State of the African Nation, Part IV

So many of us cannot deal with history. We are frightened to stare down the naked horror that went into the creation of this modern world. It is simple. 500 years ago Western military conquest began a process that decimated hundreds of millions of people and created unprecedented wealth for itself. This wealth was predicated on a global apartheid caste system of white over brown over black. This passed through periods of Native American and South Pacific genocide, African slavery and holocausts, and Asian occupation and indentureship. This caste apartheid was practised in legislature, education, religion, and in distribution of resources like housing and employment. The only reason it is not as brutal as before is because people fought to reform it.

We find it hard to reconcile a world of shiny iPhones, new cars, Disney World and Cable TV with systems that also delivered genocide and calculated Western advantage. We are afraid to connect the dots. So many are quick to scream ‘conspiracy theory’ when the face in the bed next to them is really called ‘historical fact’. They are only now seeing its ‘wake-up face’ without make-up. These people can accept there was something called ‘Apartheid’ with a policy of white over brown over black in South Africa. But refuse to admit that this was the same system the entire Westernised world lived under until the 1960s. Both my grandfather and father lived that reality in Trinidad. Unable to vote. And confined in terms of housing, employment, healthcare, leisure and access to civic amenities. They fought to change that and better their condition. Probably only 15 per cent of their community escaped the clutches of poverty…

What clueless commentators do not understand is that the things we called Independence movements in the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, and in Latin America — and what Africans in America called the fight for Civil Rights — were in fact phases of anti-Apartheid struggles we have been fighting for 500 years… These global systems which took so long to go away have not disappeared overnight. Vested interests continue to battle for the status quo…

For some of us living middle class lives in oil rich T&T it is easy to gloss over the last 500 years and their legacy. By the accident of some dinosaurs dying under our soil we have oil- which this world deems valuable. We were fortunate that the process of its extraction from our soil has been peaceful. And so some of us have enough money to run from the worst scars of a bloody legacy. But for many others the last 500 years has had no coffee break. Speak to the over 50 million dispossessed Native Americans whose hemisphere has been stolen. Speak to the Sioux, Aztec, Comanche, Navajo, and Taino tribes and ask them why they just don’t ‘suck it up’ and ‘move on’ after having their populations decimated and ways of life destroyed. Speak to countries where resources have been extracted at the barrel of a gun.


As difficult as it may seem, there are shell-shocked communities right among us, communities that have not been insulated from the worst of history’s lashes. They live lives far removed from the ones some of us take for granted, lives closer to the one my grandfather lived. There are those who haven’t escaped the programmed tightening cycles of poverty. Many of these are the same communities seeded by the escape from the plantation…

It is a hard task emotionally to face down the last 500 years of European imperial expansion and its fruits. But stare it down we must — because its cycle may be coming to an end. We must also understand that all the madness we are witnessing in the world today is the result of the flaws within and backlash against that system. Climate change is a direct result of the West’s flawed philosophy of disrespect and over-exploitation of Nature. The Arab Revolts and the Latin American Socialist governments that have taken over in the last decade are the backlash for decades of foisting dictators on people. The right-wing Nazi movements rising in Europe are due to constituencies internalising the stereotypes and messages of Apartheid. The collapse of the Western banking and financial system is due to flawed ideas of materialism and concentration of wealth…

And the imperilled state of the African nation worldwide is the result of a legacy of plunder of a motherland, and the uncompensated enslavement and cultural disenfranchisement of a people. It is the result of the establishment of a global caste system based on colour, and a system that continually mobilises to negate African progress at the centre — with repercussions at the periphery. All these are fruits of the same tree.

The Western Empire is at a moment of crisis — its implications are being visited upon us all. This is not Mayan Prophecy. This is not conspiracy theory cum racial propaganda. It is simple historical fact. We have to find ways to solve the problems that have been created by this history together. With clarity. Without running from the truths of this history. And to the naysayers, these words from the Mahatma: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

Posted on November 3, 2011, in President's Blog and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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