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Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Saga of Free Will and the Carnival Castro.......

A few weeks ago I was having a discussion with a young lady who lamented what Carnival today has become; according to her Carnival is now a class divided festival celebrating bikini and bead mas, an elitist street party with bands creating a sheep mentality among their followers who would pay anything to be part of the exclusive crowd a commercial venture that operates for profit rather than the preservation of culture. This person was as passionate in their dislike for Carnival as I am in my love of it, so that led me to ask the question when she said what is taking place today is not Carnival, what IS Carnival? Her response, Carnival is a reflection of society!

Now, taking that synopsis of what Carnival meant to her, well what she elaborated on that night, I challenged her to tell me that Carnival today is not a reflection of Trinidad’s society; the division among classes in where they chose to live and socialize, business men gouging out the eyes of consumers everywhere and patrons lining up for hours outside Zen hoping to be picked to get in. Whether this is right or wrong, if Carnival is supposed to be reflection of society, I think it is on the mark.

I invited the young lady to express her feelings on the blog, since as I said before she was quite passionate about the subject, and to date she has not favored me with the article I requested. However I was told she went on to express her feelings further and said that we masqueraders are not only accepting mediocrity “eating shit wholesale” (shit masked by glitter, but still smelling of shit) but we have grown to accept and see nothing wrong with the “lack of creativity and repetitious design” in mas today. To her Carnival is also a celebration of life, a celebration of creative effort, livable wearable art and she thinks if WE say we love Carnival we should not be facilitating it’s “decline”.

And, as a consequence bikini mas should be no more, since there was a time it did not exist, but it won’t since it is an excuse to show off the hours spent on the body in the gym. The excuses we use to justify the bullshit of Carnival is all because we are in denial, and should want to say “stop” and reflect on how we can change the “downhill slide of this festival we call Carnival”.

Well, after ingesting all of this, this persons ideology of what Carnival means to them, I said to myself but Saucy that is NOT what Carnival means to you, and like anything in life we should all have the freedom to express ourselves and opinions about something we love, which might be for a different reason than another person's without being told we are fools for doing just that. I find it insulting that someone would seek to tell me that I am buying shit wholesale because I am in denial. I am not in denial; the way I celebrate my Carnival, Carnival that I do love, is as individual as the way I choose to express my religious and political beliefs.

First of Carnival to me does not hold such a deep symbolic meaning about life, sorry to say. It is not MY definition that it is a livable wearable art celebrating life, that is someone else's definition that I am by no means bound to subscribe to. For ME Carnival is about the pageantry, from the first time I wore a costume at 5 years old and seeing my mother in her pretty costumes year after year, it has always been about getting dolled up and parading myself on the streets. Maybe it is hinged on me being a vainglorious exhibitionist, but I love the glitter, the bikini and the beads and I would be dammed if someone tells me I am wrong for doing so!

I do not judge people who choose to play in yards of fabric, so why should I be judged for wanting to play in little, fact is it is MY choice and people should learn to respect that. If I choose to spend my money, knowing full well that the cost does not equate to the tangible product that I am getting, don’t think I am not making an informed choice. I pay for the experience of mas, and that includes the band I choose to support for whatever reason I choose to play there. When the price reaches beyond my grasp I will seek another band that I can not only afford but that affords me the chance to play my mas to my liking. As I had said before TRIBE and Island People are only TWO bands, critics complain about their prices, but there were so many other cheaper bands. Tell me who played with We International, or Image Nation or Trini Revellers or Trevor Wallace, all bands where one could find a reasonably priced costume?

At the end of the day, my Carnival utopia would be that everyone finds a band to play them self however they chose to do so. It could be a bikini and beads band, a traditional mas band such as Sailor or Indian, Blue Devils or an artistic impressions the likes of Minshall and Mc Farlane. Reality is that there must be balance, we cannot eliminate bikini and beads just because so called Carnival purists dislike it, what they should focus on doing is encouraging more and more bandleaders to bring bands that THEY want to be a part of giving masqueraders more choice. If they build it, they will come, so instead of focusing on tearing down people who support and enjoy bikini mas, how about developing YOUR expression of mas and we all live harmoniously together?

When the emancipated slaves came to a head with the Colonialist and police during the Canboulay riots they were defending the rights of a FREE people to develop their culture in the manner they chose without subscribing to any societal diktat. I can only hope that the Carnival Castros could see that having one vision of what Carnival should be for everyone is not freedom of choice, it is a dictatorship. There should be a respect and understanding that each masquerader dons a costume for so many diverse reasons, none of which can be “wrong”; playing mas is a personal act and however one chooses to express it, they are right to do so once they are not breaking any laws!

The time has come for those who think that Carnival today is not to their liking to do something about it, instead of all the verbiage. I do appreciate the Minshals, the Mc Farlanes and even what Oracle will have in store for 2009 and wish we can see more of that type of mas on the road. But, I will be in my feathers, baubles and bikini costume come Carnival Monday and Tuesday the beauty being that is MY choice to do so; long live free will!
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