Tobago

Tobago
Horizon at Sandy Point

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Behind the mask

For a month, soca music drowns out everything. Played at full blast from fetes and DJ boxes, maxi taxis and community fields, the songs of rum, revelry and wining induce forgetfulness. And when it is not soca, there's the bacchanal and pappyshow that is pan in a new Savannah complex - a stage to upstage everything, pan musicians, calypsonians and all but the biggest mas bands. It means bigger costumes for people being made smaller than ever.

It's ten days to the big weekend - Dimanche Gras (fat Sunday) to Mardi Gras (fat Tuesday) - and big businesses are boarding up their buildings. Driving on the roads is increasingly hazardous, as the wotless cruise down the shoulders, change or hog lanes with a jabjab's grin.

In one competition, the "young king" reminds us why we are attractive "as a Trini" - the way we cook, the way we walk/ wuk (wink wink) and the way we talk - we full of show and talk. But the top two contenders for another crown and two million dollars sing about likker (rum) - a terrible daily addiction for so many Trinis - endorsing (?) or surely sucking up the advertising lobby to turn our oil-rich appetites from imports (whiskies) to locally produced rum!

In 2011 - as in every other Carnival, but this one seems even more threatening - there's another reality behind the over-exclusive all-inclusive fetes, the rhythms to make us forget who or where we are, the costumes that absorb us into the throngs but hide nothing. An elderly gentleman roughed up and robbed in his home - where he has lived for over half a century, and raised his family - in broad daylight. Concrete bricks thrown at a car windscreen on a major highway. Someone's family pet is poisoned. A child abducted and thrown away like garbage. Do we know that there are "villages" - in the heart of the city as in the heart of the country - where children do not go to school, where families have nothing to eat, where young people might be afraid to seek work because they have nothing decent to wear. Drugs and guns and gangs are rites of passage for others.

The government and its unions quibble over salary increases - more robber talk, more ol mas on the streets. The police might not "play theyself" on the Carnival streets! Who is taking care of the soul of Trinidad and Tobago? How can we change the future of young people - boys and girls - heartless as blue devils, looking for chains like monster beasts. It's not something that we can do single handedly or alone. But one by one, we must accept responsibility and do a part - to begin to reverse the tide of blood that threatens "sweet TnT." Otherwise, there will be no pretty mas after jour ouvert. We will be awake in the mud of our own making.

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