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Some cultural complexities

By Martin Daly

Scholars have verified what seems clear to many of us, namely that cultural forces have a profound effect on how we structure our lives and interact with others. The influence of cultural forces does not necessarily produce a uniform living pattern. On the contrary, within the complexities of a multi-cultural society, while some common cultural practices emerge, the complexities produce conflicts.

As basic as it may seem, Rudder's pronouncement that "how we vote is not how we party" deftly summarises both the common ground and our conflicts. It is also a statement that the conflicts have so far been manageable for the reasons that Rudder gives in "Trini to the Bone" and Benjai gives in "I'za a Trini", those reasons being that the common characteristics of being Trini glue us together.

We must always qualify our important success in managing our conflicts as success "so far" because we have gone to the brink more than once and had to retrieve ourselves from toppling over into the abyss of permanent upheaval and becoming Trinis unglued.

We are vulnerable to several forms of permanent upheaval. One is enduring sectarian violence, which we have thankfully escaped despite the inflammatory statements made by some politicians and their satellites. Another is economic/class/street-based revolt of which we have had some experience.

It pains me to consider these two possible outcomes of our vulnerability, but I mark these spots because of recent inflammatory rhetoric from both major "sides", which will not further the continuing management of harmony in the Republic. We seem to be going backwards to the sixties in our political rhetoric, blind to the danger of present conditions far more volatile and flammable than the sixties. As we do so, I refer to my previous appeal for conciliation rather than the never-ending do and do back.

Cultural forces, of course, change. Uncritical respect for authority, for example, has dissolved in all classes. That is one reason why the citizenry can see through political manipulation and, in particular, the semi legal exercise of greed and power-broking in the bloated and largely unchecked state-enterprise web of political patronage and curry favour.

Topical examples of changing cultural forces are the subordination of traditional calypso to very up-tempo soca and the growing paid spectator disinterest in steelband Panorama in its traditional form. These two developments are not unrelated and are driven by the same generational shift in tastes, which must be understood and reasonably accommodated rather than scorned, unless we unwisely wish to keep young people on the margin.

Readers will forgive me but the season compels me to focus again on an aspect of the obvious link (obvious to many of us but not to our unenlightened leaders) between our performing arts and productive and potentially commercially rewarding activities, which will also pay a peace dividend.

Happily, Pan Trinbago has understood that times and markets change and have made one radical innovation by creating a separate party space, "the Greens", adjacent to the North Stand.

There are traditionalists who consider that facilitating a party next to Panorama is heresy. I supported the creation of the Greens from the outset. It provides a significant revenue stream for pan, independent of Government and therefore independent of taxpayer subvention. It has curbed the dangerous overcrowding of the North Stand. From the Grand Stand, I heard no significant noise interference from the Greens and I am reliably informed that it is now possible for North Stand patrons to hear the performances on stage with less interference from party noise. The Greens also keep Panorama Sunday as a high-profile day in the minds of a wider demographic.

This year, the second year of the expanded Greens, I took a decision to demonstrate my support for the Greens by personally sponsoring a tent within the Greens for the employees in my office and their spouses, partners and friends. It was a success, not least because the participants now have an increased appreciation that it is cool to celebrate the premier pan event. You do not have to throw a javelin to celebrate and be proud of our world-beating field athlete.

Over time this Greens celebration can become a significant foundation stone for pan and soca fusion as an aspect of Panorama Sunday.  Pan Trinbago, however, has to address the hours at which our premier steel orchestras take the stage.  The cry is out there: Prime time for prime bands—3 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the large band semi-final stage.

Meanwhile, we are on the eve of the announcement of the selection of a person to be the new President of the Republic for the approval of the Electoral College. Let us keep our fingers crossed that this Government will raise its head above some of the unpleasant political tides it has fomented and will factor our cultural complexities into its choice.

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