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We getting jam still

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

If you’re reading these words during today’s morning hours, then I’m assuming you chose to forego this year’s Carnival festivities. Just to let you know–I’m probably doing the very same thing–reading the papers from the comfort of my home.

This would come as no surprise to some of my readers, for I’ve already expressed my disdain in previous columns for this particular season; with all its noise, chaos and vulgarity it doesn’t appeal to me in the least.

However, considering our country’s current state of affairs, I’ve spent the last few weeks pondering on what Carnival means, not only to those who participate in it, but as part of our cultural identity. It brings me to the question of whether or not we are able to do without it and if such a sacrifice can somehow lead to a greater good.

The word “boycott” was very popular throughout 2017. And while it would be easy to blame it on provocateurs like Ancel Roget, some average citizens have been using it as well, floating the idea that such a spectacle could result in some desperately needed social and political change.

This is in light of the fact that past marches, protests, and silent assemblies DO NOT WORK. Our political leaders simply ignore them and carry on with business as usual. We’ve even seen them smile as they audaciously walk past the angry throngs who have taken to gathering outside the parliament.

It is for that reason that a boycott is seen as the next logical step in non-violent civil disobedience. That would make Carnival, with all its extravagant revelry, the focal point for such a disruption.

Now while it would be easy for those who share my (low) opinion of Carnival to support such an action, what about the masses who look forward to, and benefit from, the events associated with it? For a country like ours that is rife with difficulties, Carnival is the bread and circus mentality we’re adopted that enables us to tolerate the reality that Rome is burning around us.

This is made worse by the reality that we are already a population that prioritises having fun above all else; an attitude that is aptly summed up in the popular refrain of “we jammin’ still”. People can spend their time and money however they please (as long as it’s legal of course) but there’s the suggestion that a boycott of the “circus”, especially by those who enjoy it most, would be a clear statement to the government that we are no longer willing to accept the status quo.

With respects to the “bread”, Carnival has long been touted as a major revenue generator for all the stakeholders involved – from bandleaders and soca artistes, to guesthouses and vendors. This notion, however, has been challenged in recent years, with critics pointing out that government subsidies end up costing the taxpayer with little to show in return.

Those who truly end up profiting from the season are the major fete promoters and band leaders, who have turned the before-mentioned obsession with fun into a lucrative business. Now there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that… but keep something in mind – these are individuals who probably move in the same social circles as major power players, including members of government. If a boycott threatens their livelihood, they won’t hesitate in applying pressure to their friends and contacts to do something to rectify the situation.

Ironically, the people who are the subject of this column aren’t reading it this morning, and probably never will. Don’t get me wrong–no one should feel pressured to give up something they enjoy. But if all other attempts have failed to affect change, then patriotism demands that citizens at least consider the possibility of a Carnival boycott.

We can’t just complain about things and not be willing to do something about it. Because come tomorrow the jamming will be over and we all will be getting jam still.

Ryan Hadeed


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