By Hudson George
It is a fact that some Caribbean intellectuals are opportunists and they know that their academic training makes it much easier for them to fit within the social movements for change of the time, when there is a vacuum.
Hudson George has a BA in Social Science from York University, Toronto, Canada. He has been writing since his early teenage years and now contributes letters and articles to a number of Caribbean newspapers
Now this time around in Trinidad and Tobago Calypso Monarch 2017 finals, Dr Hollis Liverpool better known in the calypso fraternity as “The Mighty Chalkdust” was able to win the monarch title, with a topical song on the topic of child bride marriage in the East Indian community. And because he has a PhD in history, most people think he sang a good song and he is worthy of the monarch title. However, I personally think he is an opportunist.
However, even though he won the calypso monarch title in the competition, any commonsense thinking person can see the opportunism in the song, due to the fact that the East Indian tradition is based on their religious values that were not taken away from them by the British colonisers. However, those of us who descendants of African slaves as Chalkdust is too, know full well that our ancestors were forbidden by the colonisers to practice their traditional values.
When the British brought East Indians from India to the Caribbean, to work as indentured servants on the plantations, they were not stripped of their religious values. Chalkdust is supposed to know that African women slaves were victims of rape on the plantation because they were the property of the slave masters.
In terms of female genital mutilation and male circumcision, African women slaves were not allowed to practice those rituals. If they were allowed to practice such rituals, maybe today some of our black women in the Diaspora would be still victims of genital mutilation. However, with enforcement of Christianity upon the African slaves by the Europeans, these backward cultures were not passed on to us. Therefore, African women in the Diaspora are not victims of genital mutilation.
However, Chalkdust as a historian is supposed to be fully aware of the fact that the European colonisers created laws and put into the constitution that prevent Africans in the Diaspora from practicing polygamy. In addition, I am sure that if Dr Lloyd Best was still alive, he would have criticised Chalkdust and called him a typical Afro-Saxon.
However, I am not saying that the Trinidad and Tobago government is wrong to pass legislation to end child bride marriage but the decision by Chalkdust, who is an academic scholar, a university lecturer and researcher, to make so much bacchanal with the East Indian child bride issue in carnival celebration is not good for better race relations in Trinidad, where politics is polarised by race.
In addition, some well-trained scholars sometimes become drunk on academia, because they have lost touch with the real world. They spend most of their time reading rather than critical thinking, so there is a possibility that when Chalkdust wrote the song, he was real high on a mixture of academia and race politics at the time. However, it is a known fact that he wanted to win the monarch title so badly, and with such a lyrical song bashing the East Indian culture based on Hinduism, he must have thought that the calypso judges who are mainly of African descent and properly educated in the Afro-Saxon culture as himself, would appreciate the topic and lyrics of his song and they would give him high scoring points.
He played his cards right and they gave him the victory, without thinking about how and why East Indians were brought to the Caribbean islands as indentured workers, after African slaves became free men and women in 1838.
In addition, for 50 years now Chalkdust has been singing calypso. He composed some songs that have great intellectual substance. I remember when he was given a top job position in the culture department during Prime Minister Basdeo Panday’s UNC government.
When he accepted the job, another black calypsonian known as Mighty Cro Cro hit him hard in a song and called him sell-out, for accepting job from the Panday-led mainly East Indian government. Many people sympathised with him when Cro Cro criticised him lyrically. His sympathizers thought he was doing the right thing in terms of race relationship. Now it seems as though he has a different mindset. That makes him look more like an opportunist and the Mighty Cro Cro a man who lives by his words.
In conclusion, it seems as though he has become a political calypsonian who is singing for something tangible, by using the art-form to accomplish his goals. However, his 180-degree turn is not a big surprise because it is a known fact that there are two different kind of scholars. Some scholars are thinkers and others are well educated. Those scholars who are great thinkers always think wisely and those that are educated think differently.
As for the Mighty Chalkdust, if he was a great thinker, he would have composed a song with lyrics explaining why the East Indians were allowed to keep their culture during the British colonial rule, in his homeland Trinidad, while the Africans lost theirs. In addition, whether it is the colonisers’ culture or the colonised people’s culture, they all have some elements of backwardness that need to be changed. Therefore, the Mighty Chalkdust forgot his Caribbean history for opportunity.