Moving Back to Jamaica

A blog about my Move Back to Jamaica after 20+ years of living in the US. Most of the articles focus on the period from 2005-2009 when the transition was new, and at it's most challenging.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Trinidad's Creative Class

I remarked in an earlier post that Trinidadian society is much more supportive of its Creative Class than we are here in Jamaica.

Glancing through today’s Trinidad Guardian (which is available online) strengthened my opinion, as it included the following headlines in today's business section:

Small business...The bastard sector
T&T probably has the highest per capita complement of private entrepreneurs in the entire Caribbean...

What happens after full employment?
T&T’s unemployment rate has fallen to a historical low and expectations are ripe that the booming economy could attain the Government’s full employment target of five per cent even as early as this year. Is the full employment target truly attainable? Or will we wake up and regrettably realise it was all a dream?

With respect to the 3T’s: Technology, Talent and Tolerance I can detect some important differences as someone who has had a few years of working with companies in Trinidad.

Technology: I don’t know that there is any difference from the other islands, as I can only say that Trinidad tends to be 6-12 months behind Jamaica in the adoption of new technologies. This might well be due to Jamaica’s significant foreign-based population, and also our proximity to North America.

At the same time, Trinidadians invented the only new musical instrument of the 20th century – the steel drum.

Talent: Trinidad just announced that education through the University level is now free. In Jamaica, we still have primary school students paying fees. The advantage that this gives Trinidad (and Barbados, incidentally) is substantial.

Tolerance: This is where Trinidad is well ahead of its English speaking counterparts. Its citizen’s ethnic composition is primarily Black and Indian, with Indians being the slightly larger group. With that difference in ethnicity comes a distinct mix of religious backgrounds, with Christianity being the largest single religion, and Catholicism being the largest single denomination. There is a significant number of Hindus and Muslims.

There is hardly a trace of the kind of religious fundamentalism that has become so strong in Jamaica. It is not hard to see why – the society must have come to terms with the fact that co-existence means acceptance, and that fundamentalism might be the pathway to destruction, whether it be religious, political or social.

Also, Trinidad has been colonized by the French, Spanish and English. By contrast, Barbados has only been English, and Jamaica was captured by the English from the Spanish in 1655.

From my own exposure to Trinidadian carnival it is easy to see that Trinidadian-style carnival could not have been invented in either Barbados or Jamaica. That it now exists all over the world (albeit in diluted forms) is testament to the success of their creative class, and to their tolerance of differences.

A few years ago, a mildly popular soca tune out of Antigua by the singer Wanksie (sp?) carried the line: “We no want to chi-chi man inna di massive carnival…. more gyal… more gyal.”

“Chi-chi man” is a Jamaican, derogatory term for gays that was popularized in TOK’s huge hit, which called for their destruction.

The response in Trinidad was enormous, and loud. Except… the noise came from people charging that the song made using a slur to deride homosexuals. Of course, as any Jamaican will tell you, they were right.

I laughed when I read an interview with Wanskie, trying to explain that “No, no, no – chi-chi man does not mean anything about homosexuals, it just refers to anyone who is of bad character” – (or something quite close.) He said this in much the same way that many Jamaican dance-hall artistes tried to explain that their anti-gay songs were just a metaphorical expression of their opinions and religious convictions.

In these respects, Trinidad is a much more hospitable place to its Creative Class. I’m not sure what it will take for us to the same in Jamaica, but we must do so if we hope to build our economy on more than just tourism dollars and remittances.


At 4/07/2006 7:54 AM, Blogger allaboutme said...

as a trini my self it is nice to read some encouraging lines bout my country. thaks for the words and your site is good, keep it up


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