The prominent sold out fetes this June provided precursor vibes of the 2023 Carnival season as fete goers celebrated “we outside again”.
The coming season was loudly announced by the Tribe band launch in July, which drew large crowds behind music trucks on Ariapita Avenue. Other promoters remained at event venues but their models were amply displayed in all forms of media.
Last week, the religious Hosay procession reportedly had St James “ram up”—no doubt because tassa drumming provokes an exuberance that does not keep the religious core of the procession in mind.
Even before these recent events, hotels were said to be sold out. It appears therefore that Carnival 2023 will be a big one and the ultimate conclusion to the mad rush to exhale, which began once the lockdowns and curfews finally disappeared. We jammin’ still. Additionally more than usual wildness is burying the bonds of enforced restraint.
We can safely conclude that Covid has not compromised the Trini fete DNA. Quite the opposite, in fact.
However, Covid together with a limp economy—scarred by closures, mass retrenchment and threats of more retrenchment—have compromised the lives and lifestyles of many more citizens than those who are jammin’ still. The pain of living in Trinidad and Tobago under present conditions will not be healed by jammin’ alone.
The violent crime crisis is a burden additional to the economic one and a further contributor to dejection, anger and fear currently prevailing among citizens. We also now have a confirmed notoriety for international sex trafficking.
This was not a good time therefore for Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, on the occasion of brilliant gold medal successes of Nicholas Paul and Jereem Richards at the 2022 Commonwealth Games, to hold forth as follows:
“Today’s activities and the cyclists’ performances, coming back to back, should dispel some of the negative vibes that flow through so many people who do not believe that we can make it or indeed are making it.”
Our current woes cannot be glossed over merely as “negative vibes”. Moreover, it is delusional to place the usual reliance on fete, fireworks and feats of sporting success, as a means of pacifying a now deeply divided and dissatisfied society—and one containing obvious smouldering flashpoints of civil unrest.
In many places where things are desperately serious on the ground, the deprivations of citizens will not be reversed by the peddling of escapism.
Is the Government not capable of bestirring itself to provide the leadership required for us “to make it” instead of nonchalantly leaving deeply troubling issues to committee after committee appointed by it? If these Committees have value, I ask again why is the Government keeping secret the report of the crucial Anthony Watkins-led committee on community recovery?
Although not offering any lead in crucial matters of governance, the Government is head and head with the Opposition in the gayelle of coarse exchanges. Commentators have warned that such political discord and lack of trust in institutions and in each other accommodate crime and violence.
See, for example, the statement of Professor Emeritus Dr Ramesh Deosaran in the Trinidad Express newspaper on 25 April this year:
“There is a lot of verbal violence exchanged between politicians and in high places and important institutions of the country. So when you have a hostile environment, an antagonistic environment, it makes it easy to accommodate further violence.”
In this bitter climate, one must treat any politician’s parasitic adoption of the successes of others with even more caution. Frequently, the State has contributed little, other than the free use of public spaces and politically suspect subventions—which are delivered to cultural and sporting organisations and governing bodies, from whom little or no accountability is required.
Readers will not be surprised if I remind them of the toxic treatment given to Thema Williams, the accomplished people’s gymnast (whom I represented).
The Minister of Culture and Tourism at the Tribe band launch hugged up the private sector success of the Tribe organisation, which one should note has grown into a conglomerate.
Does his Ministry have a carefully considered policy aimed at realising the economic growth potential of all the elements of our performing arts?