Dr Frankson: How nostalgia, experience and mixed visions can derail ‘Reimagined Carnival’

“[…] These naysayers are largely ‘old’ people, not necessarily in age, but in their thinking. Old people are inclined to believe that their glory days were achieved with capabilities that have somehow been lost.

“Blind to the present levels of care, comfort and convenience that were unimaginable in their youth, they feel that the younger generations are lacking the discipline, the imagination and the moral fortitude that they had. They are wrong…”

The following Letter to the Editor, submitted by Dr Geoffrey Frankson of Cocorite, is a response to those who read the author’s earlier piece about re-imagining the Trinidad Carnival and saw only the empty half of the glass:

Photo: A reveller enjoys herself during the 2016 Carnival season.
(Copyright TT Pix)

The response to my recent post on the Trinidad Carnival Loop has been overwhelmingly positive. Negative comments have come largely from people who believe that they know Trinidadians and can predict their response. They remind me of those people who believe in prophecy—that is, that the future is fixed—and also believe in free will, exemplifying the confusion that arises when thinking is obfuscated by beliefs.


The exciting thing about the future is that it is unknowable. (So is the past, by the way, for those who did not live through it.) You have to plan a future if you are to get things done well, but to be truly creative, you have to free your mind of preconceived notions rooted in lived experience and be prepared to embrace unexpected outcomes.

These naysayers are largely ‘old’ people, not necessarily in age, but in their thinking. Old people are inclined to believe that their glory days were achieved with capabilities that have somehow been lost.

Blind to the present levels of care, comfort and convenience that were unimaginable in their youth, they feel that the younger generations are lacking the discipline, the imagination and the moral fortitude that they had. They are wrong.

Photo: Blue devils on the prowl.
(via Triniinxisle.com)

Nostalgia has its uses, but building a better future is not one of them. Experience is a hindrance when planning to change the way things are done. It will only be useful during implementation when particular circumstances arise that are clearly similar to those of the past.

Progress comes from new ideas, not from recycling old ideas in the hope that they will be better this time. They will not.

Society, inevitably, has changed. The success of any endeavour is going to depend on the quality of the planning and not on the accuracy of anticipated responses. We must prepare a space for creative expression without trying to predict what those expressions will be.

The basics of good management are not in question. We must focus on feasibility, affordability and efficiency, and trust that those who come after us will take full advantage of our constructions—in their own way.

The greatest danger lies in trying to mix and match different theoretical frameworks, that is, in trying to be all things to all men.

Photo: Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts Randall Mitchell (left) looks at the future at the opening of the Paramin Look-out on 16 February 2022.
(via Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts)

A vision must primarily have internal consistency. Yes, it is driven by a desire to make things better. But more important than what we want—or worse, what we think people want—is what makes sense.

A proposal should be examined for its thoroughness, for the way in which the parts hang together and for its feasibility. With proper planning, a sound proposal will almost certainly work but quite likely not in the way we anticipate.

As Thomas Wolfe wrote, ‘you can’t go home again’. And as Heraclitus observed: “No man ever steps in the same river twice. For it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

The way we were is gone. The experiences that shaped us can only be relived in our imagination. The energy from our imaginings can certainly propel us to again build something wonderful.

But let us not fool ourselves that it will be a re-enactment of our parade.

Photo: Play mas…
(Copyright NCC)

For those of us with wonderful memories of our days in the sun, the dragon may have danced its last dance but its spirit lives on. All that spirit needs is a new and better stage on which to appear.

And it will do so in a new form and show off new moves.

And it will be awesome.

Editor’s Note: Click HERE to read Dr Geoffrey Frankson’s earlier column on a re-imagined Trinidad and Tobago Carnival.

 

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