A LITERARY ACCOUNT OF THE HISTORY OF TRINIDAD 1490 - 1920

Description: C:\Users\Sharlow\Documents\public_htm\Literary History of Tdad cover.jpg                                           The Ultimatum

This knowledge of our history has the potential of respecting, sympathizing, supporting, sharing, defending (remember Thomas), forgiving, appreciating and contributing to each other’s culture.

Here is the only way to achieve unity. Genuine unity.

I have pointed out that your hour of enlightenment awaits an understanding of your past. Failure to follow this path leaves us to continue our existence in chaos and in mayhem.

On the other hand, to achieve this unity, is to achieve the best of civilized existence.

 

 

THE SIGNIFICANCE

(Continued)

 

First, a definition of History: The discipline of recording and interpreting past events involving human beings.

World English Dictionary

 

Definition of literary fiction by Joseph Conrad: Fiction is nothing if it is not the truth.

 

The following are a few lines from my brief definition (website): It is the novelist’s ability to travel through space and time, and to empathize with the environment and all that took place.

It seeks for justice. And it is the greater truth.

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A further note on John Jacob Thomas.

 

Imperial Europe might have gotten away with centuries of slavery and inhumanity, by simply making a ‘sincere apology’. Their undoing was to spread propaganda – vicious lies so as to cause prejudice – against the Peoples of the Continents, thus leaving them with the great burden of educating the white man.

All the studies at the universities of Europe on biological concepts to show that the African was inferior, have been made obsolete and turned into trash by Thomas’ achievements. In the words of the brahmacarin, (student) Ramdas: Thomas followed in the footsteps of Panini – the world’s first recognized linguist. In India they would have made him a saint!

We buried our saint because we just do not care!

In the words of the late historian, Donald Wood: John Jacob Thomas… undeservedly forgotten by his countrymen.

He was undoubtedly The Forerunner and his entire life was about showing The Way. The only way, which of course, is through education and knowledge of the past. You cannot compromise the quote: If you do not know where you came from, you cannot know where you are going. John Jacob Thomas is therefore inescapable and will not be denied. Any attempt at avoiding him stagnates you in the folly and mayhem of your present existence. He is your bonded destiny. In other words, your hour of enlightenment awaits an understanding of your past.

It has been an honour and a pleasant privilege to resurrect John Jacob Thomas.

After almost a century and a quarter, it appears that The Forerunner is even of greater importance today. I repeat the following: Thus across all nations:

I would build a university,

And I would name it:

The John Jacob Thomas University.

And I would teach the things he taught.

How else can you know the beauty in unity?

He is your greatest icon, and it is both shameful and disgraceful to hear individuals seeking for role models.

With authorial authority (away with officialdom), I now title John Jacob Thomas as: The First founding Father of this Nation.

 

I have read several History books on the Caribbean, beginning with Sir Philip Sherlock, one of the founding fathers of the University of the West Indies, through Eric Williams to Professor Bridget Brereton. These history texts, in my view, have not been able to explain the horrors of genocide and slavery; or about the (extra) ordinary millions of men and women, whose contribution of blood, sweat and tears, shaped the present world.

Of course, History has its importance. And I would be sorely amiss if I did not pay tribute to these historians, whose works have greatly helped to create my historical novels. Still, the nature of recording or interpreting history denies the people their rightful contribution to world development. They have neither face nor name. History therefore, is woefully inadequate to celebrate or honour the people.

 As Professor Frank Birbalsingh writes in his review of When Gods Were Slaves (website): The two lovers survive for many years in Trinidad, but not as a couple, and their enforced separation is typical of the multiple fractures and dislocations engendered by slavery. (An example of literature as the greater truth.) This lovers’ sense of personal grief and loss could not be reproduced by a standard text of history.

The above is perhaps one of the reasons why Sir Arthur Lewis said: The duty of the Author in the Caribbean is to return the peoples to themselves.

Or C.L.R. James’ expansion of the above in his book: Party Politics in the West Indies: That someone from another race should write the African novel. Such a work would be a challenge to Imperial Europe.

Or that Prime Minister, Eric Williams had called a young novelist to his office, and had presented him with all the books by the propagandists. Williams had told the novelist: Read what these authors say about your people. Here you will find your duty.

The story goes that the novelist read all the books and believed every word that was written!

 

During my thirty-five years of full-time writing, I have created a half dozen novels, with the perspective of returning the pride and dignity of the peoples, defamed through the systems of slavery.

The excerpts that make up this book also serve as an introduction to the following historical novels: Columbus and I, Taino, 2009; Columbus: Not a Carib, 2011; When Gods Were Slaves, (first published in 1993); The Promise, (first published in 1995); A New Identity, 2006; and The Forerunner, 2005.

During those years too, several quotes formed themselves quite naturally. Everyone has heard: If you do not know where you came from, you cannot know where you are going. In recent years, in a call-in programme, I heard an individual again and again say: It is time we forget the past and move on. This fellow gave me much worries and some sleepless nights, as I thought: How is it possible to forget what you do not know?

To reply to this fellow, many years ago, the following quote was naturally coined: How can you wish to know that which you do not know to exist? Finally the answer: Visit the libraries.

Elsewhere in my works, I have suggested the establishment of libraries (for the single purpose of reading) across the nation. It has been my experience that the ‘man in the street’ hungers for and cherishes a book!

It is my hope (at least for a future generation) that this work, together with my historical novels will finally enlighten the reader about his past, his history. And about the history of his fellow-men.

Another of my quotes reads: You cannot create anything into the future without first taking from the past. This literary account of the events of our history (which can be verified from the bibliographies) is self-explanatory. It carries a thousand lessons from which we can learn.

