....when only a sound make sense in climate of political nonsense
Some feelings can only be expressed by sound, ’tis true, and one of the most expressive of sounds of Trinidad and Tobago, well known for its musical and musicality of its accent, is the steups.
Beyond the polite Oxford English Dictionary’s description, and interpretation of steups which has fed into other urban and slang dictionaries, as a native user I claim insider knowledge of its usage, meaning and application, and for this here undertake to enlighten the international public, given that it’s likely to be gaining currency in global to national arenas (see meaning below).
Post Truth I am now wrapping Christmas presents for several in high offices: copies of The Gentlemen's Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness, Being a Complete Guide for a Gentleman's Conduct in all his Relations Towards Society by Cecil B. Hartley which from the first page tells those in an aspiring to political and other office how to restrain their Steups. See extracts below.
Behold a dawning of in a time when steups may seem to be the only expression applicable in response to or to sum up a host of baffling unfolding phenomenon: whether it is:
- - Time Magazine’s Person of the Year as US President-elect Donald Trump as President of the Divided States of America and the unfolding comic-tragic reality show that is the US socio-political climate;
- - The sudden resignation in mid-term of the still popular New Zealand Prime Minister john Key and Manuel Valls, the Prime Minister of France’s who resigned for much different reasons - so he could pursue the more coveted Presidency, and like power plays as Italy’s referendum on Constitution Reform takings its Prime Minister out of office;
- - Brexit, and the associated Supreme Court’s coming out of the closet coming of age as stiff law lords remove their ancient wigs to present the court’s proceedings on Brexit to a LIVE Facebook and social media feed; and
- - Pollsters, predictions and elections in general and the local government elections in Trinidad in particular where all the party, as usual, sound horns of victory, and the two major parties lock horns over one eastern district that decided to test the mettle of the kettle in accommodating the diversity all tout that they so profoundly appreciate.
It was my steups at the last - because it is the local that drives the global - that has become progressively more pronounced into one gigantic steups that triggered the train of earth shudders of horror that now finds echo in Time’s caricature of its Person of the Year in Donald Trump as President of the Divided States of America.
Is it a signal of the growing acceptance of the trend towards divisiveness rather than the triumph of diversity towards which we have been leaning at local as much as at global levels?
Although the expression must be as old as Aristotle, it was a US Speaker of the House to whom is attributed the phrase that all politics is local.
, Kamla Persad Bissessar, published on the eve of that upset general elections which also placed the gender mandate on the front burner, along with the impatience of rural and diverse communities for recognition of that diversity and the old political benchmarkers were tired and unappreciated.
While solutions were being sort through the politics, it is argued in Through the Political Glass Ceiling, “The shape of the politics – dichotomous, contentious and divisive – was not the shape of the body politics which even in its diversity as evolving a national culture and identity.” Steups.
Politics, rather than reforming, has been feeding the tensions, but the backlash began post 2010 as voters began to react with new recognition of the power of their vote: in the election of thebeleaguered FIFA official Jack Warner on his own party ticket in a by-election in 2013 in a region considered the stronghold of the then incumbent party in government. Voters were clear, they wanted to send a message of intolerance at disservice and neglect. The message did not filter through as parties continued to believe they could rely on race-base political cores. Steups and more steups.
The 2015 election would again disprove that, but it is yet to be acknowledged by pollsters and pundits, who, not unlike in the US recent elections, relying on systems of data collection and pollsters who functioned from different spheres to local knowledge holders; focus on erroneous signals from social media in a society still not fully integrated in the ICT age and still hung on the belief in traditional voting habits. But the centre was already crumbling, reflected, as with the US elections, in low voter turn out. As with the US elections, some fifty percent of the population in Trinidad withheld voting. The election was decided on a party winning less than one quarter of the voting population. Steups.
The refusal to acknowledge the shifting and unsteady political sands, significantly represented by a turn out of just about one-third of the electorate, that elicited the infamous steups of the Prime Minister; an echo of another steups by one of his MPs to a request for housing by a citizen.
To the disdain and indifference to citizen’s needs, and trying to pander to archaic race based politics, as in the by-election of Chaguanas West, citizens across the country showed their own disdain and indifference to an electioneering process that seems more and more remote to their realities. That’s as resounding a steups as anyone can hear, and a larger proportional rejection of not just the two dominant parties, but of all the political parties offering themselves.
Rise of Caricature and Satire
Time Magazine’s satirical designation of their Person of the Year as President of the Divided States of America is a resounding steups at not just the US President Elect, the people who elected him. It is also a deeply ejaculated steups at the media, itself included, which now, apart from having to acknowledge how it has allowed itself to be hoodwinked by spin doctoring, and faulty polling and data gathering and analyses.
To align Trump among its own wall of prior recipients of its Person of the Year is to effectively caricature the Magazine itself, and confront its own disempowerment, resorting to name calling, caricature, and satire as a prime medium of conveying the news of the day. That finds resonance in the satire, caricature and name-calling which have been perfected by our long-disempowered societies clad in the garb of groveling dependency in a post-independence era. Subtle expressions of discontent are all that is left to the powerless, even those holding the trappings of power whether as media magnates or in minority voters. Loud steups.
