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11 Tomas Elias Gonzalez Benitez//
Are we a patriotic people?

In Sunday Newsday interviews, last week, they argued that the adverse criticisms via social media and other fora about the performances of the athletes were symptomatic of a general love-hate mindset among citizens that persisted in many facets of national life. As a result, they observed that rather than carry out an analysis of the factors which contribute to a particular end, many simply submit to outright bashing – an attitude which, they said, flew in the face of genuine patriotism.

NO WE ARE NOT “We are not really patriotic,” says Reginald Dumas, a retired head of the public service.

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“We are essentially a pull-down society.

We do not build. We even attribute motives and actions to people that may not have even crossed the people’s (who are spoken about) minds.” He added: “We do a lot of talking and to run them (athletes) down like that was unfair.

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Instead of analyse, we pull them down immediately.

You cannot be proud of a country only when it does well.” Dumas argued that people rarely focus on the merits or demerits about what a person has said to see what improvements, if any, can be made, but instead often seek to attack the person’s character.

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“That has been hold- ing us back because we don’t se ourselves as whole but as individuals,” he said.

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“We always seem to be focusing on what is good for the individual but not the country and as a result, we (T&T) have not made the progress we should have over our years as an independent country.” Even so, Dumas observed that there was much unnecessary hype in the weeks preceding the Olympics.

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He recalled there was talk that this year’s contingent was the largest in the country’s history while President of the TT Olympic Committee Brian Lewis, according to media reports, also predicted that T&T would get ten medals between Rio and the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

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“A smaller team could have brought more medals,” Dumas said of the Rio Games.

Noting that many people appeared to have lost sight of the fact that the local athletes were competing against the best in the world, Dumas wondered if was realistic to assume that they would have gotten a sizeable portion of the medals in the Olympics.

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“There were questions about preparations – some were not performing at their best and others had injuries.

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Perhaps some of them should not have even been chosen,” he said.

Dumas noted that Keshorn Walcott, who got this country’s only medal in the Rio Olympicsin the javelin throw, observed in an interview that the unity which existed among the contingent for the London Olympics four year ago simply was there in Rio De Janeiro.

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Instead, Walcott was quoted in media reports as saying that the certain “heads” were to blame for the lacklustre performances.

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“That was a serious statement Walcott made,” Dumas said, insisting there must be a serious post-mortem of the performances at the Games.

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ABOUD ASHAMED President of the Downtown Owners’ and Merchants Association (DOMA) Gregory Aboud told Sunday Newsday he was ashamed of the unflattering postings on social media about the athletes’ performances at the Games.

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He said people did not pay attention to the fact that many of the athletes had performed in the upper percentile of qualifying groups, even though they failed to qualify for the finals.

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Aboud said: “When you look at the medal table you see countries such as India with a population of one billion people very close by in ranking to a country such as ours.

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Even in comparison to our Caribbean neighbours, we rank in the top three, only after Jamaica and the Bahamas.” Aboud sought to link the negative views about the athletes’ performances to a flippancy among many citizens which, he believes, accompanied the prosperity T&T enjoyed during its oil boom years.

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“There is a general sense that we have become spoilt, that all of the energy money which was so lavishly spent in the last ten years has made us weaker citizens, less grateful for the efforts of others and having less value for the important things in life that money cannot buy,” he said.

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“I do believe that this spoilt-brat behaviour is symptomatic of the foolish spending and the “money can solve anything” habit that we have developed during the years of plenty.” Prominent Roman Catholic priest Fr Garfield Rochard contended that the country was never truly socialised into a patriotic way of life, hence the resulting social media fallout to the athletes’ performances.

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Giving an incisive take of the situation, Rochard argued that pivotal developments in T&T’s history: the transition from British colony status; the birth of the People’s National Movement (PNM); and the failed West Indian Federation and Independence, erred in instilling a true sense of patriotism in citizens.

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“We grew up as a colony – the British way of handling things – but there was a desire for us to handle ourselves (Independence) which operated from a blatant psyche.

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But there were still those who wanted to work in Britain,” he said.

Rochard, parish priest of the Church of the Assumption in Maraval, said there were eventually two movements which attempted to encourage the country to govern its own affairs.

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He recalled that both the Catholic Church and the PNM, during the 1940s and 1950s, respectively, promoted the idea of independence “The church pushed for a local clergy ‘to build the country’ because it recognised the value of home while the PNM was a movement that wanted us to take care of ourselves,” Rochard said.

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Rochard said following the collapse of the West Indies Federation (because of political conflict), which existed from 1958 to 1962 and was headquartered in T&T, “the politics rushed for independence without the country being prepared to take political charge.” He added: “It was a political dream but independence was really paper work in London and raising the flag here.

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With that now, you hope that patriotism will flourish but really, no blood had been shed for us to really appreciate it.”

PATRIOTISM A WORK IN PROGRESS Former National Calypso Monarch Eric “Pink Panther” Taylor said patriotism in T&T was still largely a work in progress.

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“Since 1962, we have endeavoured to build a nation where every creed and race will find and equal place and somehow that is not really the reality,” he told Sunday Newsday.

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Despite being 54 yearsold, there are some in Independent TT who still operate along racial lines and strictly religious disciplines.

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These factors contribute to our inability to forge a nation. As long as that is the case, then patriotism is always under threat, the veteran calypso bard said.

“I believe the best chance to get that going is to focus on the things that unite us instead of the things that continue to divide us,” he said.

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Saying that the psyche of the country must be looked at critically, in terms cultivating a heightened sense of patriotism, Dumas said the process must begin with the young children in the schools.

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Towards this end, he lauded Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s thrust to give the subject, History, a more prominent role in the school’s curriculum.

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He said while there has been advances in technology and other areas over the past 54 years, TT had regressed in its commitment to country.

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