Small Island, Big Mentality: Why T&T is still a Speck
If you ask a random foreigner, Trinidad is located in Africa, it is a small town in Jamaica, we are somewhere in Central America, or according to Paloma, my bus stop friend, we are located in the countryside in Pernambuco, the Brazilian state where I currently live.
Well this last statement was a source of great entertainment on my Facebook page. People made comments like “she mad”, “that real funny”, and “I always knew you were Brazilian”, until someone spoilt the fun by posting a link from Google maps showing Trinidade, a city located in the countryside in Pernambuco.
Shock… Paloma was right. But then I started thinking to myself, we had a giggle at the lady because of what appeared to be ignorance, when the irony was that we were the ignorant and ‘boldface’ ones. Why should she know that Trinidad and Tobago is a twin-island state located in the Caribbean Sea? Why should she know that we have amazing beaches and scenery, are rich in natural resources, and have an interesting colonial history? The truth is she shouldn’t.
If we put things into perspective, we can see why.
How many of us can name three of the larger Grenadine islands, not counting St Vincent of course? How many of us can name at least four of the Barbadian parishes? How many of us actually remember what the colours of our national flag represent? To some, these can be seen as trivial facts, bits of information that you may or may not have known a long time ago, but are not important enough to stay embedded in your memory – similar to not knowing the location of two, small islands with a population smaller than the average big city on any continent.
Why aren’t we better known? We have cricket, we have Brian Lara, we made it to the World Cup five years ago, we have the only musical instrument invented in the last century, and hell we even ‘have’ Nicki Minaj. How can foreigners not know about us?
Maybe island mentality prevents us from showcasing the very things that would give us more acclaim. The Urban Dictionary defines island mentality as “a belief in a community or culture’s superiority, correctness, or specialness compared to other communities”. Does that sound like you? I reckon some people would admit to having island mentality, but, at the same time, would also happily accept and point out the frailties of their society.
Each country has an ‘X’ factor, something that separates it from others. And, no, I’m not talking about the claims that we have “the best carnival in the world”, but “the worst roads in the world”, or that “Trinidad has the most beautiful women in the world”, but “Trini men are the worst”.
The countries that are well known tend to have certain qualities, and have given something concrete to the world, or have some sort of worldwide influence. Trinidad and Tobago does have ‘X’ factors (apart from the common, trite claims, which are exactly that – claims). These include famous writers like V.S Naipaul and Michael Anthony, as well as politicians like Sir Ellis Clarke.
Stokely Carmichael, an activist in the American Civil Rights Movement was born in Port of Spain. These names are arguably bigger and more important than the other claims, but yet the majority of us would not include them in discourse, when we proudly talk about our beloved region. Why is that? I guess some of us do not know these other ones, or even think… well my audience is not going to be impressed by that. Perhaps if we promoted these, as well as the overused ones, people may play a little more attention. Who knows?
The Caribbean has been the birthplace for many people who have left their mark on this world. Jamaica had Bob Marley. He did wonders in the 70s, and he still is working his magic from the grave. Guyana has Cy Grant, a former Royal Air Force serviceman, who went on to become a prominent figure in British television.
People often remark on the peculiarity of my name Cy. I usually say it is a Hebrew name that means master and lordly. My response is normally followed up with sarcastic remarks, but within all the laughter, I do mention that I was named after Cy Grant. I don’t think people run to their computers, and put Cy Grant into Wikipedia after my name spiel, but maybe it might just stoke their interest.
While people know of the Caribbean because of our beaches, weather, or even pirates, perhaps we have bigger worldwide clout collectively rather than individually. Perhaps the key to raising our profile lies in boosting regional pride, while showcasing each country’s valid claims to fame. Perhaps…
On the other hand, maybe people do not know about us, because island mentality is not just reserved for the islanders. It is widespread. We believe everybody should know about us for what we regard as important – like the Brazilians who look surprised when I tell them I can’t samba, and don’t know who Roberto Carlos is. Roberto Carlos is the King of Latin music, not footballer, I learnt.
The irony is, what may be important to us, might not be as important to someone else. We just have to wake up to the fact that our island is small – literally and metaphorically – and no matter how big our mentality is, there are still going to be those out there with bigger islands (or continents), and mentalities.
There are approximately 1.4 million Trinbagonians in T&T alone. Perhaps us ‘flocals’ (Foreign Based Locals), and locals can do our bit in promoting claims that go way beyond the banal.
We still have a long wait ahead, before at least 30% of the world’s seven-billion-strong population starts saying, “Oh yeah Trinidad, you guys are in the Caribbean right”, or even, “Oh yeah, Jamaica, what part of Trinidad and Tobago is that?” That would be the day! In the meantime, what we can do is accept that people have other things to do, and share information that is likely to leave a strong impression.
Check out the rest of this week’s issue (7/11/11; Issue 80):
- Parents and Technology: The Bane of your Existence?
- Young People Eh: What it’s like Being the Baby at Work
- Friends with Benefits: It’s All About the Body Parts
- Small Island, Big Mentality: Why T&T is still a Speck
Look out for a new issue of Outlish.com every Monday!
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