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Champagne and mauby in this soca kingdom
Last year’s politically-astute megahit touched a deep chord in people’s spinal cord. Ultimate Rejects-MX Prime’s Full Extreme brilliantly called out the disaster that is Port-of-Spain’s governance of the nation’s treasury and economy. It also celebrated the popular necessity of taking jammin, giving jammin, and jammin still, which is the only way to endure hardship, hold on to an ideal of fulfilment, and experience enough bodily exuberance, however fleeting, to lift the spirit.
What to do in the midst of a recession that, as Terrence Farrell tells us, the government refuses to fix? Doh business; a piece of advice as complex as any proverb or framed verse of Desiderata, rephrased in the grammar of soca.
One year, thousands of lay-offs and hundreds of dead bodies later, we need another refrain to carry us collectively through this season. 2018 Carnival’s expected Road March, Soca Kingdom, brings the success of Machel’s signature hard pong and invokes the obeah of SuperBlue, but provides few of the political layers of last year.
The Boy King offers bare description of “wining all in front of the people business place”. There will be wining and it will occur in front of locked and shuttered business places, but there’s no comparable “kaiso, kaiso!” in this line’s lyrical imagining of the dream and dread of sovereignty over our twin-island domain.
Lloyd Best is in my head as I think about this, with his view that none of us yet consider ourselves the owners in this place. Rather, we all understand ourselves as workers and second-class citizens; mere proletarians without capital to be in charge.
You only “party like a VIP” if you are not partying as a VIP. If, indeed, you not a VIP. You only wining in front of “the people” business place if those people are others and not you.
I suppose, on reflection, rather than normalising classist barricades which have invaded fete spaces over the past decade with VVIP sections promising champagne in mauby times, Machel’s instruction actually names the paltry and narrowed terms of our social contract, and distribution of wealth and power in our political-economy.
An elite some get to be “the people”, an aspiring some get near enough to act “like”, and the rest must make the most of wining over countless road pothole, the most obvious and common symbol of how smartmen in a contractocracy become VVIP.
A major problem, any economist will tell you, is that business in Trinidad and Tobago is often dependent on state funds or on imports, and with oil and gas production and prices low, neither does the state have funds nor are we earning enough to sustain a model premised on imports, not even a Carnival model masquerading as local when premised on imports.
Back to champagne and mauby. The Trinidad and Tobago Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (TTEITI) released a report on our “new normal” in January, showing that we are spending more than we are earning, and it’s clear that the management of our resources, investments, earnings, and plans for sustainable revenue generation have been and continue to be poor.
So, unfortunately, when the wining is done, somebody is going to have to business about the people business place, which is the government and nation, and start business places that create rather than lay off jobs, bringing in rather than spending foreign exchange.
Otherwise, the biggest business in the place will be crime, and the gangs will run communities like they own them, murdering whomever they choose, which is how de facto sovereign power works when the social contract meant to protect the people’s business fails.
In this Soca Kingdom, we have to rule from inside, rather than being in front and locked out. To quote Growling Tiger, money is King, and we are set to find out if it’s really true, that when you are broken, a dog is better than you.
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