By Khadijah Bishop
On the heels of Trinidad and Tobago’s 55th anniversary as a sovereign nation, we must reflect on the journey and strides that we’ve made thus far. Trinis are arguably one of the most patriotic peoples on earth. After all ‘God is a Trini’ as most citizens will assert. If that isn’t enough to convince others that our patriotism goes well beyond the surface, any Trini you come across will quickly admit that they are ‘Trini to the bone’. To the average ‘outsider’ Trinbagonians appears to have a very deep rooted love for country. But beyond these cute and catchy colloquialisms, what does patriotism mean to the average citizen?
While most T&T nationals will agree that the our patriotism is often thought to be best encapsulated in the lyrics of ‘Nah Leaving ‘ by Denise Plummer of even the ever popular ‘Trini’ by Benjai, what does it actually mean to be a Trini patriot ? More than the lusty chorus that we sing these songs in unison with, more than the decoration of our national colours for Independence and Republic Day and more than the occasional post on social media that pays homage to ‘famous’ TT nationals and descendants, how do we as a country showcase our national pride? Are there is fact palpable ways to display one’s patriotism as a Trini?
At its core, patriotism is the unwavering and unquestionable love, support and pride for one’s country. Seldom thought of as a concept or ideal that can be measured or assessed tangibly, one’s patriotism is more often defined and expressed on an individual level rather than as a collective group. Naturally that means that every individual’s way of showcasing their patriotism will likely vary from another. While some might show their love and support for country by writing articles about our twin island republic and its national heroes, others opt to commit to careers as public servants and members of the armed forces as ways in which they show their national pride. As the Trinidad and Tobago diaspora continues to steadily increase in number and presence, there is an ever growing concern about the substantive ways in which we as a people can not only display of patriotism but ultimately contribute to the sustainable development of the country. Nationals both at home and abroad can attest that while there is no one way to be a ‘Proud Trini’, there are several ways in which we can collectively support the country, our people and endeavors that are concrete and discernible.
1 Pay Attention to What’s Taking Place. While most of us grew up watching the 7 o’clock news as a mandatory nightly ritual, some of us might have admittedly fallen off that bandwagon since. As a result we are not as up to date with the news and information coming out of the country. The very first step that any of us can take to becoming a positive contributor to the affairs of the country is to first find out what is going on. Fortunately for us, live streaming, virtual newspaper subscriptions and even social media make it very difficult to not to be in the know, if that’s our aim.
2. Get involved! Once you are paying attention, you will realize that they are countless initiatives, programs, individuals and organizations who are all making strides to contribute to every faucet of our growth and development as a nation. Whether you have an affinity for agriculture, marine biology or even politics, there is always an avenue for you to be the change you want to see in our society. For some this might be partnering with like minded individuals, volunteering or even making a financial contribution to a NGO whose mission you support. Often times we are very vocal about our frustrations and disenchantments about the ways (or lack thereof) that things are being done, but how much of us really try to take action on them. Our dependence on ‘the Government’ to provide solutions for the challenges we face as a nation, is most times more crippling than it is helpful. Rather than taking shared responsibility for action, we sometimes limit ourselves to relying only on our politicians for ‘answers.’ The next time you come across an issue or challenge facing the country that you are passionate about ask yourself ‘Is there anything I can do to help?’ Once you have found one, get involved with the community and even the government to work things out. Let’s be solution oriented people!
3. Demand Accountability from our Public Officials. From our public servants, to MPs to Government Ministers, we all have a collective responsibility for making sure that the persons who hold the country’s highest offices in the land are doing what they have been tasked to do and doing it well. That means we have to turn up in large numbers not only for general elections but local elections and community town halls as well. Complaints and demands made on social media will never translate into the change we seek if we are not on the forefronts fighting for it.
4.Support local! While it might seem almost intrinsic to buy fruits from your local vendor on Charlotte Street or your favourite fish man in Scarborough, when it comes to products and services that have competition from foreign markets, that’s when things get tricky. If we are truly serious about patriotism we have to intentional consumers of local good, products and services. From small businesses, to our sportswomen/ sportsmen and even our local musicians, our support for all things local has to be first before anything foreign.
5. Keep our Customs and Traditions alive. In a world where globalization and advancements in technology are running things, cultural erosion is real! Not often maliciously intended but nonetheless evident, there is a chipping away of some of the traditional ways of doing things as a people. From the Good Friday Bobolee, to our Spanish-themed Christmas music and Camboulay on Carnival Friday, the support for indigenous customs and traditions has to be unwavering and come from all groups of society. It has been taught to our children at home and in schools. Anything short of that puts as at continued risk for losing the habits and values that make us uniquely Trinbagonian!
The mantle for being a Trini patriotic is one that all citizens should take up. While we might all show our love support and national pride in different ways, if we are all working together towards these common goals, we only stand to grow stronger and more successful as a nation!
Stay tuned for more original pieces from the SPOTT team!