Something must be said in admiration of the resignation of the New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key in mid-term if the reasons given is indeed to focus on his personal life, as he steups at power and its trappings that mortals here and elsewhere are falling over themselves and many others to acquire, even if it involves steupsing at stark realities before them. As the incumbent leader of ‘Middle Earth’, he must have learned something from his countryman Director Peter Jackson’s adaptation of the JRR Tolkein Trilogy, set in New Zealand’s breathtaking landscape, and that speaks volume to the regenerative capacity of fiction to reform even – yes - politicians.
Beyond Steupsing: Shining Star from the East
As the US President-elect, Trump - now past his version of a steups when he bared his private to demonstrate that he was up to the mandate of making America great again - to confront the enormity of the challenges before him through the gentle prodding of the outgoing President Barack Obama - there is opportunity for redemption in how he moves the country from its current state of divisiveness to a more united state.
Locally, now confronted with the population’s steups at the local government elections, and apt for this Yuletide season, the powers that be or those holding its trappings should be guided by the light of opportunity shining from the Eastern district of Sangre Grande. For long one of the more independent, self contained and self sufficient of regions that prides itself in its independence, as articulated by some of its writers and explored in LiTTscapes – Landscapes of Fiction from Trinidad and Tobago, the tied voting in Grande offers a ray of hope to begin t he journey to making local government more meaningful, relevant and effective, and not too soon.
The cause of my steupsing, a decade ago, through the Active Democracy Network of the Organisation of American States and the Network of NGOs for the Advancement of Women, I canvassed an extensive range of individuals, institutions and civil society in preparation of the report on the Trinidad and Tobago chapter on effective governance in the Americas. The perception of stasis was evident in the close to zero on the negative side in the index created from the results. The unanimous conclusion was people preferred depoliticisation of local government and a non partisan approach to the delivery of goods and services and managing and handling of institutions and actions at local levels, and advocated reform in this direction.
Now here is the opportunity to do so. This was the same process of scrutiny of compliance by governments of the Americas that culminated in the Summit of Americas hosted in Trinidad and Tobago where American President Barack Obama was given an eye-opener on the region’s view of the US policy actions towards Cuba that has led to the gradual relenting of US attitude to sanctions under his leadership. Blog:(See this page and related blog on Castronomics)
One would have hoped that our Governments would have been equally responsive and willing to move national and local processes forward. So instead of steupsing, one holds out hope that Sangre Grande could become the pilot experiment on this nonpartisan approach to governance. The expanding rifts and even more shaky grounds that threaten tectonic upheavals and shattering of jittery political systems and institutions in an age of flux can begin the process to reconfigure two party politics as we know it in a world of the next five years that is so shrouded in nebulous cloudiness to make every crystal ball opaque.
And that is no steupsing matter.
I here include the relevant extract from that report. Persons wishing access can inbox me for the full report, which also covered access to information, freedom of expression, civil society participation and gender sensitivity in governance and am open to lend direction to this process.
What’s a … Steups literarly
cause in word & in deed it can’t be called a word…
A steups is an understated act of disapproval with a tone of aggression. Because it can be expressed in a split second without the target being aware, it is a masked form of protest practiced and perfected by oppressed elements of our societies; an expression of farcical empowerment in a context of disempowerment.
The well-intentioned Oxford English Dictionary (OED) interpretation of Steups is as of West Indian origin which as a verb is to: Make a noise by sucking air and saliva through the teeth, typically to express annoyance or derision; and as a Noun: An expression of annoyance or derision made by sucking air and saliva through the teeth.
Wiktionary builds on the OED to give present, past and participle forms steupsing/steupsed; noting that it is onomatopoeia disappointment, derision or disgust, and that Jamaicans use the term "kissing teeth" is use instead
Other like, but euphemistic versions may be: the gesture, talk to the hand: where one raises one’s hand in front of one’s face or the face of someone signaling one does not want to hear what he/she is saying. Yet every West Indian knows these fall short of the real significance of Steups when taken in its full cultural contexts, connotations, intonations and denotations. Some closer expressions are:
Kiss my behind/ass/arse which both Britain and Australia claim as theirs;
The Indian ‘Chamkay’: a body expression in which one flicks one’s behind at an opponent, almost similiar to the talk to the hand expression, but using the derriere instead. It has passed into popular culture, also euphemistically in chutney songs as a twist of hips, also called pelting waist: Listen to chutney singers: Rikki Jai: Sumintra; and the title song of Draupatee’s 2016 Chutney album Chunkay but best represented in the dance moves in Chris Garcia's Chutney Bacchanal in which Chris goodnaturedly steups at incomprehensible Hindi/Bhojpuri in Chutney songs: Chutney Caribbean Indi—pop song/music/dance derived from Bhojpuri folk songs.
A steups as a practice is an understated act of disapproval with a tone of aggression. Because it can be expressed in a split second without the object being aware, it is a masked form of protest practiced and perfected by oppressed elements of our societies; an expression of farcical empowerment in a context of disempowerment. Subtle expressions of discontent are all that is left to the powerless, even those holding the trappings of power in minority voter turnout.
