Notes from a small island
A weblog by Jonathan Ali

Thursday, September 30, 2004  

Thanks to Nicholas for linking to Wayne Brown's latest column in the Jamaica Observer. I'm not a regular reader of that newspaper's online edition, so I don't usually read Wayne Brown, and haven't read him much since he left Trinidad for Jamaica a number of years ago.

Reading the column, on the Haiti situation, I found myself wondering, why, in praising Jamaica's empathic relationship (as he sees it) with that beleaguered country, Brown thinks it necessary to be critical of Trinidad for lack of same.

Brown writes:

"David Rudder [Trinidadian singer/songwriter] may have sang famously once, 'Haiti, I'm Sorry'; but Trinidadians singing along did so callowly, I feel - with almost the same inexpensive sentimentality with which, back in the 80s, they sang 'We are the world'. The Trinidadian has a kneejerk fastidiousness - 'Poor? You ent see 'poor' until you see how Haitians poor, boy!' - and a basic bewilderment. Who are these Haitians, really? I mean, they don't even play cricket!"

Brown may well be right in what he says here, but he fails to note the reasons for the Trinidadian view of Haiti, or, the reasons why Trinidad does not have the relationship with Haiti that Jamaica seems to do. Trinidad does not have the commonalities that Jamaica has with Haiti: the very similar pasts of long-standing plantation systems, both rife with slave rebellion; the majority black populations in both countries (although, in saying "Haitians and Jamaicans derive from the same racial stock" Brown ignores the significant Chinese, Indian and white minority populations in Jamaica); and Jamaica's obvious geographical proximity to Jamaica (which Brown does not take into account).

If Brown were to look at a country that Trinidad does have closer ties to--Grenada--he'd see another scenario. The outpouring of support and relief aid, most of it spontaneous, that has gone out, and continues to go out, from Trinidad (and Tobago) to Grenada in the wake of the ravages of Hurricane Ivan has been nothing short of tremendous.

Also, why is Brown grudging in his acknowledgement of Trinidad's promise of aid for Jamaica after Hurricane Ivan? (Aid relief figures are being bandied about by the prime minister without his yet having received Parliamentary approval, but that's another matter.) Not only is Brown's tone indicative of an extreme reluctance to applaud Trinidad for helping its Caribbean neighbours (including Haiti; and Trinidad also was by and large opposed to Aristide's ouster earlier this year), he also finds it necessary to mention--not just once, but twice--that he wishes the current economic upturn Trinidad is experiencing were happening to Jamaica instead. Why does an economic boom in Jamaica--which I'd love to see--have to be at Trinidad's expense?

I used to think I was missing out by not reading Wayne Brown's columns. But if this unexplained anti-Trinidad bias is indicative, perhaps I haven't really been missing anything after all.

posted by Jonathan | 2:30 PM 0 comments


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