Post-Colonial Guilt

Interesting to see that my post Not the Booker on the 30th July has had 55 views in the last week. As my blog gets betwen 20-70 hits a day – (at least 10 of which are my Mum), I am puzzzled by the thought that some might see this entry was hoping to launch a campaign.

I would like to say something about post-colonial guilt. What has astounded me about my country of birth – is the lack of it. Trinidadians are largely guilt-free. Especially white people.  I have never met one white person in Trinidad who feels the least bit guilty about the crimes of the past. It’s as if they never happened or somehow these crimes were ‘lite’ by comparison. By comparison to the crimes committed in the big sugar producing islands of Jamaica and Barbados, for instance.  In Trinidad – our crimes were not so bad, is the line.  Our acts of torture were ‘mild’. Yes, I’ve heard that said. Somehow, they happened so long ago they couldn’t possibly have any connection to the appalling crime situation and tense race relations of Trinidad in 2009.

And so, yes, I have questioned this lack of guilt in my novel. There’s lots more too – sex, death, murder, foortball (the Soca WarriorsVs Peru) and of course iguanas falling out of trees.

Are we writers from the New World supposed to stop criticising our leaders? 

I think not.

In The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao, the fabulous writer Junot Diaz describes Rafael Trujillo, (infamous despot who ran the Domincan Republic 1930-61) like this:

“A portly, sadistic, pig-eyed mulatto who bleached his skin and wore platform shoes and had a fondness for Napolean-era haberdashery.”

I am a great fan of writing like this – and this Pulitzer Prize winning novel is the best of the New Wave of writing now coming out of the Caribbean, writing still committed to some of the old themes: guilt – or lack of it.


~ by moniqueroffey on August 5, 2009.

4 Responses to “Post-Colonial Guilt”

  1. When I return to Trinidad I often think of it as a “fools paradise”. Not that the post colonials (& others) are fools, but they think they live in paradise and it is not. People outside Trinidad who hear about it, also assume it is some sort of idealic Island to live on.

    Many Trinidadians earn local dollars and they don’t go very far when travelling, so I suspect that many don’t travel extensivly. You certainly don’t see many Trinis, say in Australia or the Pacific Islands. So if you live in Trinidad and it is “your” paradise, why would you feel guilty about your role in it? As you mentioned in your recent radio interview, the post colonialist whites are now part of the story, the fabric of community. A part that most people around the world don’t even know exist. You are now just telling their story, from a point of view.

  2. @scubashark: There are many Trinis in Australia
    @Monique: are you familiar with the phrase ‘transgenerational haunting’? Nice post.

  3. HI Vahni – no I’m not.
    See you at yur launch!

  4. scuba shark – this is very naive. You obviosuly have no real grasp of Trinidad’s bleak histry – and it s nothing to do with dollars or currency – go read a history book. I suggest you start with Eric Williams Capitalism and Slavery.

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