We have already entered what is clearly going to be the silliest of the silly season of election time.
The silliness always has the potential to become deadly. Its near-disastrous level is the result of currently having an opposition that has a mountain to climb to regain public trust and to appear to have reasonable probity and a reigning government that appears, at the highest level, to believe that every wrong and every failure is the fault of someone or some institution other than itself.
Two Saturdays ago was a powerhouse Saturday, a day when two communities around the same time were engaged in events in which they were respectively acting, in the words of Derek Walcott, out of the ‘love that reassembles our African and Asiatic fragments’.
The communities may be distinct in that their respective cultural practices diverge, but they reside in harmony, with significant measures of cultural exchange and with the drum at the apex of such exchange.
In our land, in the lyrics of David Rudder: “the Ganges has met the Nile in one lovely nation”. We have maintained harmony despite “dem boys with the hidden agendas, dem mind benders, dem smart men and politicians”.
It is the season to be protective of that harmony as the mind benders are already running wild.
Inside the Grandstand, in the centre of urban Port of Spain, I was one of those enjoying the percussive rhythms and robust song of our African soul at the third edition of the Big 5 Steel Orchestral Concert.
That same evening, in one of our rural heartlands, the Divali Nagar was holding its closing ceremony, refreshing the souls of its patrons with our Hindu bhajans and dance devoted primarily to seeking the blessings of Mother Lakshmi.
In my household and in many others, not aligned to any one bloc, we faithfully support the steel orchestras but also light deyas and walk with a lighted one through our home seeking an infusion of the blessings of light over darkness.
A common deficiency of both the reigning and opposition parties is their inability to move away from the failed strategy of dubiously redistributing energy sector earnings through runaway state enterprises and partisan politically controlled schemes and properly to facilitate little else.
The cultural sector is a persistent victim of lack of investment as we stand on the one plank of energy sector earnings, even though that plank is now worn thin, unable to support the patronage, waste and freeness as was the practice.
While lip service is paid to diversification of the economy, the politicians of all stripes do not appreciate the true value of the cultural sector as a potential means of diversification.
Both events of that powerhouse eve of Divali Saturday illuminated the foundations of the cultural and heritage tourism product for which I advocate. To become a convention city, the visitors have to have something to enjoy outside of the convention agenda—something authentic, not contrived or imitation of our marvellous performing arts.
Derek Walcott’s acceptance speech at his Nobel prize for literature ceremony, from which I have quoted, should be required reading in all social studies classes. It is a significant exposition of the ties that bind, or should bind, us through indigenous culture comprising fragments of other cultures deposited in these Caribbean islands and re-assembled here.
While recently in Barbados for the UWI Cave Hill graduation ceremony, to which I referred last week, a discussion ensued about the proper function of culture in our socio-economic arrangements. This was prompted by the award of an honorary doctorate to Red Plastic Bag, the sobriquet of Stedson Wiltshire, calypsonian, composer and entertainer of fine repute.
Little did we know that two weeks later at the UWI St. Augustine campus, Pelham Goddard, musician, composer, arranger and producer, of equally fine repute, would be similarly honoured.
The issue for discussion was what do our nations do to facilitate the growth and success of the reservoirs of cultural talent we have preceding the conferment of these honours or, sadly, the fine, but sometimes hollow, tributes when they have left us?
That discussion has a long way to go.