Our culture on razor's edge
Welcome one and all to our Banana Republic, where "The Greatest Show on Earth" is taking place.
In case you missed past years' celebrations for reasons of being productive and keeping yourself out of debt/financial burden, here is an update.
Our culture over the years has been "updated" via the new lords of the festivities. Carnival until further notice is now owned by promoters, made in China and powered by vice. This being the situation, is what we have now really Carnival? How much longer will people stay with powder in their eyes before they realise what is really going on? Read on — "this one goin' an fog up de place!"
First of all, the tag-line, "The Greatest Show on Earth," needs to be re-assessed. Tourism in T&T is at a low and getting lower at Carnival time. Why? Crime, stale ideas, empty expansion of bands (i.e. in size only), and, of course, scantily covered bodies every year. Where is the culture and great show in what is now a two-day street fete? Get drunk, take a wine half naked (if even that much is covered), and chip to a new song that sounds more like a continuation of the same song for the last four years.
Where is the mas? Where is the culture? Where is the creativity? Those that blame it on the world economy would do well to read the reports from various carnivals all over the world, from South America to North America to Europe, which are all growing bigger each and every year, making a show similar to our ole' mas, but stepping it up with amazing displays of moving art, big and small, the likes of which we have never seen.
While the quality of our thinking about what makes mas declines, other people's ideas are getting better, and we lose out on our culture and our tourism in the process.
Now that the bubble has been popped, we find more air pockets designed to keep us from bursting out of the illusion of the Carnival benefits, namely economic. The Government spends in excess of $100 million every Carnival ($125 million in 2012), which consists of our tax dollars. How much do tourists, especially with declining arrivals, really bring into the country?
People who sew costumes are bawling because of the outsourcing of costumes to China. Food vendors are getting an opportunity but are under pressure because of big name caterers getting exclusive contracts in fetes.
All the while alcohol distributors are making enough in bulk sales to run their corporations many times over, and promoters make enough with jacked-up prices to retire at any given time off a couple of parties.
The odd seasonal job of a security "wuk", food/drink promotions, and piping a beer here and there, provide some drops of relief for some, but overall do nothing for our economy.
The long and short of it is that this is the season for the rich to get richer and the poor to be bamboozled into emptying their wallets in pursuit of a distraction from life.
What are we trying to distract ourselves from? Life hard? For many yes, but a hard life here is still relatively easy.
We have the warmth of the islands and our people, including a diverse culture.
Trinidad and Tobago has the second greatest number of public holidays per year in the world (as of 2012). We celebrate every religious holiday, lime often, and fill our bellies every time we get a chance.
War, famine, and revolt are far-off notions for anyone here, with the sun kissing us and the sea caressing us. I doubt this is a reality that people who truly value what they and we as a people have would ever want to escape from.
But what we have now is not Carnival. The love and unity has been replaced by "Me, Me, Me!" Jump up together as one is now a contest of who can climb to the highest highs and wine their waist for all to see.
And where is calypso, which has been the voice of our people for so many years? Moved to a day where it is ignored by those who are not avid fans.
What is to become of Carnival provided, of course, that it survives at all? We have talent here, we have imagination, we have creativity. We have love for each other, of every creed and race. We have the wool pulled over our eyes by those who make millions selling vice packed and labelled as "culture".
Culture in T&T is on a razor's edge. We can either choose to fight for what is just and save our culture, or sell our souls for the glamour and flair in the hope of perpetuating a false escape and the 15 minutes-of-fame mentality, wherever it may lie.