It is obvious that space will not allow me to explain a thousand lessons! Therefore a few must suffice. In the three continents mentioned, we see the absolute respect and reverence for Mother Earth and all things created. “The Earth is your Mother,” the First Nations people say. “You cannot tax your Mother.”

 

Teaching Values versus the Law as it relates to the present.

 

The First Nations People have given us the concept of Tiospaye. From their observation of the buffalo, they adopted the latter’s social system where all actively contributed to the well-being of the young. It takes a village to raise a child. It takes a herd to raise a good buffalo calf.

Were we to teach or adopt such a value in our cultural system, I dare say that child-abuse would become almost non-existent. (If the reader will spare a little thought, he will see how a single value affects all other values). The rewards of teaching values then, cannot easily be measured in terms of transforming a society.

Of course, I agree with Nietzsche: A society is ruled by the law. Fear of the law.

It is crystal clear: The harsher the laws the more primitive is the society!

(I cannot help adding the following: ‘In a sense we are all living on stolen lands’, someone pointed out. Therefore there is no reason to feel smug about returning twenty-five acres to the People. Sufficient ‘aid’ should be given to help erect a structure to house their institutions. There remains much to be learnt from the First Nations People).

 

A quote on violence:

 

I would maintain: you have not earned the right to do violence – physical or political – against one another. First, honour your ancestors; then I dare you to continue in your folly and mayhem.

Reading and understanding is only the first step in learning. Some things can only be inculcated by teaching.

What the above quote simply means is that, if you were to know what your ancestors had to endure, you would have sufficient respect and sympathy for each other. To engage in violence then goes against your raison d’etre.

 

On Unity, Mayhem and Racial Ignorance or: Who in the Fire.

 

Once more, a single example must suffice.

Some time in the first quarter of the previous year (2011), the appointment of the chairman of the Review Commission was revoked.

Whether what he said was fair or unfair is not the issue here.

At the time, I was forced to be on bed, and was advised to avoid anything causing stress. For two full weeks (before I would switch to The Three Stooges), I listened to a single topic on all the Morning Editions. As each caller defended his race in an attempt to provide an explanation, racial ignorance was clearly in the air. One caller explained that such employment was a matter of choice. Several referred to historical antecedents. In the end, no acceptable solution was arrived at.

And then, the journalist invited the political scientist to provide an answer. What followed was merely a game of Who in the Fire.

After the first round of intellectual findings, the scientist says: “We need some sort of national policy on this issue.”

The acute journalist answers: “Yes, but where do we go from here.” (Nobody in the Fire).

After the second round of intellectual or academic pursuits, the political scientist adds: “What is required on this issue is national unity.”

The interview thus ends with, Nobody in the Fire.

This political scientist, I considered then, to be a most brilliant fellow. Though it is obvious that he hadn’t a clue as to how national unity might be achieved, (He would have explained) at least, he understood what was required.

 

The only way to achieve national unity.

 

Another quote: It is a horrible existence to grow into adulthood without having a history.

As far back as 1995, I did a brief interview for the Express Newspaper with Anthony Milne. It was my contribution for Indian Arrival Day.

The following are a few lines taken from that interview:

It isn’t possible to empathize or sympathize with others you know nothing about. I feel there can be no real progress, no genuine unity without first having an intellectual understanding of each other’s heritage.

Our heritage is our most important business. It has to do with systems of politics and governance, with philosophy, religion and values. It has to do with our system of education which finally, must allow us some measure of control over the global institutions that control our daily lives.

I have written repeatedly that the university, in this aspect of education, is a bane on society. The overhauling and re-telling of the people’s history is long overdue.

I see Jamaica has begun teaching its pupils about their history, perhaps preparing them for the more sensitive periods. And in the United States, Africans have begun looking at their ancient civilizations so as to regain their pride.

It would be nice to see a historian or writer/researcher here, further distinguish himself by contributing a book on the glorious civilizations of the past. Of course, the same applies to the other continents. Such works should target a high-school and university audience.

These books would also dispel the Big Lie, exposing Perception as Falsehood. In the words of Eric Williams: The West Indies must have been a very curious society which could have produced in 1512 against the Amerindians, in 1790 against the Africans, and in 1869 against the East Indians, exactly the same defamation of character of races which had no previous connection or intercourse, and which were drawn from widely separated parts of the world.

For centuries, the above has been the cause of much pain and confusion to peoples across the earth. The pain continues.

There is much work to do.

Such works would help in achieving unity. In the process, ignorance is lifted, and there remains not a single reason for racial discrimination. Some institutions also become unnecessary or obsolete.

Much more is achieved during this process of education. Such concepts as, there can be no Mothers Europe, Africa, or India, or our civilization began four hundred years ago on the plantation, become obsolete and of no significance. These concepts, no doubt, might have been valid in their context.

The truth is that our civilization began on the continents. And, as John Jacob Thomas defined himself over a century and a quarter ago, we are Anglo West Indian. (Language has much to do with culture. Just take a glimpse at our institutions, especially the parliament)!

The areas of transformation appear without end. Certainly, public holidays to celebrate or commemorate Arrival Day, Emancipation Day, or Independence undergo a most profound change. As yet, we celebrate in ignorance.

This knowledge of our history has the potential of respecting, sympathizing, supporting, sharing, defending (remember Thomas), forgiving, appreciating and contributing to each other’s culture.

Here is the only way to achieve unity. Genuine unity.

I have pointed out that your hour of enlightenment awaits an understanding of your past. Failure to follow this path leaves us to continue our existence in chaos and in mayhem.

On the other hand, to achieve this unity, is to achieve the best of civilized existence.

The above reveals an ultimatum.

In the divine words of Satya Sai Baba: Forbearance, compassion and incorruptible virtue are the three pillars of a happy life. Only a life full of these qualities can be called civilized, the rest is barbarian existence.