Who Sets the Standards?

I no be gentleman at all
I be Africa man, original

Gentleman, Fela Kuti

I wonder if people objected to the term ‘wajang’ because it’s a pejorative or because they didn’t take well to the Prime Minister using a word from our creole to describe the behaviour of one of his ministers.

The prevailing notion is that wajang behaviour is not acceptable. But it’s interesting that we have actual words to describe patterns of behaviour that are peculiar to us.

Like tabanca, perhaps wajang behaviour is an indigenous expression of true emotion.

But it begs the question, who decides what is appropriate behaviour for us?

Who is creating a set of moral codes that refers to our specific Trinidad and Tobago cultural experience?

Is it that wajang behaviour is wrong or is it just that Papa Patos is so caught up with being something that has less and less to do with our true nature that he considers this behaviour unacceptable?

If we are a wajang nation, by all means, let us embrace it.

Wajang behaviour has been part of our history of triumph over adversity.

Wajang behaviour refers not just to emotive outbursts, but financial, political and cultural wajangness as well.

So who’s afraid to be a wajang? Who is afraid of showing passion for our country, for our money, for our environment, just because some stiff-necked fool says that that is not appropriate?

I mean, have these people ever listened to parliamentary debates from jolly old England that sound like an East London fish market? Have they not seen fights break out in Japanese parliament? Have they no sense that perhaps a parliamentarian is a warrior on behalf of his constituents?

Thing is, I personally would prefer an honest wajang to a polite thief.

I would prefer a loud rabble rousing anarchist who matched his or her words to action. I would rather a laugh than a fake skin-teeth.

I mean it took a piece of wajang behaviour for all these people who have been sitting quietly with information or suspicions about Udecott to finally come forward and start demanding that the company be investigated.

Perhaps if we all got in touch with our inner wajang, we might have a better grasp of what is valuable to us.

It takes wajang behaviour like blocking roads and burning tyres for people to get noticed. Wajang behaviour is crucial to the way we do things here, so let’s not deny it.

I wonder about our notions of civilisation. Who is carving out our own sense of civilisation from the sweat and frustration of all our various peoples? We want to be developed without fighting wars, without shedding our blood, without fighting to define who we are and what we stand for. We want to be developed without confronting our wajangness. This is foolish. This is impossible.

Every civilisation has its wajangs on whom it depended to set its parameters and values.

I would rather connect with my inner wajang than twist my mind, body and spirit into someone else’s notions of what is acceptable.

Which is not to say that I subscribe to the sentiment on the street, the anger always close to the skin waiting for the smallest slight to launch into a colourful and eloquent description of somebody’s mother.

But I wonder about this civilisation we are building, if that is what we’re building amidst all the concrete edifices.

Who sets the standards for our behaviour? Who decides what we can or can’t say?

And if you can’t be honest and open in your communication amongst your peers, where can you be honest and open? If you can’t express yourself in your own language, in the rhythm of your own tongue, then whose are you supposed to use?

Right or wrong or indifferent, who decides what behaviour is acceptable to us?

The rich people are too rich to care and the poor people have nothing to lose. So who are pretending for? Who are we trying to bend ourselves to accommodate? And more importantly, why are we trying to be who we aren’t?

It reeks of a slave mentality, a mimic man obsession with being like the other. It ensures that we stay underdeveloped in thought and deed, in spite of all the shiny new buildings.

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