Sunday 24th July, 2005


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Mello—a West Indian misconception

NINETEEN months to go before we host the third greatest sporting spectacle on earth (after the Olympic Games and World Cup football). Nineteen, just 19 months to go. Absolutely nothing is in place, but we are all just Mello.

The ICC World Cup 2007 was recently launched at a gala ceremony at Queen’s Hall in T&T. The mascot for the series, a cool cub, with a midriff T-shirt and three-quarter jeans, “riding low on de waist,” holding a cricket bat and ball rather casually in his hands, was unveiled.

Mello, as he is called, is the flag-bearer of our World Cup and was approved by the ICC.

Mello is extremely cute and may appeal to many children across the globe on a superficial level. However, the name Mello and the character itself attempts to portray and perpetuate the very stigma that has been responsible for the serious decline in West Indies cricket.

It has also fostered an attitude of subservience, tacit acceptance of any and all ills across the board in the region, by a disinterested, demotivated, apathetic people.

While tourism is extremely important to many economies of the Caribbean, the evils inherent in a dependence on the foreign dollar to survive surely exist.

We have become a people without an identity. So much so that we are all ready to celebrate and present to the world a picture of us, which was in fact handed to us overtly, or subconsciously, by foreigners.

The idea that Caribbean people are laid-back, relaxed and “mello” has been handed down to us by the foreign media for decades. So much so, that we have and continue to believe that this is in fact so.

This is despite the fact that our children are being developed within one of the most stringent, dogmatic, difficult education systems in the world and despite the fact that our manufacturing sector (regionally) has been constantly growing and accessing new markets globally and our music and entertainment industries have been flourishing and competing worldwide.

Despite having some of the highest figures per capita for lawyers, doctors and other professionals, we still believe in this laissez faire fallacy propagated by the western media about our character and resolve.

We are not a population of beach bums. We do not relax all day, wearing ridiculously coloured, flowered shirts, while sipping cocktails through straws, under palm trees.

Unfortunately, “Mello” is being used not only to continue, but also to expand this perception globally. Some, may say that I am trying to be overly analytical about a silly little mascot. Well, this silly little mascot is now the face of the entire region, from the big business sector to the vagrants on the street. This is the message being sent to the world. Is this the message that we want to send?

While it might be great for tourism, as people from the “First World” come to spend their almighty dollar in impoverished little backward islands, which simply could not survive without their generosity, it is definitely not good for business.

In an increasingly competitive global market, where perceptions of competitors such as the Japanese, Koreans, Chinese, Swiss and Malaysians are such that these people are immediately seen as disciplined, punctual, hardworking and efficient, this lackadaisical perception further puts the people of the Caribbean at a disadvantage.

As much of our initial presentations to prospective investors must first go a long way to dispel the “Mello” myth, then, and only then, can we begin to compete. In many cases, Caribbean companies, regardless of competence, are not even given initial consideration because of this very same “laid-back” perception.

There you have it, 19 months to go, the region as a whole is optimistically 35 per cent ready. Right here in T&T, members of the LOC are resigning. The Government is insisting on placing all its focus on constructing a practice ground on an oilfield. The interchange will not be completed by March 2007. Brian Lara is not being allowed to play cricket. Maybe, “Mello” is the best, most apt portrayal of our people?

Maybe, we are a bunch of lazy, unsophisticated, unintelligent, unmotivated beach bums? I don’t know, you tell me!

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