Carnival may be over and the reign of the merry monarch has come to an end, but the bacchanal season is far from over and the ghosts of Carnival will haunt us until the season comes around again. After all the wining and grinding in the streets, the "faithful" have flocked to church and the not-so-faithful to the beaches. The cares and worries that were thrown to the side with merry abandon have returned, full swing, along with some new ones.
Overall, country is much as we left it before Carnival weekend. Crime has not gone anywhere and while the powers that be may pat themselves on the back for having a "safe" Carnival, the reality is that we are still lacking a clear plan to deal with crime.
Many may say it has become cliched to write about crime and we are braying like donkeys. That may be true, but we are braying on behalf of people who have no voice. We are braying for the children left fatherless, for the wives left widowed and the many mothers who have had their loved ones killed due to crime and violence.
Policies to deal with the issue of child abuse and child welfare are still lacking. As of now, environmental and development policies are also lacking. The State agencies are hopefully getting their act together to start to steer the country in the right direction.
On the issue of our people, however, there is much to be said. Kudos to the great talent that has been produced by our country. The mas bands and costumes were spectacular as always and though a dark shadow may be over our land, our mas men come out every year with costumes to dazzle and excite. The usual refrain of "bikini and beads" and "bring back ole-time mas" will be heard, but those are bygone eras and just as we embraced electricity over flambeaux we embrace new mas even as we reserve a place for the old.
The soca and calypso renditions this year were also excellent and though some artistes insisted on singing about rum and jump and wave, there was poignant political and social commentary in many songs.
On the flip side of all of these accolades, the general population should take stock of themselves and their situations. The prices of concerts and costumes rose again this year, but the venues were filled to capacity. The use of disposable income for pleasure is not in itself bad, but when pleasure is sought instead of basic needs, then there is a problem. It is generally said that the people who can least afford it engage in Carnival, to the detriment of their households. This critique highlights two very salient points: people in general have bad spending habits in Trinidad and Tobago, and the price of Carnival participation is too high.
On the first point, I am adamant that the thrifty spending cultures of our past are gone and have been replaced by wild and reckless spending. One only has to look at the lines at fast food outlets or those waiting to buy overpriced, low-quality ice cream to know that we have a terrible consumer culture in T&T.
Maybe it is linked to increasing income, maybe it is linked to social pressure to spend, maybe it is linked to the feeling that we have to outspend each other. No matter what the cause, we seem to have poor priorities. Every one of us, even the fabulously wealthy, need to re-evaluate how we spend. The world is on economic fire, Greece is soon to become worse off than a poor Third World nation, France and the United Kingdom are experiencing rising unemployment and, all across the world, jobs, trade and investments are falling. Our good times will not last and things will get much worse before they get better.
The price of participation in Carnival has grown greatly and does not seem to be linked with a rise in quality, inflation or cost of production increases. Every year concerts and costumes seem to be going up for no reason at all. Yes, prices are supposed to increase in relation to changes in the economy and inflation, etc, but things are becoming ridiculous.
Carnival, which is part of our heritage, is being put out of reach. The market place that is Carnival is pricing out the most vulnerable in society. It is not fair to say the poor should not be able to participate in their national festival.
It is not right or moral to leave the pricing of Carnival to the private sphere where they can charge prices to make supernormal profits. Fair and ethical pricing should be encouraged for all promoters and bands. It will be a sad day in our nation's history when Carnival becomes the domain of the few who can afford to enjoy it.
Lent is upon us and in addition to reflection and prayer, expect the price of fish and other seafood to soar and so too other market produce. The fetes are over and as the country settles back into its "normal" routine, it would be beneficial if we choose this time to reflect on how we can improve our own lives, our community and our country.
It is not enough to return to the status quo and think wishfully about next year. There are over 360 days left and, in the time being, much can happen to change the course of history. We are living in troubling but exciting times and we need to start thinking about our future in earnest.
• Rajiv Gopie won the President's
Medal in 2006 for business/modern studies. He is an MSc candidate
in international relations at the
London School of Economics.