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September 12, 2007

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A friend of ours is Trinidadian (is that the right word?) She was homeschooling when we were, two years ago, and we met through mutual friends. They've just moved to St. Croix, unfortunately; our boys really hit it off well.

I positively love that accent. I can't imitate it to save my life, and that kills me. It's like verbal crack; she can say anything at all and it sounds charming.

-- As part of my graduation requirement for Yale's IR program, I had to do a speculative briefing paper. That is, I had to take a real-world country, imagine a plausible crisis that could arise there, lay out in detail how it would happen, and give a menu of policy responses.

Basically like writing a really long Usenet post, with cites. Fastest paper I ever wrote... one afternoon of research, one phone call with a retired former ambassador, then I sat down and wrote 20 pages in five hours or so.

My choice? A political crisis in Guyana, with relations between the two ethnic groups breaking down to the point of serious violence and ethnic cleansing.

I managed to scare myself. Maybe I got too close, but it looked plausible. (The former Ambassador said that it could have happened a couple of times already, and had been avoided less because of good will than because of general social torpidity and sluggishness.)

Guyana is really, really screwed up. I'm not sure if the bitter racial politics are symptom or cause, though.

Anyway, glad to hear that Trinidad ain't like that.


Doug M.

Doug! We miss you, man.

There are occasional frictions: for example, vandals recently trashed a rather famous seashore temple. It hasn't led to much, though. First, the vandals left scrawls that incited religious tensions, not racial ones. Strangely enough, that's a good thing ... because there aren't a whole lot of religious tensions to incite.

Second, everyone agreed that alcohol fueled the incident. I have no idea how they knew that, but I tend to think that it's a healthy first reaction.

Of course, there's still that racial divide, which politicians attempt to bridge in all sorts of funny ways. My favorite Trinidadian phrase (which few Trinis fully appreciate) is "agency brown."

The Philippines may have shown us much of the dystopic future of American politics, but I predict that "agency brown" is going to become campaign shorthand for the perfect middle-class racially-indistinct candidate.

Another way of putting it is that T&T politics can sometimes feel frightfully American. Even if the racial politics is different, it's still racial politics.

Consider the following editorial:

"We would rather engage in bacchanal and mudslinging than actually hearing what vision the parties might have paid some consultancy firm a few million to come up with. We have a lot of nice speeches written by nice, agency-brown, middle-class copywriters, liberally peppered with spur-of-the-moment thinly disguised racist rhetoric and scare-mongering."

Same commentator had an awesome description of the recent spate of poll-driven candidate-switches made by the ruling party:

"What with candidates for the PNM dropping faster than a black girl’s self-esteem in a passa passa dance, I’m in two minds about just how entertaining this year’s election is going to be."

On the other hand, a recent COP rally in Woodford Square brought out a pretty multi-racial crowd. So you never know.

Is there more interest in Trinidad's cultural divisions? They get pretty complicated, so I'd only want to write them if people are interested.

Can't hurt.

"Agency brown", eh? I gotta start working on my tan and digging up those black ancestors Doug was so sure I've got. :^)

I was surprised to discover, when looking up the English pop group The Magic Numbers on Wikipedia, that there was an Islamic coup attempt in Trinidad in 1990. I guess it makes sense that a substantial portion of all those Indian immigrants were Muslim, which makes for a lot of Muslims, but did they have any hope of bringing anyone else along with them?

You know, they wrecked the yard that Mr. Biswas was so proud of.

Wonder what happened to Hanuman House. Catal Huyuk without the vultures.

Carlos: I wish I knew.

Dave: I have more to say about this. OK, a new post is on its way.

Claudia: Am I crowding you with this Trinidadian stuff? I'd be happy to hold off.

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