US President elect Donald Trump may be said to have performed a version of steups at his detractors when he bared his private parts in a tweet during the 2016 US election campaign to exhibit how he felt about his self-assigned mandate to make America great again.
Eligible voters who do not vote – whether it is in the US, T&T elections, in Brexit, in the Italian referendum or elsewhere, may be said to be issuing a political steups to the process of voting, which once a symbol of individual and citizen power, seems to be fast becoming a farcical show of disempowerment.
One of the first rules for a guide in polite conversation, is to avoid political or religious discussions in general society. Such discussions lead almost invariably to irritating differences of opinion, often to open quarrels, and a coolness of feeling which might have been avoided by dropping the distasteful subject as soon as marked differences of opinion arose. It is but one out of many that can discuss either political or religious differences, with candor and judgment, and yet so far control his language and temper as to avoid either giving or taking offence.
If you are drawn into such a discussion without intending to be so, be careful that your individual opinion does not lead you into language and actions unbecoming a gentleman. Listen courteously to those whose opinions do not agree with yours, and keep your temper. A man in a passion ceases to be a gentleman.
Even if convinced that your opponent is utterly wrong, yield gracefully, decline further discussion, or dextrously turn the conversation, but do not obstinately defend your own opinion until you become angry, or more excited than is becoming to a gentleman.
Many there are who, giving their opinion, not as an opinion but as a law, will defend their position by such phrases, as: “Well, if I were president, or governor, I would,” &c.—and while by the warmth of their argument they prove that they are utterly unable to govern their own temper, they will endeavor to persuade you that they are perfectly competent to take charge of the government of the nation.
Retain, if you will, a fixed political opinion, yet do not parade it upon all occasions, and, above all, do not endeavor to force others to agree with you. Listen calmly to their ideas upon the same subjects, and if you cannot agree, differ politely, and while your opponent may set you down as a bad politician, let him be obliged to admit that you are a gentleman.--Cecil B. Hartley. The Gentlemen's Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness, Being a Complete Guide for a Gentleman's Conduct in all his Relations Towards Society. Chapter 1. Conversation
TRINIDAD & TOBAGO SCORECARD: LOCAL GOVERNMENT
From Summit of the Americas CSO Report
Work is essentially politicised and the Ministry is seen to serve the interests of the party in power rather than national interest. Public trust in the operations and intentions of the Ministry of Local Government is low.
with an increasing perception of municipal authorities as being ineffective… redistribution favours supporters of the party in power or efforts by the party in power to win votes … and not on the basis of need, size, and demands on the resources of the municipality….
Local Government is severely limited in its ability to act on local needs related to agriculture, community development, health, labour, works, telephones, public safety, and water, as these are under the jurisdiction of central government agencies. As such, local government bodies also suffer from inadequate funding, equipment and supplies, as well as the availability of skilled and experienced persons. These inadequacies are especially acute in regard to these bodies’ political functions. Because of the relatively small size of the island, many local problems reflect national situations & cannot be tackled from a local level alone; for example, problems of crime, poverty, illiteracy, etc. There seems to be no redistribution system to compensate for income inequalities among municipalities….
Methodology: This index summarizes the opinion of a wide-ranging network of experts and representatives of civil society organizations (more than 600 people in all). Each of these people was asked to judge the degree to which their respective governments had progressed or setback compliance with four essential mandates for the strengthening of democracy. This report updates the 2006 Report which was compiled from some 1,000 questionnaires sent out via mail and the Internet. This information would inform the compilation of the Index of Government Compliance of the Active Democracy Network. It covers the period 2006 to 2008. For this period, some 200 recipients representing various institutions and agencies, academics, community based organisations, non-governmental organisations and institutions were requested to complete and return questionnaires that would rank Government’s performance in relation to four chosen thematic areas: Freedom of Expression, Access to Information, Participation by Civil Society; Local Government and Decentralisation. Periodic e-mail, telephone and face-to-face reminders to complete the questionnaires followed their distribution. In conjunction to the questionnaires distributed by mail and email, various public and face to face awareness exercises were held members of the public on the project which included government officials, NGO activists, academics, business interests and private individuals, journalists and experts in the respective areas of media, law, governance, and civil society operations. Evaluation and Expert Panels Seminar participants, who included members of Civil Society Organisations working in the thematic areas, academics and media, became the Evaluation Panel and primary members of the Expert Panels in relation to the thematic areas. They included representatives of: The Integrity Commission; Trinidad and Tobago Transparency Institutel UWI Department of Social Sciences/Department of Government; Constitution Reform Forum; Media – Trinidad Guardian, Trinidad Express, CNC3 Television. While the intention was to co-opt other experts into the panels to facilitate the widest possible involvement, public persons were reluctant to commit time to project but agreed to consult with the experts and advise accordingly on an informal basis. A seminar was held with experts to review the 2006 report, and discuss, review and rank the observable activities.
--Excerpt, Report on Local Government in Trinidad & Tobago prepared by Dr Kris Rampersad in collaboration with Active Democracy Network & Network of NGOs of Trinidad & Tobago for the Advancement of Women
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