Critical thinking - the only way to save T&T.
Photo : Ramdath Jagessar-pioneer and father of Indian Arrival Day celebration in T&T
Are we descending into a nation of pigs driving SUVs and living in air-conditioned mansions? If our bright minds do not speak out for fear of losing their job or a promotion or not being included in a delegation to travel abroad then our nation is doomed!
Professor John La Guerre said that in his years as an academic he had always commented on contemporary social and political issues, never afraid to go against the views of the government of the day or any politician. This culture of academics commenting on issues of the day is well reflected in BBC, CNN and other media houses.
More so, universities and media houses have a duty to conduct regular research on social issues of the day. If this is not being done, then we are left to conclude that our editors, journalists, and academics are guilty of peddling “lies, half-truths and innuendoes.”
For example, what is the official data on Carnival? Has any survey been done to ascertain the success or failure of this ‘national’ festival? We continue to hear that Carnival is the ‘greatest show on earth’ and tourist ‘flock to T&T in the thousands’ to participate in this street party. Is this a truth or a big fat lie? What about the pervasive vulgarity that is associated with this festival? To what extent does Carnival contribute to the indiscipline and increasing crime that is endemic in the country?
Are those claims supporting Carnival credible? Who have a responsibility to tell the truth? I expect a bigger role to be played by our academics and media houses in directing the nation and not leaving it to the whims and fancies of politicians, talk show host and wayside preachers and pandits.
A distinction must be made between academic and intellectuals. Throughout the world intellectuals have always stood up for what is right, not even bothering for their own safety and wellbeing. Intellectuals who opposed dictators were generally banished to Siberia in the case of Russia. In the 1970s and 1980s when dictators was flourishing in Latin America many intellectuals fled to Paris from where they continued to be critical of their governments. In the case of Nazi Germany many Jewish intellectuals had to flee to the US including Albert Einstein.
Mao Tse Tung of China was not an academic; and so were Mahatma Gandhi and Ho Chi Min of Vietnam. They were intellectuals that appealed to the masses. Their charisma and human touch endeared them to their people. They willingly sacrificed their careers and creature comfort to struggle for the improvement of their communities.
It is not uncommon for an academic to do a doctoral thesis on the Mahabharat but would not make a submission to the Ministry of Education to have literary text in the school system!
Yoga is now adopted by the United Nation which has now declared June 21 International Day of Yoga. Despite this international acceptance of yoga no one has so far made an appeal for yoga to be incorporated into the Physical Education program in our schools. Don’t our academics in the fiels of health care have a moral duty to make such an appeal?
The struggle to make Indian Arrival Day (IAD) a national holiday was carried out not by academics but by cultural activists who mobilised the masses and took to the streets, parks and beaches commemorating this historic landmark-May 30, 1845. When the motion was moved by Trevor Sudama in Parliament to declare IAD a national holiday, many academics who were sitting on the government bench argued against it. Activists like Sham Mohammed, Idris Hamid, Rajni Ramlakhan, Dr Kumar Mahabir, Ramdath Jagesser, Haripersad Harikissoon, Sat Maharaj, Samaroo Siewah, Kamal Persad, Ashram Maharaj among others, had already sown the arguments for a holiday in the minds of the people.
This failure of our academics to make statements on the social and political issues of the day is being reflected in the lackadaisical attitude of our graduates of today. This is now being manifested in an increasing social apathy- a kind of airy fairy existence- where our graduates and professionals are absent from meaningful social and cultural activities. That absence from constructive and meaningful community projects is compensated with an abuse of alcohol, cocaine, marijuana and an endemic LGBT lifestyle that is rapidly eroding the moral fabrics of the country. One commentator remarked that T&T is on the road to becoming the LGBT capital of the world, if not already there! Another insisted that our parliament is already taken over by LGBTs!
Our graduates are alienated from their communities. Few participate in the social and cultural life of their community. Most are engaged in bouts of binge drinking with their peers. They never seem to find the time to visit the mandirs in their villages for Hanuman Jayanti or attend political rallies. Few are actively engaged in sporting activities. For many of them sports is a cooler fete!
Graduates with degrees in agriculture and a background in farming are unaware of the issues affecting the industry despite the fact that they were sustained and educated by that industry. There are no social programs addressing the plight of farmers and the challenges facing agriculture. Even the best performing minister in the previous government was removed from Ministry of Agriculture and sent to the Ministry of Trade and Commerce. Such is the contempt we have for agriculture!
T&T desperately needs critical thinkers to move our nation forward. Critical thinking would help to provide us with the penetrative intellectual power to analyse and diagnose problems and make recommendations. Given the current state of our country, such critical thinking must be encouraged in all spheres of our lives. It is the only way forward for our beloved T&T.