Carnival is self-destructive
Photo : Dr Keith Rowley
Carnival culture is like a contract with death, mayhem and destruction. Within Carnival are the seeds of destruction with no need for terrorist attacks. If terrorists were planning attacks they were wasting their time. It’s like planning to murder a terminally ill individual. Today that chaos is upon us but we lack the moral fortitude to admit that the genesis of the present crisis is rooted in Carnival.
Carnival has its origin in the Catholic Church with the revelry being allowed for the two days preceding Ash Wednesday. In T&T our Carnival revellers have taken the celebration to the extreme so much so that the churches are empty on Ash Wednesday for applying the sacred ash to the forehead to begin the 40-day Lenten fast that culminates with Easter celebrations. Today, instead of going to Church for the sacred ash, revellers go to the beaches for “cool down fetes.”
Successive PNM governments have exploited the Carnival culture to rally their supporters. Through the guise of art the PNM has been using the medium of calypso, ole mas, Panorama, Mas Band Parades and other Carnival festivities to interface with its supporters. This annual rituals helps to reinforce and strengthen black identity. It now explains why the audiences at these Carnivals activities were never appreciative of former Prime Ministers Basdeo Panday and Kamla Persad-Bissessar since they were viewed as interlopers.
Calypso has its origin in protest and ridicule of those individuals the slaves perceived as their enemies. In T&T those who oppose the sanctity of the PNM has made an appointment with death. For example, Basdeo Panday and Kamla Persad-Bissessar had no right to become Prime Minister, the preserve of the PNM. Sat Maharaj is out of place for objecting to some policies of the PNM. By doing so he had evoked the wrath of the people. Sat Maharaj has blasphemed against a Black institution called the PNM.
Calypsonians are hired guns to defend the realm and have a duty to destroy the enemies through songs. These hitmen- Cro Cro, Sugar Aloes, Chalkdust-have, over the past two decades, developed a 100% full proof formula to win the monarch - cuss Indian leaders and ridicule ”lick bottom” Africans!
The open sale and consumption of alcohol goes hand in hand with Carnival. Any research would confirm that most alcohol is consumed during the Carnival season. No wonder the agents of these popular brands are very keen on having the PNM in power so that this debauchery can guarantee the perpetuation of huge transfers of profits to the coffers of alcohol manufacturers, distributers and advertising agencies.
The consumption of alcohol triggers other anti- social behaviour. In addition to the lewdness and skimpy outfits, there is sexual promiscuity giving rise to unwanted pregnancies and the spread of STDs. Relationships are broken down as self-restraint and moral decency take second place to what has been dubbed “The Greatest Show on Earth.”
The vulnerability of citizens to this bacchanal is in the young impressionable minds. What is worse is that this culture of self-indulgence is now integrated in the school curriculum. To wine and get on bad is now legitimate. More so, alcohol and sex have now infiltrated the school system and learning has taken a back seat. Having a nice time is the goal of life in T&T now that discipline, tolerance and production have been assassinated.
In this haste to project this Carnival culture, our cultural diversity is being lost. Our European dances such as the jig, waltz, ballet and other art expressions have all been pushed aside to make way for Carnival. Very little of our Chinese heritage is being preserved. We are now witnessing the effort of the Chinese community to revive the annual dragon boat festival.
Indian culture has continued to survive despite the token sponsorship provided by the state. Private initiatives and the resilience of the Indians families have ensured that this culture is not lost. Mastana Bahar remains the longest local television series in the country. The annual Divali Nagar has earned its place in the cultural calendar of T&T, notwithstanding chuntney music and dance. Nevertheless, Indian music and dance is still not integrated into the school curriculum and is given a token presence. When our students perform in cultural events they bring forth talents that had no inputs from the school.
Our productivity which is already low is further reduced during Carnival. “Fete Over, Back to Work” has never been heeded. Who works in T&T? Not surprisingly, so many of our state enterprises are suffering huge losses. The recent restructuring of TSTT has signalled the future that awaits the State sector. It can no longer be “jobs for the boys” when salaries and wages cannot be met. Hopefully reality will come home on Ash Wednesday and both citizens and the government would be strong enough to undertake serious trimming of fat to make our State enterprises and Public Service more lean and mean so that it can make profits and pay taxes instead of depending on bailouts year round.
Why is the government so active in Carnival? Government after government have been releasing hundreds of millions of dollars to fete promoters and other cultural institutions such as Pan Trinbago, TUCO and NCC-National Carnival Commission. Why does the government have to fund these bodies year after year? If the cultural products of these institutions are well loved, then their participants should willingly pay for these products. Unfortunately, this does not appear to be the case as we continue to hear the plight of calypsonians, panmen and others complaining of poor attendance and declining revenue.
The majority of people in T&T don’t participate in Carnival. They would either stay at home or go to the beaches. Many families make plans to come together to paint their homes or undertake repairs. Hindus would be observing Shiv Ratri-the night of Lord Shiva. Thousands would be flocking to the mandirs to make offerings to the deities. Seva TT is engaging in the distribution of hampers to needy families and Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh is sponsoring its annual youth development programme.
Our police officers are brought out in full force during this two-day festival to keep party goers safe. The breathalyser has been put on hold. Fetes goers are leaving in their cars drunk and no monitoring is being done. Not a single person has been charged for drinking under the influence-not even in Caura Valley where the breathalyser rudely interrogates mainly Indian families returning from excursions to the valley.
Carnival promotes moral decadence and lawlessness. If there is one problem that is hindering the advancement and growth of T&T, it is Carnival. It is not a culture that awakens and inspires the noblest qualities in us. Instead, it debases and brings out the worst in us. Luckily, the full force of the police is available only on these two days in our calendar. At least the police understand the potential for danger including terrorist threats. Carnival, its very nature, lends itself to chaos and destruction, and combined with flowing oil dollars can be explosive.