with that condescending arseness. Yuh was going good all the time.
I mean it really have some Trini people out there who need a sound kick in the arse over their defeatism, their entrenched mindset of handouts, lack of ambition and poor work ethic. But to say they “allowed” themselves to be placed in this position? We still blaming the poor for being poor?
In this plantation society characterised by individualistic, competitive economic and social structures, nowhere was it seen fit to acknowledge the effects of generations of systematic frustration, repeated frustration, often at governmental level, of peasant entrepreneurship because the business elites felt threatened by their rising economic power. Forget the vagrancy laws that forced African labourers back to plantations in the 19th century; that was long ago right? Just reference the 1971 TAPIA article that spoke about the PNM’s regarding rural self reliance as a “Threat of Self-Reliance” and how the then government set about maintaining the culture of dependency by the masses that they were struggling to get away from in 1970.
Put that in the context of what psychologists call “learned helplessness” and how, with reference to T&T, as I read in a certain thesis “the employer class (of the 1930s) seemed to possess a sadistic desire to punish the working people, and became enraged when called to account – the destruction of the careers of (Sir Murchison) Fletcher and (Howard) Nankivell is a good illustration of this…..Now if this could be done to white people, what you think the labouring classes figured would be done to really dark-skinned non-whites?
Talk about the many times people in East POS attempted to locate and utilise spaces and buildings to bring rival communities together, being promised by successive politicians that those spaces would be made available…and then rescinded, often at the last minute – have a chat with Rubadiri Victor about that sometime.
The Euro left behind some really toxic ideas about the deserving poor. These ideas go back centuries even before the enslavement of Africans and were applied by Europeans against other Europeans. With the settling and colonising of the Americas they brought their mental effluence here. Now me eh vex with them, they did what they had to do in order to ensure subordination by all the “lesser” groups, the Syrian-Lebanese community included. It’s how we now carry on the old narratives and reinforcing them with modern neoliberal policies that infuriate me. You have big educated people, including two talk show hosts who were both government ministers in the NAR and the PNM still talking about “trickle down” as if economists from Ha-Joon Chang to Thomas Piketty haven’t shown that that simply eh happening. And the universities seem to be doing sweet-fuck-all to address that. The poor deserve to be poor, let them take that and cool it.
But smoke always in front of fire. Doh say people didn’t warn allyuh.

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