Sunday, January 21, 2018

Living lesson from SuperBlue


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In a society which writer VS Naipaul once described as defined by stories of failure, the comeback of Austin Lyons, SuperBlue, is a rare instance of latter-day redemption.

"We lived in a society which denied itself heroes," Naipaul wrote in his 1962 book The Middle Passage. "It was a place where the stories were never stories of success but of failure: brilliant men, scholarship winners, who had died young, gone mad, or taken to drink; cricketers of promise whose careers had been ruined by disagreements with the authorities."

This norm has clearly changed in the past 50 years (perhaps less so with respect to cricket). From the moment "Fantastic Friday" hit the airwaves, the calypso-loving public was rooting for SuperBlue to win the Soca Monarch and the Road March titles.

Nor was this support mere charity, since the song's excellence spoke for itself. But the fact that Mr Lyons, after his long years of trials and tribulations, could still have such harmony within him was seen also as a triumph of the human spirit.

Contrast this with the ambivalence surrounding SuperBlue's distant competitor. Machel Montano's song "Float", which had tied with "Fantastic Friday" for the Power title in the Soca Monarch competition, was played a mere 56 times to the winner's 511.

Since he was found guilty of assault last December, Mr Montano has been the subject of calumny from many members of the public, which some commentators have interpreted as the typical Trini habit of pulling down heroes. Yet surely the discourse has been more complex than that, to say nothing of the contradiction that, if Machel had indeed been so roundly rejected, he would not have had crowd support at the Soca Monarch nor drawn so many thousands to his Machel Monday show.

What all this seems to indicate is that the society now has a more nuanced view of eminence. Thus, while people are generally happy about SuperBlue's return to grace, concern is already being expressed that such success may encourage a fall.

This in itself highlights the double standards applied to drug addictionówe sympathise with notable persons for their human frailty, but condemn anonymous addicts as degenerates who have chosen a criminal path.

So the story of SuperBlue embodies more than a mere Road March win. The fact that, after so many years of invisibility and a descent from stardom to virtual vagrancy, he was able to re-enter the soca arena at the top of his musical game is at least temporarily inspirational.

Those who hail SuperBlue are doing so partly because he has become a mirror of the weaknesses and the strengths of the society itself. His living lesson can thus benefit us all.