Notes from a small island
A weblog by Jonathan Ali

Friday, December 27, 2002  

From Infinity to oblivion?

Harrack Balramsingh, president of the group Citizens for a Better Trinidad & Tobago, CBTT, has once again called for the Infinity bar at the St. Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies to be closed, according to a Trinidad Express story today:

'Balramsingh’s call came in a statement on the death of renowned psychiatrist of Dr Michael Beaubrun, who did extensive research on the effects of and prevention of alcoholism.

'Balramsingh said: “As a mark of respect for Professor Beaubrun, UWI should remove the Infinity Bar from the school compound because our highest educational institute needs to set an example for our youth. The late Professor was not in support of alcohol being sold at UWI during class hours nor did he believe that it was appropriate to have a bar on the compound of the school. Let’s heed the late Professor’s advice if we wish to have fewer crimes and broken homes.”

'Balramsingh also called on the government “to do all in its power to implement the breathalyser test in tribute to Beaubrun’s outstanding work in the prevention of substance abuse.”'

I meant to post after Dr. Beaubrun's passing. His pioneering work in the field of psychiatry in T&T went a long way in helping this society understand mental illness, its causes and effects. (We still have a long, long way to go.) His call for the implementation of the breathalyser test, which sadly and stupidly continues to go unheeded, was notable.

Dr. Beaubrun's understanding of alcohol as a depressant and its link to clinical depression was behind much of his thinking in his views towards alcohol. But a social phenomenon like alcohol consumption needs more than scientific reasoning to be brought to bear in understanding it. No doubt Dr. Beaubrun knew this; he never called for its outright prohibition. But people like Balramsingh don't help matters when they make unhelpful generalisations and staggering leaps in logic when they say things such as banning alcohol on the UWI compound would result in fewer crimes and broken homes.

It may seem far fetched, but infantile attitudes like Balramsingh's towards such issues as alcohol are part of a mindset that continues to prevent us from becoming a serious nation. In any serious country, on any serious university campus, the campus bar is a hotbed of discussion, where the future leaders, thinkers, poets, artists come together with passions enflamed to debate the pressing issues, or just unwind after a day of slogging over mathematical formulae and literary theories. (It's also a place where drunken louts go to get wasted, but in serious countries people tolerate what they personally find undesirable along with what they do find desirable.)

Unfortunately Balramsingh doesn't see it that way. To him UWI is 'school' with set hours, and the students are not adults, but children who need to be told what they can and cannot do. No doubt he sees the university experience as just as extension of secondary school, where one goes simply to take classes, learn by rote, not question, sit your exams quietly, get your degree and head off into the world of work.

But perhaps I do agree with Balramsingh's call for a ban on Infinity, though not for his silly reasons, but because Infinity is not a campus bar worthy of the title, just a rum shop by another name. At least in rum shops you get some political talk, partisan though the views usually are. At Infinity all you get is an argument over whose game of pool it is next.

posted by Jonathan | 8:32 AM 0 comments


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